The Many Medicinal Properties of Food

By Dr. Mercola

Your lifestyle can be generally healing and supportive of good health, or the root of disease. Exercise, for example, has been shown to be as effective as modern drugs for heart disease and diabetes.

Likewise, food has tremendous healing potential, and can rightfully be viewed and approached as “medicine.”

In some cases, specific food items can help speed healing of an acute health problem, such as a bout of cold or flu. In other cases, the effect is more long-term and preventive in nature. NOW Supplements, Gr8-D... Buy New $7.88 (as of 09:54 EST - Details)

Either way, keeping your kitchen stocked with REAL foods, i.e. unprocessed, whole, and non-GMO (ideally organic and locally grown) is a wise move if you seek to optimize your health and quality of life.

Here, I’ll review and summarize a few of my “medicinal superfood” favorites.

Gut-Healthy Foods

Supporting your gut microbiome is perhaps one of the most beneficial things you can do to boost your overall health. Indigestion, gas or bloating, constipation or diarrhea, or virtually any chronic disease, are signs indicating your gut flora is out of balance.

Traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods are key here, as they help reseed your gut with a wide variety of beneficial bacteria. Not only does about 80 percent of your immune system originate in your gut, microbes carry out important roles in many other biological systems as well.

Examples of foods known to support your gut health include (but are not limited to) the following:1

  • Fermented vegetables, which you can easily make at home, typically contain higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora.

Ideally, you’ll want to consume a variety of fermented foods to maximize the variety of beneficial bacteria, as each have their own set of benefits. Wild Planet, Wild Pink... Best Price: null Buy New $39.90 ($0.55 / Ounce) (as of 03:35 EST - Details)

Kimchi, for example, a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables and a spicy blend of chili peppers, garlic, scallions, and other spices, is an excellent source of lactic acid bacteria, which research suggests can help you detoxify insecticides.

These man-made neurotoxic chemicals bioaccumulate in your body, where they can remain for long periods of time if you don’t take steps to eliminate them.

According to a 2009 study,2 the organophosphate insecticide Chlorpyrifos degraded rapidly during kimchi fermentation, and was over 83 percent degraded by day three. By day nine, it was degraded completely.

  • Bone broth is extremely healing to your gut and forms the foundation for the GAPs diet, which is based on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome(GAPS) principles developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

The GAPS diet is designed to heal leaky gut, which is the root of many allergies and autoimmune disorders. When combined with toxic overload, you have a perfect storm that can lead to neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

  • Moringa, a plant native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, has a long history of medicinal use. The leaves contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, and can be used in the same ways as spinach (raw, steamed or cooked).

It’s also high in fiber, and has antibacterial activity. Importantly, moringa contains isothiocyanates shown to protect against Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, which has been implicated in ulcers, acid reflux, and gastric cancer. Frontier Co-op Psylliu... Buy New $12.37 (as of 10:41 EST - Details)

  • Aloe vera aids the absorption of nutrients, and helps heal your gut lining to prevent leaky gut and other intestinal problems, including Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and acid reflux.

Aloe vera juice (made from the inner clear gel) should ideally be made from home-grown aloe with leaves that are one half to one inch thick before harvesting. Species that produce thick leaves are best.

It takes about two years to grow a tiny four-inch aloe plant to one that you can regularly harvest leaves from. I have about 300 thick leaved aloe plants in my front yard but only started with a few dozen.

  • Chia seeds contain about 10 grams of fiber in just two tablespoons, and they’re rich in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals for soothing gastrointestinal distress.

Along with fermented foods, fiber is very important for optimal gut health. Some microbes ferment fiber, and the byproducts nourish your colon.

Some of these fermentation byproducts also help calibrate your immune system, thereby preventing inflammatory disorders such as asthma and Crohn’s disease. Viva Naturals Organic ... Buy New $10.99 (as of 04:50 EST - Details)

Psyllium is another excellent choice, but make sure it is organic as this is a crop that is typically very heavily contaminated with pesticides.

Taking psyllium three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber to your diet. In addition to supporting healthy digestion, soluble fibers such as organic psyllium are prebiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria.

Foods with Specific Medicinal Value

While nourishing your microbiome with gut-healthy foods helps lay a solid foundation upon which to build good health, other foods are known to have medicinal qualities that can help you address more specific problems. CNN3 and the Epoch Times4 recently reviewed a number of foods that have potent medicinal benefits, including the following:



Foods That Support a Healthy Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant you’re eating for two, making your food choices all the more important. As noted by the Epoch Times,12 which recently addressed this issue: Hamilton Beach Juicer ... Best Price: $44.10 Buy New $54.99 (as of 08:40 EST - Details)

“A poor diet during pregnancy can lead to fatal issues such as abnormal brain development, increased risk for obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes, among many other health problems in your baby.”

Clearly, a wide variety of foods are needed to optimize your baby’s development, but some stand out above others. Also keep in mind that eating REAL FOOD is key here. If ever there was a time to ditch processed foods and cook from scratch using whole organic ingredients, this would be it. That said, the following six foods have been shown to be particularly important during pregnancy.

While not a food, vitamin D is likely more important than any food you can eat during your pregnancy. Ideally you obtain it from sensible sun exposure. But it is highly likely that is not possible for most so taking enough oral vitamin D and K2 to get your blood level over 50 ng/ml is one of the most important steps you can take for your pregnancy. Typical doses are 8,000 units of D and 150 mcg of K2.


Food Is Powerful Preventive Medicine

If optimal health is your goal, there’s no getting around your diet. Your physical health is a direct reflection of what you put into your body, and how you live your life in general. Pre-packaged processed foods may be convenient, but cooking from scratch using fresh unprocessed ingredients is an absolute must if you want to improve your health.

Fermented foods also play a very important role in your overall health, as they are a primary source of beneficial bacteria. High quality fiber is also important for this reason. As a general guideline, eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest steps you can take to improve your overall health. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect you from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and even slow down your body’s aging process.

And, while I’ve singled out a number of vegetables above, please do remember that consuming a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to maximize your nutritional benefits. Also consider your nutritional ratios. Most Americans need a lot more healthy fats in their diet, and less carbohydrates and protein. For guidance on more ideal nutritional ratios, check out my Food Pyramid for Optimal Health.

Basics aside, many foods have potent medicinal qualities, allowing you to customize your diet to help you address or prevent any number of health conditions, from diabetes to heart disease and cancer. Remember, pregnancy is a particularly delicate time during which nutrition becomes really crucial. In addition to the foods suggested above, also remember to optimize your vitamin D levels, either through appropriate sun exposure, or an oral supplement along with vitamin K2. To learn more about the implications of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, please see my previous article, “The Who, Why, and When of Vitamin D Screening.”

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