Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine and your medicine be food.”
What he meant was that diet has a profound effect on not only preventing disease, but also treating it. In this blog I will tell you about some of the best foods for promoting overall health and well-being and describe some of the specific benefits they provide. These are the foods that we serve regularly at the meals our chef prepares for patients in the Whitaker Wellness Institute’s Back to Health Program.
By the time you finish reading this and discover how easy it is to eat healthy, you’ll no doubt be thinking: “Even I can do that!”
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse that protects against cancer of the colon, breast, bladder, lung, and prostate. Along with cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains sulforaphane glucosinolates (SGS) and other phytonutrients that shield cells from DNA damage, boost immune function, and neutralize carcinogens.
In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, older men who ate broccoli or cauliflower more than once a week were about half as likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer as men who ate these foods less than once a month.
Multi-Talented Chili Pepper
Chili peppers have a number of health benefits thanks to capsaicin, the compound that gives them their kick. The folk uses of cayenne and other hot peppers range from treating stomach ulcers to improving circulation and heart disease. Better studied, however, are capsaicin’s effects on metabolism and pain.
If you’ve ever broken into a sweat after eating chili peppers, you know that capsaicin has a thermogenic effect—it raises body temperature and burns calories. It has also been shown to suppress appetite. When Dutch researchers gave red pepper powder in tomato juice or capsules to study volunteers 30 minutes before meals, they felt fuller and ate less.
Applied to the skin, capsaicin suppresses substance P, a chemical that delivers pain signals to the brain—making it a very powerful topical pain reliever. It’s helpful for arthritis, back pain, and neuropathy, and even conventional physicians recognize its value as a treatment for the pain of shingles.
Include hot, spicy foods in your daily diet, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. And keep a jar of cayenne pepper in the house. My wife Connie sprinkles it in chicken soup to open up sinuses and thin mucus when someone in the family has a cold, and I dab it on when I cut myself shaving. It burns like the dickens, but the bleeding stops immediately.
Ginger is a potent diaphoretic, meaning it stimulates perspiration and warms the body from the inside. It is also a well-studied gastrointestinal tonic that helps relieve nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, ginger is rich in zinc, perhaps the most important mineral for immune function. As such, homemade ginger tea is one of the most satisfying tonics for a cold or flu.
To make a therapeutic ginger tea, grind a one-inch slice of fresh ginger, squeeze the juice of half a lemon, and add to a cup of steaming hot water along with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, if desired.
Yogurt on Patrol
Yogurt, cultured with healthful bacteria, is nature’s premiere probiotic. This protein-rich food has been shown to reduce the incidence of antibiotic-related diarrhea, suppress H. pylori (the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers),helps prevent gastric ulcers, and improve overall gastrointestinal health.
Make sure your yogurt contains “live and active cultures,” and avoid fruit-added varieties, which are full of added sugars or artificial sweeteners. If you want to spice up the flavor of plain yogurt, add your own fresh fruit and sweeten with xylitol. Flaxseed is also a nice addition. It’s also important to note that probiotics in yogurt (or in supplements) must be consumed on a regular basis to be most effective.
As you can see, the foods you eat can have a profound effect on your health. Eat well and be well.