We often hear about the healing effects of food, but what’s the truth as far as nutrition and healing our bodies? You might be thinking food as medicine means using medical cannabis in your next baking recipe, but beyond that, what should you know about the food you eat and the effects it has on your body beyond the more obvious such as weight gain or loss? We often don’t think about the deep-rooted effects food can have on us, and the following are things to know about the healing ability of what we eat.
General Things to Keep in Mind
If you want food to work for you rather than against you, there are some general things to keep in mind. These include:
- Cut out unhealthy fats and replace them with healthy fats. Unhealthy fats like trans fats and hydrogenated oils cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to conditions like cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Healthy fats, by contrast, can help with weight loss, cancer prevention, brain development, and hormone balance.
- Choose the right meats. You don’t necessarily have to cut out all meats from your diet, but look for options that are lean and grass-fed or wild-caught.
- Cut out refined sugars and grains. Pasta, white rice, and processed foods are high in sugar and grains and these foods can contribute to inflammation and they have very few nutrients.
When it comes to fats, we’re sometimes averse to the concept of high-fat foods, but that’s not the right way of thinking. Instead, you should welcome the right kinds of fats. Healthy fats are packed with amino acids, and they help with metabolism muscle growth and immune function. Amino acids also help your body absorb nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as what’s found in fish like salmon regulate inflammation.
Vitamins and Minerals
We so often turn to supplements as a way to get the necessary vitamins and minerals, but that should be something we rarely need to do because we should get as many of these things as we need from our food. However, the Standard American Diet tends to be lacking in nutrients, and that may increase your need for supplements and your risk of disease. If you don’t get enough key vitamins and minerals, it can cause serious health problems, whereas making sure you get enough and preferably from high-quality food sources can help your body heal. For example, processed foods have few vitamins and minerals like vitamins C and D. Being deficient in C and D can cause problems with your immune function and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
The majority of what you eat should come from plants. Plant-based foods have antioxidants that protect our cells from damage. Cellular damage is what leads to most diseases including many types of cancer. If you have a diet rich in plant-based antioxidants, it can lead to a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and even dementia.
Fiber helps maintain the beneficial levels of bacteria that are present in your gut and helps promote proper digestion. Fiber-rich foods can decrease inflammation and give your immunity a boost. Low-fiber diets are, on the other hand, linked to an increased risk of many illnesses including colon cancer, which is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit.
What Are the Best Foods for Healing?
Some foods are better than others when it comes to their healing effects. Examples include:
- Mushrooms have many healing properties. For example, they may help boost the immune system which can keep you generally healthy but may even slow tumor growth. Mushrooms include shitake, portabellas, and creminis among other types. What’s great about mushrooms is that many kinds have a rich meaty texture so if you want to cut down on your meat intake a bit they can be a good replacement.
- Beets are a natural source of carbohydrates to fuel you mentally and physically. Beets also have iron, calcium and are rich in vitamins A and C. There is some evidence beets may even help prevent heart disease and cancer.
- Probiotics are healthy bacteria that protect your body against disease and unhealthy bacteria. Probiotics are in some food sources including kefir, soy drinks, and yogurt. Currently, research is underway to look at the benefits of probiotics on certain cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, and skin infections.
- Any kind of leafy, green vegetable is going to be good to include in your diet as much as you can. Fresh green vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber, and they’re versatile as far as how you can use them. For example, you can add them to soups or broths, salads or you can juice them.
- Seeds are an unlikely source of a lot of what your body needs to function optimally. Seeds include pumpkin, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds. They are a good way to add a nutty, vibrant flavor to different recipes.
- Apple cider vinegar is something you can use to make a salad dressing if you aren’t able to stomach the thought of drinking it in a tonic. Apple cider vinegar is a good way to boost healthy bacteria in your body and improve your digestion.
The Risks of Unhealthy Foods
The problem with the way many people eat isn’t just that they aren’t eating foods that heal them, but they’re focusing what they eat on foods that do the opposite and cause damage. Sugary foods, refined grains, and processed items are the main contributors to some of the most serious health conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These foods increase not only inflammation but also wreak havoc on your gut bacteria and lead to insulin resistance. One study found that every 10% increase in very processed food intake led to a 12% increase in their risk of developing cancer. It’s never too late, nor is any change too small to get you on the path toward healing with food.