I’ve been saying for years that “food is your best medicine” — and millions of people have been living in accordance with this healing foods principle, dating back to 400 BC — when Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, made food his primary prescription.
So I had to smile this morning over breakfast while reading the story of a New York chef who discovered that he could relieve his painful, arthritic joints by eating many of the arthritis healing foods I describe in my book ARTHRITIS INTERRUPTED.
Healing foods go viral
The idea of “meals that heal” is really catching on as more people become disillusioned by the overblown promises of pharmaceutical drugs (not to mention their high cost, serious dangers, and numerous side effects).
Besides, foods really do have healing powers — and surprised researchers who’ve tested them head-to-head against today’s leading drugs will attest to it.
Of course, now slick marketeers are exploiting this trend but attaching the “superfood” label to exotic (and pricey) new foods such as maca, acai, camu, yacon, goji, and other hard-to-pronounce items.
There seems to be no end to the stream of “miraculous” new-to-us berries, barks, saps, and roots that promise to cure all of your ills.
Don’t be dazzled by these newcomers
The most healing foods are still right under nose at the farmer’s market, the fish monger, and the grocery store — concealed in their Clark Kent garb. Our mission here at MyHealingKitchen.com is to help you get more of these super-hero healing foods into your shopping cart (and your body!) so you can defeat the bad-guy ills and ailments that modern medicine can’t seem to get under control. For example…
1. Diabetes-Busting Beans. There just isn’t a better food for controlling blood sugar and beating back Type 2 diabetes. Beans contain natural compounds that lower blood sugar… reduce your body’s need for insulin (your own and in drug form)… and take a big load off your poor, overworked pancreas.
In addition, beans and legumes are packed with so much fiber that adding them to any meal shrinks down its total glycemic load.
Beans work healing magic for prediabetics and diabetics alike. And you needn’t eat a lot of them to see results. Dr. James Anderson demonstrated that Type 1 diabetics who added a serving of beans to their meals were able to reduce their insulin dose by a whopping 38%. And a serving-a-day allowed Type 2 diabetics to completely eliminate their insulin and/or glucose-controlling meds.
Beans also contain tryptophan, a brain chemical which regulates appetite… boosts your mood… and supports a good night’s sleep. Beans eaten today also improve your glucose tolerance tomorrow, which gives twice the bang for your bite!
2. Fish Soothes Arthritis Pain. Want to reduce your joint tenderness and pain by half – or more? Simply eat more omega-3 rich seafood such as mackerel, sardines, herring, rainbow trout, and wild-caught salmon. Clinical studies prove these fish are genuine “arthritis healers.”
Inflamed joints really love the cooling, soothing comfort that omega-3s deliver. In addition, omega-3s spur the body to create inflammation-fighting fats called resolvins.
And a little bit of these healing foods goes a long way. A study conducted by Albany Medical College found that arthritis sufferers who consumed the equivalent of one fish dinner per night for 14 weeks reported a fantastic 50% relief from their pain.
Not a fish-fancier? No problem. You’ll also get healing omega-3s from eating flaxseeds, walnuts, cauliflower, and cabbage. You can even “net” the healing benefits of omega-3s with a new algae product that I’m really wild about.
3. Overweight? Slim Down with Veggies. Research shows that inflammation is one of the main culprits in weight gain. It interferes with the performance of the hormone leptin, which helps regulate your appetite and your fat storage metabolism.
You can clobber this inflammation with the phytonutrients found in onions, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, and winter squash (make it a one-two punch by adding them to the omega-3 fish I praised above). These weight-fighting veggies are also packed with fiber, which keeps your blood sugar low, so food calories aren’t packed away as fat.
A George Washington University School of Medicine study allowed overweight participants to eat as much as they wanted — as long as they ate mostly vegetables. Surprise! The veggie-splurging group lost significantly more weight.
Heavier folks often let fear of hunger stop them from pursuing a weight loss plan. But as the George Washington showed, you can “binge” on veggies and you’ll still loseweight without feeling deprived. Once you make veggies the foundation of every meal, you’ll start to crave them as much as the weighty foods you once gobbled. It’s really true!
4. Depressed? Buck Up with Whole Grains. There’s a reason why “comfort foods” are usually carbohydrates. That’s because carbs are natural mood-boosters. One clinical study demonstrated that people who consumed more carbohydrates experienced less depression than people who consumed a smaller amount.
But step away from the Kraft macaroni and cheese and other “simple” carbs, please. These carbs are fair weather friends that pick you up only to dump you soon after — plus they raise your blood sugar and add to your belly fat!
Vegetables are the ideal source of complex carbs. And if you give them a chance, whole grains will hit the sweet spot when you’re craving carby comfort food. That’s because they prompt your body to synthesize a steady flow of the mood-elevating brain chemicals tryptophan and serotonin.
So the next time you’re feeling blue, whip up a veggie-packed pilaf with comforting quinoa … or top nutty, plump brown rice with gently sautéed spinach and sunflower seeds (both are rich sources of mood-boosting folate).
5. Heart Health: Do You Need an Oil Change? Several studies show that adding extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and other healthy fats to your diet can have has a positive impact on your cardiovascular health. Yes, indeed!
Those studies found that consuming a little cold-pressed EVOO every day reduces your risk of heart disease… discourages plaque formation… and reduces inflammation in your arteries and joints. And women who ate leafy greens and consumed about two tablespoons of olive oil daily, cut their risk of developing heart disease by almost half, according to new research.
The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, America’s most respected nutrition journal, followed 30,000 Italian women, average age 50, for eight years and found that women who consumed at least one ounce of olive oil per day lowered their risk of heart disease by 44%, compared with those who consumed less of olive oil.
Just remember: Cooking with EVOO destroys much of its healing power, so it’s best to drizzle it on foods after cooking. EVOO is best when it is unfiltered and cold-pressed… appears dark golden yellow or green… and is packaged in dark glass bottles.
The more “peppery” your EVOO tastes, the more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds it contains, says my pal TJ Robinson, “The Olive Oil Hunter.” (This guy has a job anyone would love. He travels the world in search of the freshest, most cardio-beneficial EVOOs — and then ships it directly to members of his Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club.) .
Hungry for healing?
I bet you are! And I hope you can enjoy these healing recipes very soon. BTW … If you have time, please tell me what some of your favorite healing foods, meal, or diet is.
Do you have a story about how you or someone you know has been healed by turning to “Nature’s pharmacy?” Please pass it along below so we all can learn and heal ourselves by your example.
Jim Healthy is founder of the popular website MyHealingKitchen.com and
is its current Food Editor. He is the co-author The Healing Kitchen (Bottom Line Books,
2011), Arthritis Interrupted (Jim Healthy Press, 2009), and The 30-Day Diabetes Cure
(Jim Healthy Press, 2010).