Patients are always asking how to eat for their health, whether it be to prevent illness, or deal with a current ailment. For many reasons we may find ourselves unable or unwilling to take a prescription medication or herbal formula in order to assist our body in overcoming an illness or condition. It is important to remember that we can strongly influence our health based on what foods we put in our body.
We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. As nutrition research continues, science is further corroborating what we have known intuitively for years…that the foods we eat have a distinct impact on our health. As unique individuals, no one food is best, but there are some general guidelines that will benefit everyone:
Stick to whole foods. Eating processed or refined foods not only reduces the nutritional value of a food, but can change the way our body metabolizes the food, creating more stress on the body.
Eat organic whenever possible. Choosing organic fruits, vegetables and meats will help reduce the amount of chemical exposure, as well as hormones in your foods.
Eat seasonally. Choosing foods that are in season help ensure you have variety in your diet and get the essential nutrients your body needs. From a Chinese medical perspective, it is also beneficial to eat certain foods during their seasons based on temperature variations. For example, during the summer, we crave lighter, cool meals, as opposed to the winter, when we want hearty, warm meals.
Use food as medicine. Here are a few great ways to use food as medicine in your day to day life:
- Ginger and oranges are used to balance digestive issues
- Green onions, garlic, and mint assist in the treatment of the common cold
- Cucumber and dried fruits treat constipation
- Olives are effective at treating cough with blood in the phlegm
- Guava and leek stop bleeding
- Cayenne pepper is great as a first aid for treating internal and external bleeding
- Peaches treat dry cough and slow digestion
- Beets strengthen the heart, calm the overactive mind, and improve circulation
- Broccoli is great for eyesight, red eyes, dry eyes and inflammation of the eye
- Cabbage is used to treat digestion and skin issues
- Celery improves digestion, and benefits urinary tract imbalances
These are just a few of the many ways you can treat your body with foods you eat everyday. When using foods as medicine, just increase the amount and frequency so it can have a therapeutic effect. Pay close attention to the changes you see so you do not overeat any one food. For more information about food as medicine, read Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. It is a great book to use as a guide for healthy eating and a wonderful resource for those times when your body needs extra care.