5 disease-fighting foods
My regular readers have now surely gotten the message about what foods we need to avoid. And so as not to sound like a nagging spouse, in this article I am not even going to mention even a single bad food. Instead I am going to build on a theme we started last week with our healthy snacks article, and provide a list of foods that are not only healthy, but that actually have some pretty neat healing properties.
I’ve got a long list of favourites here, but because there is a fair bit to say about each one, today we will present just five. I bet many of you are already familiar with some of the health benefits of these. Do sound off on the comments area at the bottom of the article to let me know your thoughts on your healthy food alternatives – whether these five or any others.
1. Turmeric (curcimin)
When it comes to curbing inflammation, one of the best medicines is not a pharmaceutical at all, but a spice. This yellow goodness, native to South Asia, has been getting a lot of recognition by physicians and health activists for its ability to prevent inflammation in the body.
Packed with antioxidants, the secret behind turmeric’s healing properties is its active ingredient curcimin. Curcimin is a godsend because it contains 150 active therapeutic properties.
There are just so many benefits that come with eating curcimin. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent; it a natural painkiller (with studies having shown that it relieves osteoarthritis pain); it reduces cancer risk by destroying cancer cells; it plays a role in treating and slowing the process of neurodegenerative diseases; its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and penetrate the brain makes it a potential remedy for Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease; and much more.
Animal studies have added a lot of scientific backing to the arguments in favour of curcimin. These studies have shown that curcimin lessens glutathione depletion (an early sign of Parkinson disease). Curcimin taken in a medical concentrated form has also been shown to cause cancer cells to self-destruct, with the powerful molecules found in curcimin seen to actually target tumour cells.
Here is an interesting fact: India has a much lower incidence of Alzheimer’s than other countries, and this may well be due to the very regular use of turmeric.
One cautionary note: If you are on blood thinners, it’s best to avoid taking curcimin in pill form.
2. Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
If you’re prone to indigestion and acid reflux, apple cider vinegar might just be your answer. While taking a shot of ACV might put you off due its bitter acidic taste, when digested ACV has an alkalizing effect on the body, which is important, as maintaining a healthy alkalized system can boost your energy and ward off infections. According to research, consuming ACV cleanses the lymphatic system, which lessens allergies and sinus congestion. But ACV’s healing properties go beyond its antiseptic power. And this is due to its bioactive component – acetic acid – which is a by-product of the highly fermented agent found in ACV.
When on the lookout for the right ACV brand, make sure you look for a murky and cloudy appearance. This indicates that the “mother” (the good bacteria) and enzymes and proteins are present. The latest news concerning AVC surrounds its ability to control blood sugar levels and insulin function in people with type 2 diabetes. Recent research finds that ACV dispels digestive enzymes that work on breaking carbohydrates into sugar, thus hindering the conversion and slowing down sugar from entering your bloodstream. In addition, the American Diabetes Association found that taking two tablespoons of ACV before bedtime lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes by at least 6% by morning.
We use garlic as a means of adding that incredible flavour to our meals, but its medicinal properties also whet our appetites. The use of garlic as a medicine dates back thousands of years to ancient Greece and India. Dubbed as the “stinking rose” for its off-putting scent, garlic, mainly due to an active ingredient called allicin, delivers an array of health benefits, including: Strengthening your immune system due to its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antiviral properties; promoting heart health by lowering blood pressure; guarding your cells against oxidative stress which helps prevent plaque build-up in the arteries; and lowering total cholesterol levels.
Garlic has also been making waves when it comes to cancer prevention. It seems now that garlic can actually help prevent the absorption by the stomach of certain carcinogens found in other foods. In fact, according to the Iowa’s Women’s Health Study, women with a high amount of garlic in their diets faced a lower risk of certain types of colon cancer than women with low amounts of garlic in their diets.
This old spice containing many medicinal properties has been used as a remedy for thousands of years. For one thing, ginger is a great support in relieving heartburn and acid reflux, and its anti-inflammatory properties are also legendary, rivalling that of painkillers. As a natural antibiotic, ginger can help fight foodborne bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli. It also has recently been the subject of some high-profile studies into migraines, with ginger proving to have incredible healing power. One study put ginger head-to-head against the migraine pharmaceutical Sumatriptan. In clinical trials, migraine patients were split into two groups, with one group given ginger and the other Sumatriptan. The results? A pretty much equal performance.
Ginger also seems to work its magic against ovarian and prostate cancer. According to the University of the Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, ginger powder induces apoptosis (cell death) in ovarian cancer cells, while separate research found it did the same in prostate cancer cells.
5. Matcha green tea
We are all familiar with green tea, but what’s this about matcha tea – a.k.a. the greener and more potent form of green tea? Made from processing green tea leaves that have been ground on a stone mill until finely refined, matcha tea has become the tea fanatic’s darling due to its remarkable health benefits. Containing a mind-boggling amount of antioxidants, we have a real disease-fighter here folks.
Apparently, one cup of matcha tea is equivalent to ten cups of green tea. And this mainly goes back to the fact that you’re not straining the leaves, but rather consuming them (since they are finely ground). Benefits of the high antioxidant properties include cell protection against both oxidation and UV radiation. One of the more powerful antioxidants in matcha is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is 137 times more bioavailable in matcha than in regular green tea. The active ingredient in EGCG protects DNA cells from damage, and has been a household name in research when it comes to cancer prevention. In animal studies, it was found that the polyphenols (natural plant compound) of matcha have been shown to inhibit tumour cells and promote cell destruction, while catechins (a type of antioxidant) also promotes detoxification enzymes that are known to prevent tumour growth.
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Graham Simpson, MD is Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah. Dubai. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. As a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) Dr Simpson is also a licensed homeopath.