For the first 5000 years of civilization, humans relied on foods and herbs for medicine. Only in the past 50 years have we forgotten our medicinal “roots” in favor of patent medicines. While pharmaceuticals have their value, we should not forget the well-documented, non-toxic and inexpensive healing properties of whole foods. While prescription drugs can save lives, our $480 billion/year Big Pharma industry kills at least 130,000 Americans annually from the on label use of these potent and often dangerous drugs.
Whole foods contain an elegant “symphony” of ingredients that we have only begun to appreciate due to the increasing sensitivity of our analytical equipment. The more that we analyze whole foods, the more we stand back with awe.
Your body needs vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting nutrients to maintain optimum health. Some foods i.e. “superfoods” are full of these essential nutrients to give you the best defense against common illnesses to chronic diseases. These foods are common kitchen items and readily available in grocery stores.
Onion & Garlic
Onion and garlic have anti-bacterial powers and are commonly used to boost immunity against infection and allergy. Garlic helps in decreasing high blood pressure and can lower the risk of various cancers. Onion also keeps your heart healthy by preventing blood clots and prevents certain cancers.
To fully activate garlic’s antibiotic effect, be sure to crush garlic pods and expose them to air for up to 30 minutes before consuming them. Also, raw garlic is more powerful than the cooked one.
Berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) are antioxidant rich disease fighting super foods. The pigment anthocyanin in these bright color berries works as an antioxidant and boosts your immunity against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Cranberries are often used to treat or prevent urinary tract infections.
These colorful fruits are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which help fight chronic disease and cancer. And their health benefits just keep getting sweeter!
You can enjoy berries as a snack or add them to your cereals, salads, smoothies, yogurt and frozen treats. Berries are work particularly well in blended smoothies. A recent study showed that adding just a few blueberries to your yogurt or smoothies may help reduce your risk of heart attack.
Citrus fruits are rich in immunity boosting vitamin C, fiber and flavonoids. Vitamin-C helps in lowering inflammation; fiber helps in lowering cholesterol levels; and flavonoids provide antioxidant protection against various cancer.
The rinds of citrus fruits are full of healthy compounds, so don’t forget to use the zests of oranges and lemons. Eat citrus fruits as a snack or use more of these in your salads or sauces.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes provide a host of disease fighting phytochemicals with high quality protein and fiber. Protein helps in making antibodies and white blood cells that fight off infections and help in repair and recovery. The regular consumption of beans and legumes lowers blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels; stabilizes blood sugar; and helps in preventing heart disease and certain cancers.
Use beans as an excellent alternative to meet your protein needs. Add them to your salads, soups, stews, dips, and even pasta sauces.
Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley and oats have complex carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. The fibre rich whole grains promote digestive and heart health while reducing the risk of diabetes. Research also suggests that beta-glucan, a special fibre found in barley and oats has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
So, while going grocery shopping next time don’t forget to shop for whole-grains. Also try to get whole grains pasta, breads, and cereals to include more of whole grains in your daily meals.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens are rich in disease fighting nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. These nutrients help in maintaining clean arteries and reduce risk of heart disease, cataracts, diabetes and a variety of cancers.
Include more of watercress, kale, spinach, collard greens, dark lettuces in your salads or try adding them to your various dishes. You can also put them in your morning smoothies to get that nutritional punch.
Mushrooms are known for their immunity boosting powers. Research suggests that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, which helps in fighting infection. The beneficial bacteria and nutrients found in mushroom also reduce risk of cancer.
Aim for adding 2 teaspoons of shiitake, maitake, or reishi mushrooms to your daily meals to reap their immunity benefits.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) have phytochemicals that help in warding off illness and reduce risk of cancer. Cabbage also helps in lowering your cholesterol levels.
- Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins minerals and fibre. These nutrients promote a healthy digestive tract and prevent inflammatory chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
- Nuts: Nuts have a perfect combination of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats that helps in stabilizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. Nuts also help in weight management by raising your metabolism and suppressing appetite.
So snack on a moderate portion (a handful) of nuts or make a healthy trail-mix to eat in between meals. You can also add these crunchy treats to your bowl of cereals, yogurt and salads.
Fermented foods boost your immunity by providing natural probiotics.[/tweetthis]
Flaxseeds are particularly rich in fibre that helps in lowering blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attack. Flaxseeds also have powerful antioxidant, lignan that aids in fighting illness and reducing the risk of inflammatory chronic diseases like cancer.
Aim for adding 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds gradually in your daily meals. Like nuts you can add them to your bowl of cereals, yogurt, smoothies and salads. You can also add them to your baked goodies like muffin, cakes and cookies.
- Turmeric: The anti-inflammatory compound curcumin in turmeric prevents ulcers, aids in digestion of fats and even reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Ginger: This immunity boosting wonder spice relieves inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, and help in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Fermented foods boost your immunity by providing natural probiotics. These probiotic bacteria help in various health problems like irritable bowel syndrome, atopic dermatitis, diarrhea, allergic rhinitis, and even the common cold.
To enjoy fermented food with maximum amount of beneficial bacteria make your own fermented vegetables, pickles, olives, yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut.
Caffeinated foods such as coffee, chocolate, and tea have high levels of antioxidants polyphenols that can help in fighting a number of illnesses from diabetes, cancer to depression. Though, experts recommend limiting intake of caffeinated drinks to two cups a day or switching to the decaf version. Also to get maximum immunity-boosting benefits, stick with dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao and consume it in moderation (an ounce) three days a week.