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FOOD AS MEDICINE

FOOD AS MEDICINE

FOOD AS MEDICINE

Nutraceuticals – now there’s a word you don’t hear every day. But fear not. It is just a highbrow way of saying that some foods actually have medicinal properties. It does not mean that you can just eat healthfully and give up all the meds your doctor has prescribed. Instead, nutraceuticals have the distinction of adding to your current medical regimen, but only after discussing them in detail with your doctor.

But is it realistic to believe that chili peppers might help ease aches and pains? Check. What about turmeric? Can it really ease inflammation, similar to how aspirin functions in the body? Double check. Fatty fish and walnuts to ease arthritic inflammation; high fiber fruits to fight cancer; onions to lower cholesterol levels; whole grains and fresh fruit to stave off certain cancers and heart disease; ginger for nausea; skim milk for sunburn; olive oil to reduce risk of stroke. These and many other foods have been extensively studied for their medicinal properties. The list goes on and on.

The term “nutraceuticals” dates to 1989, when it was coined by doctors at the Foundation for Innovative Medicine. They combined the words nutrition and pharmaceutical to title their work with foods as medicine. Since then, the study of foods that treat or prevent disease has become a major area of biomedical research. Scientists study dietary supplements, as well as foods, some of which have become known as “super foods.”

Here are just a few of our commonly consumed foods that double as nutraceuticals:

  • Apples, if consumed regularly, have been shown to reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers, especially in people whose genes have a history of these diseases. Apples also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Cranberries, in addition to their well-known function as protectors against urinary infections, actually have been shown to help strengthen the bodies of stroke victims. Cranberries can also help lower cholesterol.
  • Spinach has been found to decrease the decline in brain function that results from aging. Research also finds that spinach can protect against heart disease, and fight against several different cancers.
  • Sweet potatoes also help stave off certain cancers, and help protect against heart disease. They are a suggested alternative to white potatoes because of their heavy concentration of anti-oxidants.
  • Broccoli is one of the most extensively-researched foods, and consistent findings indicate that broccoli contains antioxidants that help prevent heart attack and stroke, especially in men. Other research shows broccoli to be one of the strongest cancer-fighting foods.

If you want a comprehensive guide to foods as medicine, we suggest “The A to Z Guide to Food as Medicine” by Diane Krafft. Almost every food you can think of is listed in the book, along with results of scientific research that indicates what diseases or illnesses the foods might treat or prevent.

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