Food, Glorious Food

Posted by Jennie Ann Freiman MD on

With the exception of the last hundred or so years… the time when science promised to outperform nature… humans relied on food both as a source of nutrients and for its ability to prevent illness. History repeats. Now, food is again acknowledged for its dual action in health and wellness, this time backed up by scientific validation of what was previously known only through experience. Pubmed, the NIH National Library of Science biomedical studies database, returns almost five thousand hits on the topic.

You are what you eat. If you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with whole turmeric as one of the earliest and most extensively documented dual action foods, shown to favorably impact cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cancer and dementia, based on its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. Some so-called “functional foods” are less familiar, but worthy of consideration in meal planning. Think about adding these five great choices to your food arsenal:

  • Beets are superstars among nitrate-rich vegetables that promote the formation of nitric oxide (NO), a key actor in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. NO fights hypertension and artery-hardening plaque formation. In the brain, better blood flow through unclogged blood vessels makes dementia less likely. It doesn’t stop there. In addition to nitrates, beets contain an array of plant chemicals and bioactive pigments with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Beets’ high sugar content, the highest of any vegetable, can be managed by consuming fermented beets because the process of fermentation eliminates most of the sugar without harming the beneficial nutrients. Heroic levels are not needed: regularly adding a two ounce serving of organic, fermented beet juice to your diet is sufficient. Hate beets? In descending order, these foods are also nitrate-rich: spinach, radishes, celery and lettuce.
  • Dandelion is a perennial weed used since ancient times as a digestive and to remedy all manner of gastrointestinal ailments, including heartburn, stomach upset, hepatitis, and anorexia. From its roots to its flowers, every part of dandelion promotes health through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. It fights cancer and enhances heart, liver, kidney and gallbladder health. The leaves, a great addition to any salad, are a staple of the alkaline diet plan. Dandelion is a powerful prebiotic, a food that supports the healthy bacteria living in the gut microbiome. It’s leaves and roots can be used to brew tea. Bitterness makes dandelion an acquired taste for some.
  • Bone broth fights the common cold with anti-inflammatory action and by breaking up phlegm. Thanks, Grandma for never giving up on the mythic “chicken soup cure,” now scientifically proven! Beyond fighting infection, bone broth heals leaky gut and is being investigated for its use in autoimmune diseases, autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its rich content of essential elements and minerals, including calcium and magnesium, rises with longer cook times, so keep it low and slow in the kitchen. High calcium levels make this soup a great option for anyone who can’t tolerate, or chooses to avoid, dairy. Bone broth can also be prepared from beef and pork. In all cases, it tastes great. Paleo-diet lovers will be happy to know that bone broth was a Stone Age staple, commonly cooked in turtle shells. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” was also a fan.
  • Grape seeds, generally considered waste because they serve no purpose in winemaking, have given way to seedless varieties of the popular fruit. That’s a shame because they are potent scavengers of harmful free radicals, the cause of oxidative stress and the target of antioxidants. Grape seeds are a factory of health-promoting plant chemicals that act against diabetes, high cholesterol, excessive blood clotting and cancer. They are more effective than resveratrol, the popular grape skin and wine chemical sold as an anti-aging supplement. Grape seed supplements in capsule form generally include undesirable “other” or “inactive” ingredients, but pure, unadulterated organic grape seed extract is available as a powder that can be added to smoothies. Grapes are among the most pesticide-laden foods, so organic is critical.
  • Natto is not for the fainthearted. It has a slimy texture, an indescribably challenging taste, and its smell reminds many of dirty socks. Those who can make the leap are well rewarded with benefits to health and longevity. Made by boiling and fermenting soybeans, natto stands out by being the highest dietary source of vitamin K2, a key nutrient (yet not well known) in heart and bone health. In Japan, where natto is a dietary staple, postmenopausal women have a very low incidence of osteoporosis and fracture. Natto’s link to reduced heart attack and stroke led to development of nattokinase supplements, marketed as the “magic” ingredient in natto. NOT! To be most effective, functional foods cannot be reduced to isolated bioactive components. Organic natto is available online, shipped in a cold pack.

Functional food is much more than a trendy meme…unlike Coke, it is the real thing.


Disclaimer: This article was created for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Oobroo™ Inc or its staff.

References available on request: email

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