Food is the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease. All you need to do is think of your grocery store as your pharmacy.
Recently I went to Asia to lecture on prevention, wellness, nutrition and the new field of nutrigenomics, the science of how molecules in food interact with our genes to support or interfere with our health. We are learning from research in this field that food “talks” to our DNA, switching on or off genes that lead to health or disease. What you eat programs your body with messages of health or illness.
I came away from Asia feeling humbled and awed as I realized that the average Chinese person knows more about the medicinal properties of food than I do after years of research. Medicinal foods are part of their every day diet.
Dinner with my hosts included mild, crunchy white tree fungus, bai mu er, which enhances detoxification and improves the complexion. A mixed vegetable dish included sweet, nutty ginkgo nuts to help increase circulation, improve cognitive function and acts as a powerful antioxidant. The earthy shitake or Chinese black mushrooms boost immunity through special polysaccharide molecules.
In Asia dinner has long been a date with the doctor. But you don’t need to travel to Asia to consume healing foods.
Think Color! Plants use colors as protective mechanisms. Those colors are the sources of phytonutrients— plant chemicals that interact with your biology and act like switches on your DNA to heal your body. We use their defense mechanisms to help our bodies function better. These are the anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, antioxidant and hormone-balancing compounds that we should eat every day to prevent disease and create optimal health.
Each color represents a different family of healing compounds. There is evidence that interaction between the colors provides additional benefits, so it’s important to have a diverse diet and eat different foods.
•Reds (tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon) Phytonutrients: The carotenoid lycopene, which helps rid the body of free radicals that damage genes.
•Yellow/Greens (spinach and other greens, yellow corn, green peas, avocado, honeydew) Phytonutrients: The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, believed to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
•Oranges (carrots, mangos, apricots, cantaloupes, pumpkin, acorn squash, winter squash, sweet potatoes) Phytonutrients: Alpha carotene, which protects against cancer, and beta-carotene, which protects the skin against free-radical damage and helps repair damaged DNA.
•Orange/Yellows (pineapple, oranges, tangerines, peaches, papayas, nectarines) Phytonutrients: Beta cryptothanxin, which helps cells in the body communicate and may help prevent heart disease.
•Red/Purples (beets, eggplant, purple grapes, red wine, grape juice, prunes, berries, red apples) Phytonutrients: Antioxidants called anthocyanins, believed to protect against heart disease by preventing blood clots. They may also delay cell aging and help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
•Greens (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale) Phytonutrients: Sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles, all of which help ward off cancer.
•White/Greens (leeks, scallions, garlic, onions, celery, pears, white wine, endive, chives) Phytonutrients: The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol.
How many different kinds of vegetables do you eat a day or week? You might realize you only eat a few common ones over and over. If so, branch out and eat all the colors and varieties.
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