Food As Medicine

Hippocrates, the author of the doctor’s oath, once said: “We are what we eat”. In his time, the statement was extremely relevant, because philosophers, natural scientists, and doctors were just beginning to study the human body. Many centuries have passed, and we have powerful diagnostics, and a huge arsenal of ways and means to treat and correct bodily malfunctions, but we still retain what we eat.

Food is not only “fuel” for the body’s work. It also contains a wide range of minor molecules, without which the body’s internal chemistry loses its focus and becomes unbalanced.

Therefore, if micronutrients are an essential component of the body’s daily functioning, it is logical to assume that by regulating their consumption, we can prevent the occurrence, slow the development, or alleviate existing disorders.

Long ago, people took advantage of the positive impact of food on their health and the course of diseases. After all, the healing effects of food components were the basis for the discovery of certain beneficial compounds and their future development as pharmaceutical products. We know about the alleviating effect of onions, garlic, ginger, and honey on the course of colds and respiratory diseases. We still drink chamomile tea when we have indigestion, and we use green tea, dark chocolate, and coffee to tone up our bodies.

In recent decades, official biology and nutritional science have begun to actively study the physiologically active substances in food and how they affect specific body systems.

For example, it has been shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are rich in fish (sardines, salmon) and some oils (flaxseed), suppress inflammation. Based on these data, dietary recommendations have been developed for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Scientific studies have shown that antioxidants, which are especially rich in the peel and top layer of colored vegetables and fruits (carrots, watermelon, mango, apples), green leafy vegetables and berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) in amounts that are normally consumed in sufficient quantities reduce the intensity of lipid peroxidation and the formation of free radicals to the extent that they help prevent the development of chronic inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer.

In addition, they significantly reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on the body.

Sufficient consumption of dietary fiber and other prebiotics (e.g., sauerkraut), along with the inclusion of fermented dairy products in the diet, has been shown to normalize bowel function and prevent the development of colorectal cancer. And these are just the most well-known examples of the scientific substantiation of the medicinal properties of food products.

We have the opportunity to significantly improve our health and reduce the risk of developing such diseases as type II diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and asthma, and significantly alleviate the condition of autoimmune diseases by adjusting our diet in some way, and if necessary, changing it altogether. At the same time, experts from Monash University (Australia), as part of the Food as Medicine course, advise approaching the diet in a comprehensive manner – to review the entire pattern of food products that are usually on the table.

Scientists advise consuming unrefined, minimally processed food, preserving its natural structure (food matrix) to maintain the amount and bioavailability of available nutrients, and combining the maximum variety of ingredients in dishes (15-22 different products in the daily menu). Scientists emphasize the extreme importance of the food palette: it should include as many plant products as possible (vegetables and fruits of many colors, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds), meat (lean and poultry), fish, eggs, dairy products, and olive oil.

When you set out to review your diet to make the most of its health benefits, you should get information from reliable sources and critically evaluate it. Anyone with education and minimal experience can write about food, but does this information meet the criteria of evidence? Therefore, let’s expand our knowledge of nutrition and food based on the results of scientific research, comments from experts, and materials from certified nutritionists.

Let’s be healthy!

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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