Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” It’s true: food can and should be used therapeutically to heal, rejuvenate, and maintain health. You probably have a pantry full of healing foods. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite healing foods, along with their benefits. Here’s a little guide on how to use food as medicine.
How to Use Food as Medicine
Apple: Apples are good for elimination and to combat constipation. They are a great source of fiber and help to lower cholesterol and cancer risk. Some varieties of apples contain more vitamin C than oranges (vitamin C helps to ward off colds and other infections). Apples are best when in season during autumn.
Artichoke: High in fiber. Excellent for the digestive tract, as well as heart, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Good to eat during cleansing diet or for weight reduction. High in calcium and iron.
Avocado: Aids in blood and tissue regeneration. Avocados are high in protein, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and manganese. They stabilize the blood sugar and are excellent for heart disorders. Contain more potassium than bananas. Avocados are actually a fruit!
Beets: One of my fave healing foods! Richer than spinach in iron and other minerals. Beets are one of the best foods to relieve constipation. Beets aid lymphatic, gall bladder and liver function – good for cleanses. Also aids digestion, anemia and helps to build red blood cells. Lowers blood pressure! Read more on beets here.
Celery: A traditional remedy for high blood pressure: eat two to four stalks a day. Also has a mild diuretic effect. Contains eight different families of anti-cancer compounds that detoxify carcinogens. Aids digestion, kidney, and liver function. Good for blood sugar regulation. Reduces water retention. Helps regulate the nervous system. Great for juicing. Read about that here.
Dandelion Greens: Dandelion greens are a wonderful liver cleanser and are valuable in helping the flow of the bile. Dandelion tea is an excellent drink for helping the liver and gall bladder. The greens stimulate the glands and also help to relieve many toxic conditions of the skin.
Flax seeds and oil: The ground seeds can be used for constipation. Helps with gastritis, colitis or other inflammations of the digestive tract. Lowers blood fat levels (triglycerides) often associated with heart attacks and strokes. Reduces harmful blood cholesterol levels with its soluble fibers. The oil can be used in smoothies. Prevents colon and breast cancer through its rich source of lignins, a documented anti-cancer agent. Improves moods, diminishes allergies and produces healthier skin.
Figs: Another one of my faves! Figs come into season twice: mid-summer and again in the fall. Excellent natural laxative for sluggish bowels. A high source of dietary fiber that helps eliminate toxic wastes and mucus in the colon. One of the highest sources of calcium in the plant world. Gives nourishment and energy to the body.
Ginger: Ginger is a classic warming tonic for the digestive tract and relieves nausea (can be used safely during pregnancy). It stimulates digestion and keeps the intestinal muscles toned. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is useful with symptoms of arthritis. It also supports a healthy cardiovascular system.
Kale: Rich source of various anti-cancer chemicals. Kale is very high in calcium, vitamin A and iron. It is good for building up the calcium content of the body. Kale is beneficial to the digestive and nervous systems. It is protective against osteoporosis and bone loss disorders.
Lemon: This citrus fruit ranks very high in its medicinal value, having many therapeutic uses. It is a good general blood and body purifier and a mild diuretic – good for cleansing. The juice also aids in the removal of drug poisons from the body. Take the juice of one lemon in hot water in the AMs to stimulate bowels.
Mushrooms (especially maitake and shiitake): An excellent immune enhancer. A longevity tonic, heart medicine, and cancer remedy in Asia. Current tests show mushrooms, such as maitake, help prevent and/or treat cancer, viral diseases, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Olive Oil: Easy to digest and imparts a generally soothing and healing influence to the digestive tract. Used therapeutically, it is beneficial for the gall bladder and liver. It strengthens and develops body tissue and is a tonic for the nerves. It helps to dissolve cholesterol deposits in the body.
Sea Vegetables: One of the best foods that you can eat to nourish the thyroid. Seaweed is rich in many important minerals. Benefits include reducing blood cholesterol. Seaweeds are rich in minerals. The iodine in seaweeds helps to prevent goiter and is indispensable to thyroid function. Most types of seaweed have anti-cancer activity. Studies have shown that some seaweeds (including arame, hiziki and kombu) can help remove radioactive elements from the body. Lastly, seaweeds have long been
acclaimed as beauty aids, believed to help maintain beautiful healthy skin and lustrous hair.
Spinach: Tops the list, along with other green leafy vegetables, as a food most eaten by people who don’t get cancer. A super source of antioxidants and cancer antagonists, containing about four times more beta-carotene and three times more lutein than broccoli. Rich in fiber, helps lower blood cholesterol. Eat lightly cooked (contains oxalates that can leach minerals when eaten raw).
Spirulina: Known as a miracle food. Great to use in smoothies with other green superfoods. It is high in protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus,
iron, magnesium and potassium. It is a blood builder and helps to detoxify the blood and body. Good for stamina and energy.
Turmeric: Truly one of the marvelous medicinal spices of the world. Its main active ingredient is curcumin, which gives turmeric its intense cadmium yellow color. Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory agent on a par with cortisone, and has reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It helps to lower cholesterol. It protects the liver from toxins, boosts stomach defenses against acid, lowers blood sugar in diabetics, and acts as a powerful antagonist of numerous cancer-causing agents.
Eat and enjoy!
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.