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Let Food Be Thy Medicine…because it tastes better than cough syrup!

By Christina Molinski

I guess it could be said that Hippocrates was a pretty smart guy, being called the father of modern medicine and all. Of course he had to be to come up with a line like “let food be thy medicine.” If you look at the research regarding certain foods you will be amazed. Let’s take a glimpse at the food pyramid. The first space on the pyramid is for grains like whole grain bread, cereal, rice, crackers, and pasta. Whole grains are a great source of fiber which has been shown to reduce constipation.

Wouldn’t you rather have a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast than a spoonful of fiber powder mixed in your water? Fiber is also known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and reduce blood cholesterol levels. Other nutrients in grains include folate, which reduces the risk of neural tube defects in fetuses, and selenium, a mineral that protects cells from oxidation and boosts the immune system. The next piece of the food pyramid shows vegetables and fruits of all different colors from dark green to orange and red. Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients that protect against strokes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.

One of the most important nutrients in vegetables and fruits is potassium. This is key for maintaining healthy blood pressure. I offer a choice once again: a baked sweet potato or a beta blocker pill? Vitamin C is another nutrient in vegetables and fruits that is known to help with healing cuts and wounds. Milk and milk products also have their own space on the food pyramid. They are loaded with calcium which is an important nutrient for bone health. Having an adequate amount of calcium can help repair a broken bone. The next group in the food pyramid is meat and beans. In lean meats and beans, an important nutrient is the mineral zinc. Zinc is used in biochemical reactions to help boost the immune system. In this category is also fish, nuts, and seeds. These are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. A critical group of polyunsaturated fatty acids is the omega-3’s. These are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and are a potent “brain food.”

So now you have all this great new information regarding the power of food. What can you do with it? Well if you are like me, you are going to try new recipes and I can tell you it is going to be hit or miss. My current favorite is adding a couple spoonfuls of canned pumpkin and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my morning bowl of oatmeal. This meal provides plenty of whole grains with fiber and a vegetable with vitamin A. Vitamin A is extremely important for eye health. My biggest flop recently involved trying to make “kale chips.” Kale is a dark leafy green that is also full of vitamin A and vitamin C. Making chips out of them just meant cutting a bunch into pieces and coating with a little olive oil and sea salt. They ended up tasting just bitter and slightly burnt. So in the end, the moral of the story is: Try a variety of healthy foods to get the proper nutrition for your body and it will help prevent diseases in the future.

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