The older I get, the more I realize that my mother and grandfather were right. Shhh…please don’t tell my mother. As I get older, I realize the value and wealth of nutrients that can be found in our kitchen, not on the medicine cabinet shelf. Even though I spend my days with physicians sharing the many benefits of pharmaceuticals, I realize that most of what ails us in America can be remedied with improving our diet. “Let food by they medicine,” professed by Hippocrates many, many years ago, yet most physicians don’t know how to counsel their patients on a nutritious diet. And most of those physicians don’t subscribe to a nutritious diet themselves. In America, over 50% of our food is processed food. It’s no wonder that we are facing an obesity epidemic in all Americans, particularly children, and that is translating into other diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Many complain about the cost of healthy food or fresh fruits and vegetables. But that cost is mere pennies compared to the cost of pharmaceuticals over a lifetime, or even worse, multiple diseases leading to procedures and hospitalizations. Let’s spend more time in the kitchen, and maybe we can spend less time at the doctor.
The doctor doesn’t know best
For years, even though I grew up in a family wrought with physicians, I always thought the doctor knew best. I never questioned their judgement. But physicians are human beings just like the rest of us. They get dressed every day, one pant leg at a time. And more importantly, they were students at one point. All of them had to learn their science. What’s frightening is just how little is taught about nutrition in medical school. Physicians aren’t taught to consider food as medicine, and they definitely aren’t equipped to counsel patients on the best diet. Spending many days bringing in lunches to physicians offices, I am always appalled by the food choices of many doctors. They aren’t always the healthiest. How can we expect them to counsel patients and the public on healthy food options in the grocery store or at a restaurant? But the revolution is happening. At the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center in Huntington, CA, doctors are showing up at local grocery stores and offering advice. And it’s working. One-by-one, they are educating families on how to choose better options for their health.
Most Americans only cook a few times of year, shocking, right? You can count them on one hand, and measure it when you hit the grocery store and there is a mad rush on produce or other cooking items. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Super Bowl Sunday, and maybe Easter. And what’s more most people consider heating food up as cooking. Well, all those processed foods come with loads of fat, sodium and sugar, which helps them stay on the shelves longer. “According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of deaths from heart disease and stroke are caused by high blood pressure, tobacco use, elevated cholesterol and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.” There is such an easy and simple solution – one that doesn’t involve a great deal of time or money. Just get in the kitchen, dedicate time to cooking and choose to each unprocessed, whole foods. Don’t just grab sometime to eat, MAKE something to eat. You are worth it.
Let food be thy medicine – what should you eat?
Now that you’ve made the commitment to healthier foods, what should you eat? It’s fairly simple – whole unprocessed foods. But they aren’t all created equal. If you google holistic nutrition or superfoods, it is easy to find countless foods that make the cut. Here are our top 10 favorites!
- Apples: Apples are a great source of pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, decrease the risk of colon and breast cancers, and maybe even lessen the severity of diabetes.
- Beets: These crimson-hued veggies are loaded with antioxidants and have been found to protect against cancer, heart disease, and inflammation. Naturally sweet and full of fiber and vitamin C, beets make a delicious and nutrient-packed addition to any salad or smoothie. Try our Mixed Green Salad with Beets, Feta, Roasted Walnuts, and Thyme-Roasted Parsnips & Onions.
- Flaxseed: Not only does flaxseed lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack, but it is also a rich source of lignan, a powerful antioxidant that may be a powerful ally against disease and certain cancers, especially breast cancer. And just 2 tablespoons are loaded with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Time to add flaxseed to your morning smoothie.
- Pumpkins: Fiber-rich, pumpkin is packed with beta-carotene, which reduces the risk of developing lung cancer. The antioxidant activity of this vitamin combined with potassium, which may help prevent high blood pressure. We love pumpkin in our smoothies, like the totally-vegan, high-protein Pumpkin Spice Smoothie.
- Quinoa: This tiny seed contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (perfect for vegans and vegetarians). It is also a great source of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and has been found to reduce the frequency of migraines. And we all know that consuming dietary fiber, specifically from whole-grain products such as quinoa, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. So protect your heart with our quinoa corn fritters!
- Salmon: For an animal-based protein, salmon is low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows it has anti-inflammatory and cancer prevention properties. Its role in diabetes and Alzheimer’s prevention as well as its overwhelming cardiovascular benefits make it a rockstar superfood, and is usually on our weekly menu rotation at home. Our Thai-Grilled Salmon is an excellent way to have the flavors of takeout, without all the calories and sodium!
- Spinach: Popeye was onto something…Spinach has powerful antioxidants that have been found to combat a variety of cancers, including ovarian, breast, and colon cancers. Research also shows that spinach reduces the decline in brain function associated with aging and protects the heart from cardiovascular disease. We make our morning smoothies with spinach everyday and always add spinach to our Indian-Spiced Egg Scramble!
- Sweet Potatoes: Omg. We probably eat too many sweet potatoes in our house – both kids and the dog. These are truly a superfood for our health, and a superfood in our daily cooking. Just one medium sweet potato packs over four times the recommended daily amount of beta-carotene. They are also rich in potassium, inflammation-fighting vitamin C, and vitamin B6, which may prevent clogged arteries. You will find countless sweet potatoe recipes on our site, including my favorite, the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers with a Kick!
- Walnuts: It’s no wonder they look like little brains; they are good for your brain! One-quarter cup of walnuts supplies 90% of the daily recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in everything from maintaining cognitive function, to improving cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Yogurt: Another daily staple for everyone in our house, yogurt contains probiotics, which are bacteria that live in the intestine, aid in digestion, boost the immune system, diminish bad breath, and are even associated with longer life spans. A 1-cup serving also supplies one-third of your daily calcium requirement, as well as 14 grams of satisfying protein. Stay clear of yogurt with fruit on the bottom, because it is loaded with additional sugar. Sometimes more than the equivalent amount of ice cream! And if you can’t handle the taste or smell of yogurt, add it to your favorite smoothie and still reap the benefits of this fermented food.
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