Foods That Heal

By Val Silver

Foods that heal are your important allies whether you are facing health challenges or trying to prevent them. Using food as medicine has a long history for good reason. Eating a diet of primarily healthy, natural foods will do wonders for your system. It will help you feel good, and make you more resistant to common health problems.

It only makes sense that what you put into your body either heals or harms (or is neutral at best). Nature provides us with a host of foods that heal to make our cells function optimally for physical and mental vitality. 

Unfortunately, many of us have fallen prey to the disproportionate amount of 'newfangled foods' out there, many barely resembling the plants or animals they came from. 

It's no secret that the SAD standard American diet, along with stress and toxins, is a major contributor of ill health. Highly processed, denatured food laden with chemicals, sugar, rancid oils, and trans-fats may taste good, but it taxes your nutritional reserves and creates unhealthy living conditions for your cells.

As the 1970's Chiffon margarine commercial proclaimed, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Well, the truth is, you can fool your taste buds, but you can't fool your body and how it responds to what you put in it.

Jack LaLane gave wise advice when he said,

"If God didn't make it, don't eat it."

A Secret about Healing Foods

After reading hundreds of books and articles about nutrition and foods that heal the body of various ailments, I've come to a simple conclusion. There are foods that are particularly helpful for preventing certain ailments or healing them. But for the most part, if you eat a variety of good for you foods as part of a healthy diet, you will naturally be using your food as medicine.  

It comes as no surprise that real foods show up over and over on lists of healing foods that prevent or cure this or that condition. This is especially true of lifestyle diseases- cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.

This healthy balanced diet is comprised of plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. Add to this foundation nuts, seeds, fermented foods, berries, fruit and small amounts of whole grains. Eat like this and you will eat plenty of foods that heal and help you stay well.

Foods that Heal Specific Conditions

This graphic illustrates the ratings of 21 different fruits and vegetables deemed to have the most nutritional value as heart health and cancer fighting foods. Notice that dark, leafy greens (including several not shown) top the list.

foods that heal

The list of conditions and specific needs discussed below illustrates how to incorporate foods that heal into your diet for additional nutritional support. Note that these healing foods were chosen based on research and tradition, and are just a sampling of helpful foods.

Cholesterol reducing and balancing foods:

  • monounsaturated fats in nuts, avocados and olive oil. 
  • soluble fiber-rich foods in whole grains, beans and fresh fruit (with the skin when edible) which absorb cholesterol and escort it out of your body. 
  • omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel to help your heart by reducing blood pressure, inflammation, and triglycerides while raising HDL. 
  • Lower carbohydrate, higher healthy fat diets which favor normalizing cholesterol and triglycerides. 
  • If you also have high blood pressure, eat potassium rich foods such as cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon, avocados and real coconut water. 

Cancer-fighting foods:

These foods help in one or more ways to stave off this dreaded disease. They help prevent or slow cancer growth by protecting DNA, preventing cells from turning cancerous, encouraging cancer cell death, and/or by stimulating the immune system and controlling inflammation.

Cancer fighting foods primarily consist of a variety of anti-oxidant, fiber and nutrient rich fruits, vegetables and plant foods in a rainbow of colors. You want to eat several portions of these foods daily. Choose from among red, yellow, green, blue and orange varieties to take advantage of different phytonutrients that protect you from cancer and other lifestyle diseases. 

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables such as brocolli and kale which contain sulforaphane, a compound that helps detoxify your liver and protect against cancer.
  • Lycopene rich cooked tomatoes are especially protective against prostate cancer.
  • Horseradish contains even more glucosinolates - a compound that helps your liver detoxify carcinogens than cruciferous vegetables. This compound may also slow cancer cell growth. Add a teaspoon of horseradish to your daily diet for a healthy dose of prevention.
  • Enjoy liberal amounts of spices such as turmeric, nutmeg, and cinnamon. 
  • To supercharge your protection, combine cancer fighting foods in a meal. For example, eat steamed broccoli with cooked tomatoes and a cup of green or Earl Grey tea to multiply each other's healing effects. As you will hear in the video below, this effect can be greater than drugs or supplements. 
  • Read more about cancer-fighting foods and supplements here.

Foods that support immune function:

Use food as medicine to protect yourself from infections and cancer. 

  • beta-carotene rich foods such as spinach, carrots, winter squash 
  • vitamin C rich foods including cantaloupe and oranges. 
  • mushrooms such as reishi and maitake. Research shows that rehi mushcrooms contain biactive molecules that not only boost the immune system but help reverse age related lowered immunity. These mushrooms also protect you from illness because they have anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties as well as the ability to boost the immune system. 
  • garlic. Finely chop a few fresh cloves and eat fresh or lightly cooked.
  • zinc rich top sirloin, lentils and king crab. 
  • fermented foods such as kefir and cultured vegetables which support immune system friendly bacteria living in your intestines.

Anti-inflammatory foods:

These foods, herbs and spices reduce the chronic inflammation behind many chronic degenerative diseases, pain, and premature aging. It should come as no surprise that anti-inflammatory foods that heal include:

  •  super foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, grass fed beef, monounsaturated fats, green tea, nuts and seeds and a wide variety of real, unprocessed foods.
  • inflammation cooling spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and fennel to protect yourself from the myriad of health problems caused by chronic inflammation and can be used as seasonings. Avoiding foods you are sensitive to and limiting pro-inflammatory trans fats and processed foods are a must.

Sleep enhancing foods:

  • Tryptophan rich foods including milk, cheese, chicken and turkey can make you sleepy. 

Constipation relieving foods: 

  • Eat fiber-rich foods to bulk up stools and carry away toxins. Enjoy them with plenty of water or you may make it worse. 
  • Fermented foods can rebalance your intestinal flora. 
  • Prunes are a constipation superstar because they contain three stool moving ingredients: fiber, sorbitol which softens the stool, and a compound called di-hydroxyphenyl isatin that stimulates intestinal contractions.
  • Psyllium seeds (found in over-the-counter products) contain fiber. Be sure to get organic if you can. 
  • Ground flax seeds are rich in soluble fiber, healthful compounds and oil. After a few days of taking flax you may notice that your stools are easier to pass.
  • Fiber isn't always the answer for constipation. If fiber doesn't help, taking a dose magnesium citrate with Vitamin C might do the trick. 

Food for muscle cramps :

Muscle cramps can often be relieved with electrolyte minerals - magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. Many people are deficient in magnesium, the mineral that tells muscles to relax and helps the other electrolytes do their jobs. Rich sources of electrolytes are:

  • watermelon
  • dark leafy greens
  • fermented soy (natto)
  • bananas 
  • coconut water

Also, be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after exercise.

Do you notice a pattern in this eclectic compilation of foods that heal? Nutrient-rich cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory foods, and the other healthy foods mentioned above are foods that heal regardless of specific physical conditions because when your cells are healthy, you are much more likely to be healthy. It really is that simple.

Reminder: For informational purposes only. Follow your doctor's advice regarding medical conditions. Avoid foods you are sensitive, or are allergic to, or interact negatively with your medications. They aren't good for you even if they are mentioned as foods that heal your specific condition.

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For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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