How to use food as medicine?

Hippocrates was right when he said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” But are you wondering how to use food as medicine? Here are a few tips for you to follow.

Food has tremendous power to influence your health and wellbeing. This is because unless you ingest something and it’s digested and absorbed into your bloodstream and the body, it has no power to harm or benefit you.

What’s even better is the fact that  70 % of your immune system is located in the gut, and anything you eat ends up there. So whether you’ll promote a solid or weak immune system depends on your diet by a significant margin.

So it’s worth it to pay more attention to what you eat because research is also clear that most chronic conditions begin in the gut.

That’s to say, if you are eating food full of nutrients that the body needs, it’s like you are taking a remedy for any possible health problem.

And likewise, if your diet is not good, it’s like you are taking poison because it will soon catch up with you.

Many dynamics go into using food as medicine, and that’s what this article is all about, so keep reading to discover more.

Here are the basic principles of using food as medicine:

1.   Use whole foods rather than supplements whenever you can

Whole foods will always be better than supplements because they are rich in other plant nutrients, unlike supplements which are mainly concentrated with a single nutrient.

For example, whole foods contain fiber essential in managing constipation, feeding the good gut bacteria, and generally improving digestive health.

Whole foods are also rich in various vitamins and minerals that promote different aspects of health.

Lastly, they are rich in other protective compounds such as antioxidants which help destroy harmful radicals in the body that may cause inflammation and cell damage predisposing you to different chronic conditions, including cancer.

If at all you need to include supplements in your diet, let them be a compliment and not a food replacement regime.

2.   Embrace vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits are commonly referred to as protective foods. This is because they contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals that protect the body against various diseases.

They are also high in other beneficial compounds necessary for health, like fiber, making it easy for the body to get rid of waste, lower cholesterol, and eliminate any harmful compounds.

assorted fruits, vegetables, and vegan foods

3.   Limit refined carbohydrates

While whole minimally processed carbohydrates are a good source of energy for the body, highly processed carbohydrates such as boxed cereals, candies, cakes, white flour products such as pasta and bread are a major cause of inflammation.

Chronic inflammation can result in metabolic conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

Also, restrict any form of energy drinks, including fruit juices, as most contain added sugar, which is also a greater contributor to inflammation.

Besides, since the fiber in fruits has been ripped off, your fruit juice is still going to be sweet and may still affect your glucose regulation.

Therefore, make it a habit to juice less sweet fruits or combine them with veggies for smoothies, for example, an apple with vegetables.

The fiber in these foods will slow digestion and maintain a steady release of glucose into the blood without causing a spike. 

4.   Include herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are rich in medicinal properties and have been used traditionally to treat different ailments.

Research shows that different spices and herbs may indeed offer health benefits when consumed regularly.

As a result, cooking with spices and herbs is one way to ensure adequate intake of beneficial nutrients capable of improving health.

5.   Be open-minded

Embracing food as medicine calls for an open mind and willingness to try new foods and to make the necessary adjustments required to promote good health.

6.   Reduce stress

To benefit from the healing properties of food, your body must be in a position to absorb and make use of the nutrients it receives fully.

Stress interferes with every aspect of health, including appetite, food choices, and digestion. It triggers the fight-or-flight mode, which inhibits digestion and absorption of nutrients.

For instance, stress may result in diarrhea, leading to malabsorption of nutrients due to the shortened transit time through the gut.

This will cause a deficiency in nutrients especially the B vitamins, which are essential for mental health and brain function, and magnesium, which helps block the stress hormones.

So you could be eating right, but if your stress is out of control, there is no way your diet will be effective in promoting health.

7.   Get enough sleep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that an adult gets not less than 7 hours of sleep per night, but very few individuals achieve that.

woman sleeping

According to research, having less than seven hours of sleep each night may reduce the absorption of magnesium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, D, and B1.

A lack of sleep may also contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression, reduced immunity, and lower sex drive.

This clearly shows that even though plant foods have the power to prevent such diseases from occurring. A lack of sleep may cancel out every possible benefit.

Final thoughts

Whole food is rich in health-enhancing nutrients and if planned well, it can help fight and prevent disease.

But to ensure the healing power of food becomes a reality in your life, ensure you are going for whole foods and not supplements as much as possible.

Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit refined plant foods such as refined carbohydrates, and cook with herbs and spices.

Also, work on managing your stress and getting enough sleep, as these may limit the absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body.

So, as you look forward to including nutrient-dense foods, spices, and herbs in your diet, remember to also look within to see whether you are jeopardizing your health through stress and sleep deprivation.

Other related lifestyle articles:

  1. High Fiber Gluten Free Foods
  2. How To Boost Your Immune System
  3. Plant-Based Sources of Zinc
  4. Vegan Brain Booster Foods
  5. 10 Foods That Boost The Immune System
  6. Vitamins and Minerals to Boost Metabolism
  7. How To Stay Healthy When Traveling
  8. Eating Healthy Food On A Budget

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