When food heals...

When food heals...

The phrase 'you are what you eat' could not ring truer when you consider the increase in the number of illnesses and lifestyle disorders that people suffer from today. This essentially means that what you ingest in your body is the foundation for good health. If not, our metabolic processes suffer and our health declines. This will lead to a rise in the incidence of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

However, while we are aware of the choices we have, we don't always pick foods that our bodies need for optimal wellness. Many of us now eat for convenience. Consequently, we have forgotten to connect with food the right way. "Food, today, has become the focal point of entertainment and is used as a way to bond with others. As a result, we have forgotten what food really is. We think that food is so many different things than what it actually is. But why do we eat? We eat to nurture and nourish our bodies," explains Pooja Makhija, a clinical nutritionist and author.

Listen to your body

Moreover, if we start paying attention to how specific foods impact our body, we can make better choices about what foods to buy and consume. If we eat the right kind of food, we won't face any health issues or even face lifestyle diseases like hypertension. It was in this light that the term 'food as medicine' was coined by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. It was his belief that eating wholesome food is the basis for good health. This can enables us to use food not only heal the body but also to prevent illness.

In this light, it is important to listen to one's body while choosing the right food. Doing so can enable us to know what to eat when we are sick and give our bodies the nutrients it needs to heal. "If you eat according to your bodily needs and not as a sensual pleasure, you begin to get in touch with your body in ways that you never thought you could. Your body is always talking to you. We just need to listen," reveals Mala Barua, an inner silence meditation teacher and wellness consultant. However, not many pay attention to the signals that our bodies send us. "Illnesses such as diarrhoea, constipation, gas, acidity and insomnia are all messages that are telling us that something is not right," adds Pooja. "If we understand our body's relationship with food, we can heal many of the illnesses we face."

Obesity, diabetes and hypertension are a few serious health problems caused in part by poor diets. These can be prevented by eating the right food, particularly by incorporating whole foods into our diet, that is foods that eaten in their natural form. "Additionally, if we can follow a plant-based diet that uses a lot of whole foods, we can reverse and prevent many lifestyle diseases that many face today," adds Dr Achyuthan Eswar, founder of PHC Naturopathy and Yoga.

However, this is something that needs to be done slowly as it may be difficult initially to eliminate the food that is considered to be bad for your body. Some benefits of doing so include controlling inflammation, detoxifying and eliminating toxins, and improving absorption of nutrients. "Additionally, as each individual has varying constitutions, one must choose food according to that. There is no one diet that fits all," adds Mala. Apart from increasing one's fruit intake, here are some foods that one can slowly increase in their diet:

Fresh vegetables: These can lower free radical damage and control inflammation, provide prebiotics and a lot of fibre.

Probiotic foods: Probiotics are not only essential for optimal digestion, but also for overall immune function and health. Yogurt, apple cider vinegar and cultured drinks like kombucha and pickled vegetables are excellent sources.

Foods rich in omega-3: Omega-3 fats are natural anti-inflammatories and help counteract the effects of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. Fish oil, roasted soy beans, walnuts, salmon and flaxseeds are replete with this nutrient.

Healthy fats: Foods that are rich in healthy fats can help lower bad cholesterol and helping shed excess weight. Avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, nuts and chia seeds are easy sources of healthy fats.

Foods rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants slow the effects of ageing by decreasing free radical damage. Brightly coloured foods are known to be high in antioxidants.

Foods high in fibre: High-fibre diets are associated with better protection against obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, digestive disorders and menstrual problems.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate these foods into our diet is by eating seasonal produce that is locally grown. "Eating food that is grown in each season helps you be healthy as it provides all the nutrition that your body needs," elaborates Dr Gita Ramesh, founder of Kairali Ayurvedic Group. Its nutritive value can be further increased if it is grown organically, as chemically grown vegetables and fruits can cause harm to the body.

Furthermore, eating seasonal produce will give you the necessary nutrients that can help you deal with the changing weather. This, in conjunction with a balanced diet, can work wonders. "A balanced diet according to Ayurveda is that you have to eat food that has all six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Then, depending your body type (vata, pitta and kapha), you decide how much is good for you. Even if you do not know your body type and you eat all the six tastes in moderation, it will keep you healthy," adds Dr Gita. A balanced diet may contain a mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and proteins.

So, by having nutritious meals and mindful eating habits, one can keep illnesses at bay. Overall, seeing your food as medicine can help you make better decisions about what to eat in order to boost your well-being.

 

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