10 Foods with the
POWER to HEAL
The foods we select for ourselves and our families provide us with nourishment, and, if we choose wisely, support a healthy lifestyle. Some foods, however, actually have the power to heal our bodies after and during illness as well as help prevent illness. A number of these foods exist. This article will focus on only ten. I’ve chosen these specific foods due to their prevalence on many lists of healing foods, because of their health benefits, and because they are readily attainable at our grocery stores and markets. There are far more exotic foods I could have highlighted, but I chose instead to include foods that could easily be integrated into any daily diet.
History: The humble, yet versatile, garlic bulb tops many lists of healing foods and has been used for its medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Hippocrates, often called The Father of Western Medicine, used garlic to treat a variety of ailments. Today, modern science has validated many of the beneficial properties of garlic that Hippocrates extolled.
How It Helps: Garlic releases allicin when it is ushed, chopped, or chewed. This compound has been found to reduce inflammation and have antioxidant benefits. It is believed that allicin also assists in fighting cancer and heart disease, helps control blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and helps alleviate exercise-related muscle damage. It is important to note that allicin only forms when the garlic is raw. Therefore, you won’t have the same health benefits if you cook garlic before you crush it.
How to Enjoy It: Garlic salad dressing drizzled over your favorite salad is the perfect way to savor the taste of garlic at either lunch or dinner or for your afternoon snack. To make a simple garlic dressing, add one clove of minced garlic to a glass jar with a quarter of a cup of olive oil, lemon juice to taste, a bit of water, half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Secure the cap on the jar and shake until the ingredients are blended. At a minimum, one clove eaten with meals two to threes times a day should be consumed for garlic to have a therapeutic effect.
History: The fruit that is supposed to keep the doctor away was originally brought to North America by the colonists for the purpose of making cider. There was a health aspect to this as cider was often substituted for water, which couldn’t always be trusted to be clean. These apples were smaller and more bitter than the sweet juicy orbs we crave today and originated in Eastern Europe.
How They Help: Apples don’t contain any fat or sodium and are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Studies have shown they can lower the bad cholesterol that leads to hardening of the arteries and coronary artery disease. They have also been attributed to assisting with weight loss, and the pectin in apples is beneficial for curing diarrhea and constipation.
How to Enjoy Them: All fruit is best for you when eaten whole because chewing breaks down the fibre releasing the sugar slowly into your system. Your body also has more time to absorb the fruit’s vitamins and minerals when it is eaten whole. A delicious and healthy way to serve whole apples is to slice them and spread the slices with almond butter or coconut butter.
History: All parts of the wild strawberry were used in ancient times to heal. The berries were believed to be a diuretic as well as a cure for gout. The botanist Linnaeus made the claim that he cured his gout by consuming large quantities of the fruit. Its leaves and roots also were used in herbal teas to improve bile and liver function.
How They Help: Strawberries contain antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the development of blood clots. These antioxidants are also believed to fight free radicals, thus inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body. As well, the potassium in strawberries supports heart health and may reduce the risk of stroke. For those with high blood pressure, the potassium in strawberries also helps deter the effects of sodium in the body.
How to Enjoy Them: A healthy breakfast or dessert can be created by adding sliced fresh strawberries to plain Greek yogurt. For a bit of sweetness, drizzle a little agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey over the top. If you want to increase the treat factor even more, top with sliced almonds.
Red Bell Peppers
History: Red bell peppers have been grown for thousands of years and are actually fully ripe green peppers. Native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, they were introduced into Spain in 1493. From there, their popularity spread to Europe and Asia.
How They Help: Beautiful, colorful, and sweet, red bell peppers are full of nutritional value. Not only are they low in calories, red bell peppers also contain 75 percent of our daily vitamin A and 253 percent of our daily vitamin C allowance. Vitamin C strengthens our immune system, stimulates detoxification, kills bad bacteria and viruses in our bodies, and helps us lower our stress levels. Vitamin A is known to keep viruses at bay and fight cancer. It also may cause HIV to regress.
How to Enjoy Them: Whether they are eaten cooked or raw, red bell peppers are good for you. My family loves peppers and onions, so I sometimes serve them together as a side dish. To prepare, cut the top off the pepper and remove the ribs and seeds. Slice the pepper into rings. Slice the onion the same way. Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the peppers and onions. Cook, turning from time to time, until peppers are slightly brown and onions are golden and caramelized.
History: The peppery tasting arugula has been around for centuries. Pliny the Elder, in his Historia Naturalis (circa AD 77), wrote that it was used as an anesthetizing agent and that it was believed to be an aphrodisiac, although there was little proof.
How It Helps: The vitamin K in arugula provides us with close to a quarter of our daily requirement of the vitamin. Vitamin K is even more potent than calcium in maintaining bone density. It also helps our bodies better absorb calcium and enables blood clotting and the regeneration of muscles. For those suffering from an injury or having just had surgery, vitamin K promotes faster healing.
