The healing properties of food have been reported by cultures worldwide throughout history. However, the past decade has presented an explosion of clinical research to show specifically what health benefits individual foods can offer, identifying the various nutrients and phytochemicals associated with these benefits.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. -- Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.
A variety of fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed whole foods have properties that can benefit our health. Studies in the past decade have taken nutritional research beyond protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Chemicals in the plants called phytochemicals have been a specific focus in the past decade, offering benefits such as cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction, and hormone regulation, to name a few.
Many people are now turning away from antibiotics, flu remedies and other man-made chemical “drugs” - things we usually would have taken at the merest hint of a sneeze, exposing our bodies to all sorts of side-effects. Luckily, there are many ways to heal your body without hitting the medicine cupboard or pharmacy. We know the range of healing foods is vast - as it seems nature has provided for every eventuality - so check out this list of some well-known healing foods and their benefits:
(We'll be updating with further healing foods in future blog posts, but you can also follow our Twitter for regular bursts of information goodness)
The antibiotic: Garlic
Garlic has long had a reputation as a natural antibiotic. In fact, one study by researchers from the University of East London found that the allicin present in garlic was effective against the most antibiotic-resistant strains of "superbug" MRSA. Whilst we can't advise you to ditch the antibiotics without seeking professional advice, for conditions such as acne where long-term antibiotic use is required, it may be worth considering garlic as a natural alternative.
The flu remedy: Sidr Honey
Sidr honey is packed with antioxidants and is also renowned for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. This powerful honey can be used to help treat many conditions including ulcers, acne and digestive problems, and it is also a good treatment for the flu and common cold (especially when combined with ginger and lemon in a tea). The honey is not only a great immune-booster, but its antiviral properties help protect against cold and flu symptoms while its antibacterial properties can tackle the bacteria that can lead to a sore throat. Sidr Honey has also been shown in studies to kill “superbugs” such as MRSA. Incidently, it can also be used topically for things like acne and other ailments including wounds and burns.
The digestive aid: Peppermint tea
If you're suffering from nausea, flatulence or IBS, a cup of peppermint tea may help sort you out. Peppermint has a mildly anesthetic effect on the stomach lining, which can help reduce nausea. In addition to this, it is also an antispasmodic, meaning that it can help relieve muscle spasms along the digestive tract, helping with the painful symptoms of IBS. A powerful superherb with a range of other benefits as well.
The antacid: Bananas
If you regularly suffer from heartburn or indigestion, it may be worth adding more bananas to your diet. Bananas are renowned for their antacid properties, which can soothe painful heartburn as well as protecting against stomach ulcers. As an added bonus, bananas can also decrease risk of stroke and lower blood pressure, making them an extremely healthy alternative to antacid medication.
The anti-depressant: Chocolate/Cacao
Chocolate (and we mean dark or cacao) is known to be high in mood-boosting chemicals, and findings published in the scientific journal Nutritional Neuroscience have suggested that the food can help reduce the symptoms of depression. The popular treat is not only high in magnesium, which can aid relaxation, but it contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter which can help regulate mood, and phenylethylamine, which raises endorphin levels. However, the mood-boosting food should still be eaten in moderation if your preferred 'version' has high amounts of processed sugar!
The sleep aid: Oats
If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep, try eating a small bowl of porridge before bedtime to help you drift off. Oats are a good natural source of melatonin, which is often taken as a sleep aid due to its ability to help regulate the body's internal clock. On top of this, they are also a rich source of tryptophan, which helps the brain to produce more melatonin as well as the relaxing chemical serotonin.
The anti-inflammatory: Turmeric/curcumin
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property has been a topic of intense research, especially for getting relief from arthritis and other inflammation conditions in the body. Many of these conditions are treated with drugs which have very adverse side-effects. The anti-inflammatory action of this herb mimics the action of many of these drugs but without harmful side-effects normally associated with them! In a clinical trial, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took turmeric supplement found that the stiffness of the joint was considerably reduced along with decrease in swelling around the joint. In fact, its effect was no less than other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The antihistamine: Stinging Nettle
Popular among Western herbalists for centuries, stinging nettle extract contains natural antihistamines that block the body’s response to allergens, like pollen. A double-blind study conducted by National College of Naturopathic Medicine found that around half the participants reported a freeze-dried preparation of stinging nettle was more effective or as effective as pharmaceutical allergy remedies.
The travel sickness remedy: Ginger
Ginger is an all-round good health food, being high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. However, ginger's most reputed benefit is its effectiveness at treating all types of nausea, making it a great alternative to motion sickness tablets when travelling. To help ease the nausea associated with travel sickness, try eating crystallised ginger or ginger biscuits, or drink some ginger tea or ginger ale.
There are MANY others we could have listed - this has been in no particular order - and we'll expand on these in future. Hopefully this snippet has shown just how powerful the healing affects of food can be, and given you 'food for thought' the next time you look for something to provide systematic or root cause relief in any ailment. Always remember: YOU are at the head of your personal medical team and directly responsible for your own health.