5 foods with medicinal benefits
Of course we have all heard the term ”superfood.” Nutritionists the world over having been using it for some time to describe how certain foods have exceptional nutritional value – usually those delivering unusually significant health benefits. But behind all the hype, what exactly is it that makes these foods so super?
We are not simply talking about healthy eating here. Rather, we are looking at foods that are packed full of vital vitamins and nutrients and have been proven to have a real-world impact on our health – from lowering cholesterol, to improving brain function and decreasing the risk of cancer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five foods (in no particular order) that if you’re not already eating, you should be.
1 | Celery
For me, this is the unsung hero of the so-called “superfoods.” Not only is it very easy to get into your diet (cut some sticks in the morning and carry them with you throughout the day as a healthy snack), but it’s also proven to have a wide range of incredible health benefits, particularly when it comes to looking after the heart.
As well as being recognised as the number one medicinal food for lowering blood pressure, celery’s high silicon content helps to renew joints, bones and connective tissue. But perhaps the most amazing health benefit of celery is that it is has been shown to actually clean the arteries increasing the blood flow and preventing clogging.
2 | Berries
Far from just being incredibly delicious, berries are packed with nutrients and once again make an easy addition to your daily diet. Start off your morning with a small bowl of fresh blueberries or throw some store-bought frozen ones into your blender with a bit of water and make yourself an ice-cold smoothie.
I really can’t rave enough about berries. The anthocyanin in blueberries has long been associated with improved memory function, helping to prevent neurodegeneration and dementia. And those amazing tasting raspberries increase enzyme activity and oxygen consumption in fat cells, helping to decrease the risk of obesity and fatty buildup in the liver.
It is their high antioxidant content where berries really shine, however, helping to significantly lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as preventing against certain cancers.
3 | Fish
Fish has long been cited as ”brain food,” and I have to agree. Not only is fish an incredible source of protein, but it is also packed with B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids – the importance of which cannot be overstated. Salmon and tuna, in particular, are a great way to get fish into your diet – either cooked fresh with your favourite vegetables or straight from the can with a salad.
Salmon is incredibly rich in high quality proteins and nutrients such as potassium, selenium, and vitamins B1, B3, B6 and B12 – all of which can lower the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease (the latter being the number one killer in the Gulf States).
It is omega-3 that I really can’t get enough of, though, with its ability to lower triglyceride levels (once again reducing the risk of heart disease), and helping to relieve joint pain and prevent arthritis.
4 | Flax seed
Not only are seeds incredibly high in both protein and fibre – essential for a healthy lifestyle – but many are also super tasty and easy to fill up on. Flax seeds, in particular, can be sprinkled over a healthy breakfast or ground into soups and stews for an easy fix.
What kind of health benefits are we talking here? Well, there are plenty. As with most foods on our list, flax seeds are known to reduce blood pressure. But that’s not all, the lecithin content in flax seeds dissolves unhealthy fats from your digestive tract, allowing them to be easily eliminated from your body rather than stored.
Flax seeds are also a rich source of lignans – a type of phytoestrogen with incredible antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral functions – helping to reduce the risk of melanoma tumors, as well as improving memory function and overall brain health.
5 | Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is not only the single-healthiest cooking oil you can use, it can also makes a tasty addition to your favourite hot drink or juice. You can even just take a spoonful each morning to set you up for the day.
It is currently being lauded by nutritionists worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. Its medium-chain triglycerides are the perfect fats for aiding weight loss, helping to boost metabolism and increase satiety in comparison to other fats. It’s also great for the hair and skin, and helps to boost the immune system and aid kidney function.
But its health benefits do not end there: The lauric acid in coconut oil has proven antimicrobial properties and helps to kill off pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
So there we have it, five extremely nutritious foods with proven medicinal benefits that you absolutely cannot do without. But remember, the best foods in the world won’t help you if you’re still adding bad foods to the mix. Unfortunately, good eating doesn’t counter bad eating. It just doesn’t work like that.
So those grains, sugars, and processed foods that are staples in our diet here in the UAE have to go. Start with eliminating the bad stuff, then start increasing your knowledge of what foods will do your body good. If the discipline is there, you will notice the benefits almost immediately.
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.