The Sunday Mail
Whether based on belief or science, certain foods and herbs have been credited with healing properties.
More than 2 000 years ago, the precursor of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said “May your food be your medicine, and may your medicine be your food.”
Recent scientific evidence has established that some nutrients in foods and herbs can prevent or treat diseases.
Having been amazed and inspired by the Integrative Medicine practised by the Chinese, I have sought to lay out and try to summarise in this series of articles the beneficial and therapeutic value of certain foods and herbal/nutritional supplements.
The following is a list of the way I have chosen to categorise certain foods and plants and how they are beneficial to our health in terms of prevention and/or treatment of diseases:
Fruits, vegetables, seaweeds and mushrooms; legumes, nuts, cereals and grains; meat, milk, eggs, dairy products, fish and seafood; oils and margarine; honey, sugar and chemical sweeteners; condiments and spices; beverages (mixed beverages and herbs); and Mediterranean diet.
All fruits are synonymous with good health and there is a saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, while others say, “Where fruit is eaten in abundance, there is no need for medicines.”
Interestingly the book of Genesis in the Bible says: “And the Lord made all kinds of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Fruits are the best and most natural source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre thus the most healthful.
It will be difficult to write about each and every fruit in this article so I will generalise and then highlight a few examples.
Generally fruits are the primary source of anti-oxidants in our diet.
Thanks to them, we can avoid premature aging, arteriosclerosis, cancer and other diseases. Numerous studies demonstrate that the more fruit consumed, the lower the risk of cancer, particularly of the digestive, respiratory and urinary organs.
Blueberry contains a strong anti-oxidant Anthocyanin pigment so it has been approved as an ideal anti-cancer fruit. Companies which distribute herbal and/or nutritional supplements have gone to an extent of making blueberry juice granules to cater for communities or regions where blueberry is not found as an indigenous fruit.
The consumption of fruit is very effective in the prevention of stroke and quite effective against coronary disease and diabetes mellitus.
Balsam pear fruit (Momordica charantia) also called bitter melon widely grown in Asia particularly China and some parts of Africa is considered a medicinal food for diabetics and several animal studies and human studies have demonstrated a hypoglycemic <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypoglycemic> effect of concentrated bitter melon extracts.
Balsam pear extracts come in form of stir-fries, soups or herbal teas to help diabetics in improvement of function of insulin and also regulate blood lipid and reduce blood pressure.
Most fruits are laxative, softening the intestinal mucosa and facilitating evacuation. Others such as the quince regulate the digestive function and combat diarrhoea.
The litchi, a native fruit of China, contains high vitamin C content which is even greater than that of oranges and lemons, and enhances the immune system. Grape seed extract herbal capsules contain vitamin E, which delays aging and beautifies the skin.
Foods of vegetable origin — rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins — also bring substances to the diet that, although not well understood nor classified as nutrients, display potent anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) and curative properties on a variety of diseases.
These substances, known as phytochemicals, are currently the subject of intense study and represent new frontiers in nutritional investigation.
All vegetables, but particularly beets, fava beans, spinach, watercress and lettuce facilitate the production of red blood cells due to their high iron content and are thus anti-anaemic.
Vegetables, especially of the family Cruciferae (cabbage, radish, turnip) and Liliaceae (onions, garlic, and leeks), contain substances which have been shown to be effective in slowing the growth of cancer once the process has begun.
Notable is garlic oil soft-gel which comes in form of herbal capsules and is suitable as a supplement/complementary for people with diseases like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar.
In addition to that, garlic has anti-bacterial property, anti-oxidant, and a dietary source of Selenium which may inhibit Hashimoto’s disease, in which the body’s own thyroid cells are attacked as alien.
The substance loosely called selenium sulfide is the active ingredient in some anti-dandruff shampoos. The selenium compound kills the scalp fungus Malassezia, which causes shedding of dry skin fragments. This ingredient is also used in body lotions to treat Tinea versicolor due to infection by a different species of Malassezia fungus.
Crowned as the “smelling rose”, garlic builds a fame which cannot be replaced in the modern supplementary/complementary realm.
Seaweed and algae, so-called vegetables from the sea, are fairly uncommon as food in the Western world and in our setting of a landlocked country, but are of importance to Eastern countries.
Seaweed represents a good source of minerals, particularly iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium and folates and thus prevents goitre and also increases metabolism and prevents obesity.
There are many different types of algae and of the many species, the one that is of dietary importance is Spirulina which contains very high quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, trace elements like zinc.
It is of value in weight loss treatment since it carries low calories per unit weight, in arteriosclerosis, acts as an anti-oxidant and as anti-allergy features useful in allergic rhinitis.
Before I discuss mushrooms in this first instalment, let me hasten to say the most important and first rule of mushrooms is safety first.
It is advised that one should be able to identify inedible/poisonous mushrooms from edible varieties.
The positive aspects of mushrooms are that they contain aromatic substances that give them a very pleasant flavour that reminds some of meat.
Baked, boiled or fried mushrooms are very appropriate for weight loss diets because they contain very little fat, have a significant amount of nutritional proteins, vitamins, minerals with an added advantage of being low in calories and providing an early feeling of satiety.
Mushroom has been shown to be anti-diabetic, an immune booster, has anti-cancer and anti-viral properties, reduces cholesterol and provides general tonic.
Ganoderma, a herbal extract from some species of mushroom, is used as a herbal supplement in the integrative treatment of cancer, as hepato-protective (liver protective), in cardiovascular health and is generally recommended as a long-term immune system supporter.
Till we meet next Sunday to discuss legumes, nuts, cereals and grains, I wish you a blessed working week.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr TB Magodora (MBChB–UZ; DpTCM-Sh,China) has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For feedback, you can reach him at [email protected] and on WhatsApp number +263 776 903 026.