How to Enjoy It: Green smoothies are an excellent way to consume the nutrients that are good for you. One way to get even more from your favorite green smoothie recipe is by adding half a cup of fresh arugula to it.
History: Although the origin of the coconut is vague, it has been consumed around the world for centuries. In the Pacific Islands, inhabitants regard coconut oil as a cure for all illnesses, and in Viet Nam, there was once even a religion designed around the fruit.
How It Helps: Most of the coconut’s nutrients are found in the whole meat. Packed with protein and amino acids, coconut supports the liver, the central nervous system, and the cardiovascular system. When we consume coconut, the fat is used by our liver for energy. This reduces insulin surges in the body and can lead to a reduction in the amount of fat being stored in the stomach, thus decreasing belly fat.
How to Enjoy It: Getting to the flesh of a coconut can be challenging, but it is worth it. Martha Stewart recommends baking the coconut in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for twenty minutes until the outer shell cracks. Once the coconut has cooled, wrap it in a kitchen towel and hit it with a hammer several times in the same spot. Pry the coconut open and extricate the meat from the shell with a spoon. The meat can be chopped, shaved, or grated and used as a garnish, eaten out of your hand, or added to a recipe.
History: Grapefruit is thought to be a natural cross between an orange and a pomelo. Because it grows in clusters like grapes, the fruit came to be called grapefruit. It was referred to as the forbidden fruit of Jamaica by naturalist Griffith Hughes in 1750.
How It Helps: Grapefruit has an abundance of vitamin C, as well as a number of minerals, other vitamins, and antioxidants. These properties make the fruit ideal for warding off and curing the common cold and the flu. Its anti-inflammatory properties help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well. Like other citrus fruits, grapefruit contains limonoids, phytonutrients that are believed to inhibit the growth of tumors.
How to Enjoy It: Grapefruit sections give
a fresh fruit salad an added zing and a modicum of tartness, which is especially refreshing in the summer Just peel the fruit, discard the center core, separate the sections, cut each section in half, and add the cut halves to your favorite combination of fresh fruit. Grapefruit can also be cut in half, sprinkled with brown sugar, and broiled for a tasty winter treat.
History: The aromatic rosemary has long enjoyed a reputation for
enhancing memory going as far back as the ancient Greeks. During the Middle Ages, it was believed rosemary could chase away negative thoughts and dispel nightmares. It was even burned inside homes to thwart the black plague
How It Helps: As it turns out, the ancient Greeks may have been right. Research shows rosemary’s aroma can improve concentration, performance, speed, and accuracy. It may also enhance mood, though to a lesser extent. Rosemary also is thought to fight indigestion, and it may be good for your brain. The carnosic acid in the herb wards off damage by free radicals in the brain.
How to Enjoy It: Fresh rosemary sprigs enhance chicken, stocks, and stews. For aromatic biscuits, add two tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary to the end of your favorite biscuit recipe.
History: It was believed, even before there was any scientific evidence to support it, that grapes were a cure for numerous ailments. The ancient Egyptians used grapes to treat asthma, and in traditional European folk medicine, the sap of the grape vine was used to cure skin and eye diseases.
How They Help: The plant chemical resveratrol contained in red grapes
is effective at cleansing the brain of beta-amyloid plaques, which induce Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol may also retard or prevent tumor growth in the lymph, the liver, the stomach, the breasts, and the colon. Believe it or not, grapes are also still used to treat asthma, and because they are hydrating, grapes raise the moisture in the lungs resulting in fewer asthma attacks.
How to Enjoy Them: Frozen red grapes make a cool snack in the summer. To freeze them, simply destem, wash, and place them in the freezer on a parchment-covered baking sheet. When completely frozen, transfer the grapes to a large freezer bag and put them back in the freezer for when you want them. Frozen grapes can be a stand-alone snack or added to a smoothie. The nutrients in red grapes are locked when frozen so none of their health benefits are lost by the process.
History: The use of ginger as a spice and as a medicine began with the ancient Chinese. They made it into a tonic to treat many common ailments, including nausea and digestive problems.
How It Helps: The original proponents of using ginger to aid in digestion and treat nausea weren’t wrong. Modern science supports the root’s ability to do both things. It also may speed food through our digestive systems preventing stomach aches. Because ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, the spice can reduce the pain of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis as well as improve the mobility of those suffering from both.
How to Enjoy It: A delicious way to enjoy ginger for digestion, inflammation, or a sore throat is to drink it as a hot beverage. Ginger tea has a distinctive flavor and warming properties. To make a cup, add one tablespoon of grated fresh ginger root to a teapot and pour two cups of boiled filtered water over it. Let it steep for ten minutes until you have perfect ginger tea. If you like, add a little honey to sweeten it up.
As always, food allergies and drug interactions need to be taken into consideration before adding any of these foods to one’s diet if they are not already a part of it.
Taking advantage of the foods that help to heal existing conditions within our bodies and prevent others isn’t hard to do. Being aware of which foods are most beneficial for which problems helps. Seeking them out and preparing them with love can also give us a sense of purpose, knowing we are doing something good for ourselves and our families.