Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Does your food do more than fill you up?

Elderly couple enjoying vitality because of healthy eating.
Spices improved their health
I was standing in the spice isle, admiring all the varieties and colors, when, out of nowhere, an elderly woman began speaking to me about her husband's past health issues. Evidently, he suffered for years with arthritis, circulation problems, and heart disease. She recalled someone telling her, when she was a young woman, that spices were very healing. So, she began to add them to every meal. She claimed that, after years of spicing up their meals, her husband's health issues went away and they both enjoyed excellent health and vitality.

That wasn't the first time that I was introduced to the idea that food was more than just how it tasted.

Orange peels contain many health benefits.
Orange peels have health benefits
As a child, my paternal grandmother suggested, as she watched me peel an orange, that I eat a bite of the peel. What?? Take a bite of that bitter peel? When I asked her why, she merely said that it was healthy ... so I followed her advice and still do to this day. In later years, I learned that the skin of an orange has properties which have been shown to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, and inhibit the growth of several forms of cancer cells.

We all know that whole, non-processed foods are Eco-friendly and have nutritional value (vitamins, minerals, etc.). Many of them can also help us prevent illness, heal, and even keep us warm/cool. Let's take a look at some of them:

Foods that help prevent illness

Tomatoes stimulate immune function
Tomatoes may slow degenerative diseases

  • Tomatoes contain lycopene, a potent antioxidant which stimulates immune function.
  • Spinach contains vitamins A and C, folic acid, and magnesium.  In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, it blocks free radicals and may help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Oatmeal contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Foods that heal

Rosemary is a healing herb
Rosemary might stop tumors

  • Rosemary contains carnosol and rosemarinic acid, powerful antioxidants which destroy HCAs (heterocyclic amines). HCAs are potent carcinogens which are associated with several cancers and, when they bind with DNA, are the first step in tumor formation.
  • Apricots have fiber, sodium, and potassium which help prevent minerals from accumulating in urine and forming calcium oxalate stones (Kidney stones).
  • Ginger cures nausea by blocking the effects of serotonin (a chemical produced by the brain and stomach when you are nauseated) and by stopping the production of free radicals, a common cause of stomach upset. Because ginger regulates blood flow, it might also decrease blood pressure, arthritis pain, and cancer risk.

Foods that warm us up

Cinnamon warms the body
Cinnamon increases metabolism

  • Cinnamon increases blood, oxygen, and nutrient circulation, thereby increasing metabolism. Increased metabolism makes us feel warmer.
  • Root vegetables (carrots, turnips, potatoes, etc.) require more energy to digest than other vegetables. As the body works to break down these foods, the energy generated keeps us warm.
  • Turmeric increases metabolism in two ways: 1) by cleansing the body of waste which can damage cells, and 2) by producing bile, which stimulates the gallbladder and improves digestion. Increased metabolism generates warming energy.

Foods that cool us down

Cucumbers reduce body heat
Cucumbers reduce body heat

  • Cucumbers contain a lot of water and help to keep our cells hydrated. This, in turn, helps the body keep cool.
  • Green leafy vegetables are packed with calcium which acts as a thermoregulator in the body. Basically, signals are sent, between your body and brain, which help regulate your temperature.
  • Lentils, which contain tannins, are an astringent food. They cause the tissues of your body to shrink and increase water absorption. As the tissues absorb water, your body feels cooler.

We choose foods because they taste good and nourish our bodies. Holistic living looks for products which do more than simply fill our stomachs. It looks for high nutritional density and properties which assist our bodies to realize maximum health and comfort.

It's a fascinating thought that food can do so much!

What are the health benefits of the foods you enjoy?

Tomorrow we present another challenging Eco-friendly activity. Will you join us and change the world?

The information presented in our holistic living series is not, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical advice.