In the last post in this series, we talked about what real food is and is not. We spoke about various ingredients to avoid when changing your diet to a real-food diet. In this post, I'd like to focus more on foods to include in your diet – foods that are not only healthy, but medicinal as well.
Before we go into specific foods that can be healthy and healing, I'd like to touch on the concept of medicinal foods for a moment.
To do this we need to go all the way back to Hippocrates.
Hippocrates was a Greek physician born around 460BC and came to be known as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. One of his most famous quotes is, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Isn't it interesting to note that someone we consider to be one of the greatest physicians of all time considers food the most important medicine?
But what does it really mean to let food be your medicine? Have you ever really taken the time to think about how you can heal your body with food?
Really, when you think about it, our bodies were not only designed to consume food as nourishment, but additionally, our bodies were designed to be self-healing! So what does the body really need to help it heal? The right foods! Think about the endless possibilities that are created when you use food as medicine! It’s easily accessible, it’s relatively inexpensive compared with conventional pharmaceutical medicine, and there are so many ways to make it enjoyable!
One simple way to start, is to make sure the foods you are eating are organic. I know this is simplistic, and there are many other factors to consider, but I have seen and experienced this time and time again, that when a person switches over to eating real, whole, organic foods (which by the way have been proven in studies to contain more vitamins and minerals) they feel satiated eating a lot less food and chronic symptoms disappear. Once the body trusts that you are going to be giving it what it actually needs, you don’t need to eat as much and the body can get on with what it needs to do to create health and vitality.
If you are not able to obtain all your foods in an organic state, be sure at least, to only consume animal foods that are organic. Pesticides, antibiotics and artificial growth hormones bio-accumulate in animal fats, so it is crucial to avoid them.
So, besides eating organic foods, what are some other ways we can “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”? Here is a great list to start with:
We've all heard that we need to eat our leafy greens to keep ourselves healthy. This is nothing new, but it is important. Leafy greens are extremely nutrient dense, packed with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They give your body what it needs to become healthy and stay healthy. Some examples are: Mustard/Turnip/Collard/Beet Greens, Kale, Watercress, Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy, Spinach, Broccoli Rabe, Chinese/Napa Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Swiss Chard, Dandelion and Arugula .
Berries, especially the darkest in color, are loaded with antioxidants, bio-flavinoids, vitamins and minerals. All berries are nutritious and medicinal, including: huckleberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, boysenberries, cranberries, lychee berries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, mulberries, blackberries and black/blue elderberries.
Packed with probiotics, which help balance your gut flora, and are essential to building your immune system, fermented foods are a daily part of the diets of all traditional peoples. Fermented foods can include: all types of sauerkrauts (made with any vegetable, not just cabbage), kombucha, water or milk kefir, yogurt, traditionally prepared miso, tempeh and kimchi.
A simple and effective way to make any dish more medicinal is to add herbs and spices. We are used to using very small amounts of what we call “culinary herbs”. All herbs, however, are also medicinal, whether they are culinary or not. Try using a bit more of your favorite herbs in your foods to boost the healing power of your meals: garlic, onions, scallions, chives, thyme, sage, rosemary, cilantro, tarragon, basil, cumin, pepper and oregano. There are dozens more, and all deserve to have a place in your spice cupboard.
I’d like to invite you, each time you start to plan a meal, to think about how you can make them more medicinal, how you can include more nutrient-rich choices – how you can “let food be thy medicine”.