Food as Medicine: 12 Ingredients for Better Health

Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful in the summer when it’s easy to indulge in sugar-rich foods. (Image via  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful in the summer when it’s easy to indulge in sugar-rich foods. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

You can strengthen your immune system and maintain your health with good habits and a nutritious diet, reducing your reliance on medication.

Here are 12 beneficial foods with medicinal properties:

1. Bitter gourd (bitter melon): Hypoglycemic for the blood

Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, can be helpful in the summer when it’s easy to indulge in sugar-rich foods. It can also aid in managing diabetes. The fruit contains at least three insulin-like compounds that actively lower blood glucose levels. It also suppresses appetite, similar to how insulin works in the brain.

2. Lemons: Anti-inflammatory for the body

Lemons are rich in Vitamin C, as well as being anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. But please don’t suck on lemons! Your teeth will suffer from the high acid content of lemons. Here’s a recipe for a healthy lemonade (with zero refined sugar):

  • 1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (or 6-7 medium-sized lemons)
  • 4 cups (960 ml) bottled water
  • 1 tbsp (12 g) stevia

Mix the three ingredients together in a pitcher and stir well.

3. Red dates: Protector of the liver

Anyone suffering from liver problems — like chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, for example — can benefit from the regular consumption of fresh red dates (buy organic when possible and avoid those covered in syrup). If you only have access to dried dates, it’s best to soak them in bottled water for at least three hours or overnight to soften them (your teeth and digestive system will thank you). Dates (and date seed extract) can regulate cholesterol, lower inflammation, and reduce liver fibrosis from liver damage. Three to four large dates are considered to be a healthy daily portion.

red dates

Anyone suffering from liver problems — like chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, for example — can benefit from the regular consumption of fresh red dates. (Image: Phoebe via flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

4. Cabbage: Caretaker of the stomach

Studies with patients suffering from peptic ulcers have shown that Vitamin U (from cabbage juice) is effective in significantly speeding up the healing of tissues. Cabbage juice can also facilitate the secretion of gastric juices and protect the stomach lining from irritation. Eighty percent of the active ingredients are found in the juice. Drinking a quart (just under a liter) of cabbage juice per day is said to be an excellent remedy for digestive discomfort or peptic ulcers.

On a side note, taking cabbage juice one hour before taking aspirin is found to protect the stomach from its ulcer-inducing side-effects.

Healthy stomach recipe:

  • Put 3 cups (675 g) chopped green cabbage (preferably organic) with 2 cups (450 ml) bottled water in a blender.
  • Blend on low for 2 minutes, then switch up to high for no more than 10 seconds.

You can strain now and serve fresh, or follow the steps below to slightly ferment the mixture for beneficial gut-loving bacteria.

  • To ferment, pour the mixture into a 1-liter jar (preferably glass) and seal with a lid or plastic wrap. (Make sure there is some room at the top as the liquid needs space to expand).
  • Leave the mixture at room temperature (20°-24°C) for 72 hours.
  • Strain the mixture into a clean glass jar, using a fine mesh or muslin cloth, and serve or keep in the fridge.

For further batches, you can add half a cup of your fermented cabbage juice with just over 1 cup of freshwater and 3 cups of cabbage. After blending, it only takes 24 hours at room temperature to achieve the desired fermentation.

5. Garlic: Holistic bactericide

The smell of raw garlic may be too much for some people, and those on an ayurvedic diet or practicing some meditation practices, as well as those suffering from hepatitis, are advised to avoid it. But if the smell doesn’t concern you, and especially for people suffering from circulatory and bacterial issues, it can be a powerful aid.

Tip: For best results, chop or crush the garlic cloves as fine as possible and leave for 15 minutes, to allow the allicin content to come out, before consuming. It is said to be most powerful when eaten raw; however, cooking will lessen the smell if it is too disturbing.

for people suffering from circulatory and bacterial issues, it can be a powerful aid.(Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

For people suffering from circulatory and bacterial issues, garlic can be a powerful aid. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

6. Yam: Tonifier for the kidneys

Yams are similar to sweet potatoes, but have more potassium and manganese and are rich in amino acids. They are said to be beneficial for the kidneys and have been found to tonify and strengthen them, aiding in their proper functioning. In Chinese medicine, yams are suitable for supplementing both yang and yin deficiencies of the kidneys.

Tip: Steam the yam in a steaming pot or a pressure cooker until tender, but still a little firm.

7. Sweet potato: Lubricator for the bowels

Sweet potatoes are rich in soluble fibers and vitamin A, and can prevent constipation. They are useful for relieving hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and anal discomfort after childbirth, and may also help prevent rectal and colon cancer.

Tip: Spiralize sweet potatoes to eat them raw in a salad, or steam in a steamer or pressure cooker.

8. Onion: Anti-cancer agent

The selenium content in onions has anti-carcinogenic properties that can help prevent cancer cells from developing.

The same advice goes for raw onions as with raw garlic. If the smell is not an issue, raw onions are more effective and can be consumed in salads or added last to soups. Otherwise, use them in cooked recipes.

9. Dried ginger: Painkiller

Chinese medicinal theory regards pain in the joints and muscles as being caused by an invasion of coldness or moisture. Fresh or dried ginger can be used to warm up the body and relieve aches and pains.

Tip: Make a warming tea by adding ginger powder to hot water. You can also bathe your feet in hot ginger water to quickly warm up the body.

Fresh or dried ginger can be used to warm up the body and relieve aches and pains. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Fresh or dried ginger can be used to warm up the body and relieve aches and pains. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

10. Celery: Reliever of hypotension

The fiber, magnesium, and potassium content in celery stalks can help regulate your blood pressure. The flavonoid apigenin in celery can relax the blood vessels and the vascular muscles, and prevent atherosclerosis.

Tip: Eat one cup or about 4 stalks of celery daily to achieve the best results.

11. Mung bean: Body detoxifier

Mung beans are said to detoxify the body. To bring out their nutritional content and increase bioavailability, sprout the beans by soaking overnight, draining, and rinsing twice a day for three days until a small tail grows. You can eat them raw in a salad, sprinkle them into a cooked recipe, or cook them lightly — for example, in a stir fry with coconut oil. However, for maximum benefits, blend the beans into a smoothie or make a thick, warm soup.

12. Radish: Dry cough reliever

Radish juice (made by blending the radish with a little water) can help relieve a mild cough, especially when it is the result of dryness. It should be consumed neat, without honey or yogurt, etc. The taste can be rather spicy, but a small shot is powerfully effective, and you can sip the liquid a little at a time.

Tip: If the taste is too much, add the radishes last and plentifully to a stew. You can also gently boil the radishes in plenty of water, with a little stevia to sweeten and drink the mixture throughout the day.

Translated by Miranda Tsai and edited by Emiko Kingswell

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