It has become a growing trend in the field of medicine to look at foods as a natural health source. Numerous studies have shown the potential benefits of certain foods for illnesses such as high cholesterol, and even heart disease. Taking from the kitchen cabinet to the medicine cabinet might be something to consider. Holistic pharmacist and fitness instructor Sherry Torkos has been tackling this subject for years. She is the co-author of the book Saving Women's Hearts, and offers the following sampling of foods (and/or food by-products) that have been shown to have medicinal value.
Grapes: Grapes and their liquid counterparts (grape juice and wine) have long been known to be good for the heart and part of the French Paradox. New research conducted at UC Davis has shed some light on the many ways that grapes and grape seed extract helps the heart...it can lower blood pressure and improve circulation and blood vessel flexibility. The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain heart benefits because in excess alcohol does contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and triglycerides. If you are going to drink, moderation is the key: 1 drink/day for women; 2 for men).
Related: The Urban Myth of the Wine Headache
Tomatoes: they contain an antioxidant called lycopene which has long been known to benefit prostate health. Recent research has revealed that compounds in tomatoes provide a natural source of SPF, which can fight free radical damage/wrinkling from within.
Plant sterols: a naturally occurring plant compound found in nuts, seeds and vegetables. Recent studies have shown that sterols can lower cholesterol by 12-14% in as little as 2 weeks, but it is almost impossible to get the required amount from regular foods. Many foods are now being fortified with plant sterols, like peanut butter, margarine, orange juice and even tortilla chips.
Eggshells: membranes recovered from ordinary chicken eggshells contain nutrients that help naturally repair joint damage associated with osteoarthritis or sports injuries.
Malaysian Palm fruit oil: naturally trans-fat free, this cooking oil is an abundant source of a form of Vitamin E called alpha-tocotrienols, which NIH funded studies have shown can help reduce the damaging effects of a stroke by up to 50%.
Ginger: Ginger has been traditionally used for nausea, upset stomach, motion sickness and morning sickness. Recent research suggests it can help nausea associated with headaches. You can get the benefits of ginger by consuming fresh ginger root, tea or supplements. For those who suffer with migraines, look for ginger in combination with feverfew. Feverfew is from the Chrysanthemum family of plants and has been used for centuries for headaches and as a fever reducer, hence its name
There are many web sites and resource materials to check out if you're interested in seeing how foods can help us tackle health problems. For an alphabetical list of foods (just a sample) that can help prevent illness, refer to this site.
Torkos offers the following for her own take on using food as medicine. "Food has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Hippocrates wisely stated, "let food be thy medicine." In recent decades, modern science has been able to study and validate the remarkable healing properties that certain foods offer.Researchers have been able to identify compounds in foods that offer powerful benefits including fighting free radicaldamage and cancer, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and supporting bone and joint health."
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Tara Weng is the national editor of parenting and health for GalTime. She is also a media consultant with a focus on medical and consumer topics. Her professional experience includes a stint as a medical/features producer at the NBC affiliate in Boston, MA and a media relations position at a top teaching hospital in Boston. Tara has also done public relations consulting work and has written for several online and print media outlets. She is a wife and a mother to two children (who are fantastic) and an enthusiastic New England sports fan.