Medicinal Foods

The natural healing community is helping people understand the essential roles of vitamins, minerals, omegas, probiotics and other naturally occurring therapeutic substances as supplements to an increasingly toxic, refined, nutritional deficient and genetically manipulated modern diet. When considering how best to complement a healthy diet of organic, in season, locally grown fresh whole foods, cooked to optimize the nutritional profile of the food, and seasoned with culinary and medicinal herbs, prepared with love and presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner and enjoyed in a relaxed, contemplative or socially interactive setting, and chewed thoroughly as the full flavour and texture of the food is appreciated in an attitude of gratitude (or the closest combination you can manage on your time, motivation and monetary budget).

There are numerous foods that can be included in any type of diet to enhance the nutritional value and prevent ill health. Chlorophyll, present in all plants, more so in the green ones is a natural anti-inflammatory, prevents bacterial and fungi growth in the body, helps build blood, renew tissue, promotes good bowel flora and improves liver function. The inclusion of seaweed and micro algae such as spirulina, chlorella and wakame will provide chlorophyll and many other beneficial nutrients such as protein, beta carotene, omega 3 and minerals. These are great as a vegetarian supplement of protein and omega 3. Also high in chlorophyll are the wheat and barley grasses, fresh or powdered these provide similar nutrients as the algae as well as many enzymes which can help with digestion.

We are hearing so much now about the benefits of healthy gut bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifido bacteria. Now so readily available in a capsule where did our ancestors get theirs? From fermented foods such as sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables, which also enhance digestion; yogurt, kefir, which provide B vitamins particularly B3, B5, B6, B12, B9 and biotin, and improve immune function; miso, tempeh which also contain phytooestrogens to help balance hormonal problems; and sourdough breads which have a lower GI than normal breads and aid digestion. Including a good serve of one of the these foods per day and avoiding spoiled foods will maintain a healthy gut.

Proanthocyanidins found in rice bran, grapes, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, help wound healing, strengthen arteries, veins and capillaries. They are some of the most potent antioxidants available protecting against cancer, chronic disease and toxicity.

The Cruciferous vegetable family including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, watercress contain di indole methane which helps the liver eliminate natural hormones and environmental chemicals, and the sprouts of broccoli have potent anticancer properties.

Sprouts in general have a high nutritional value with few calories and are easily made at home and used daily.

And its not just ‘healthy’ foods that help, dark chocolate contains phytochemicals called epicatechins which help protect against chronic diseases and improve lifespan and red wine in moderation contains resveratrol another life extending and health promoting substance.

The best diet is one full of variety, including the above foods whenever possible, and practicing moderation when consuming more refined or convenience foods.

Samantha Warner Naturopath

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