Ways To Use Food As Medicine

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine once said:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

This was to emphasize the importance of nutrition in preventing and treating diseases. In the same way, the Ayurvedic proverb stated:

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use and when diet is correct medicine is of no need”

This does not necessarily mean that medicine is not important; medicine is rather fundamental and continue to help manage diseases and improve quality of life. It simply means that with the correct diet / proper food is consumed regularly, a lot of diseases can be prevented and managed.

Currently, chronic illnesses that are affecting millions of people all over the world are largely as a result of poor food choices. Food plays a critical role in preventing or managing nutritional related diseases.

How Can I Use Food As Medication?

  • Choose food that are mostly plants and whole foods.

Plants have shown to have a great health benefit. Antioxidants develop within plants to protect the plants against ultraviolet radiation, toxins and other harmful things and we also obtain the same benefits when we eat them. The body is protected from free radical damage and inflammation when antioxidants are consumed. Growing your own food can help you to eat more plants. Choosing whole foods compared to processed foods is another way to get more nutrients that can boost your immune system.  

  • Include more herbs in your cooking

A lot of herbs have been used in the olden days for their medicinal properties. Some are popular ingredients in preparing home remedies for certain health conditions. Choose to use herbs over salt & salt substitutes when preparing meals. Salt and salt substitutes used in larger quantities can cause health problems such as hypertension that can lead to kidney disease.  Basil, black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, turmeric, lemon, ginger and rosemary are some of the herbs that can be used when cooking.  

  • Eat for your condition

Although some herbs, fruits and vegetables may be good for the general population, it might not be good for a person who has a certain health condition e.g. broccoli is packed with lots of good nutrients but might be a bad choice for someone with a kidney disease as it is high in potassium. A person who is taking cancer treatment may not benefit from using some concoction that might work for the general healthy population because some medication may interact with the overwhelming ingestion of herbs. Therefore, it is important to know what foods are suitable for your condition. Speak to both your doctor and your dietician.

  • Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and body reactions and can greatly profit your health when applied on food i.e. paying attention to how your body reacts to the foods that you eat. Professionals are there to give guidance but you should be an expert of your own body. There are food items that are generally considered healthy but might bring about an allergic reaction or you might have an intolerance when you eat them. It is important therefore to note such things and avoid /eliminate any food item that may cause harm.

In conclusion, do not just discontinue medication. Go to your doctor and dietician to help you choose what foods can help you prevent or manage health conditions.  

By TAD Dietician Member of TYHN Dieticians, RD(SA)

About the author:

Tanya has been providing dietary guidance since 2009 as a registered dietician licensed in South Africa. Her goal is to help patients understand the connection between diet and diagnosis for improved nutritional well being.

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