Improving Health Through Food

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately.

There are several reasons for this. We planned out the garden earlier this month. I’ve been on steroids (prescribed by a doctor) that seem to make me ravenously hungry. I have been ill and had to carefully consider the consequences of everything I eat. 

I started wondering, “How can I use food to bolster my health?” From a health standpoint I am currently dealing with a rash of repetitive respiratory infections since October, and a flare-up of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In a crisis–“zombie apocalypse” scenario (joking!), I would be toast. (Yum, toast…) I wanted to know what foods made my symptoms worse–(gluten is out of the question, sending me into intestinal hell, along with red beef and just about any processed food, while dairy products other than Greek yogurt turn the phlegm faucet from steady drip to fire hose capacity). I also wanted to know what foods might make me feel better.

I started doing some research. I wanted to have good information. There is so much garbage on the internet. For everything I found that might be helpful, I also tried to find a valid, published scientific paper backing a testimony up. For instance, did you know researchers at Seoul University fed kiwi extract to asthmatic mice (how the heck do mice get asthma? Smoking?) for 3 weeks and saw a 47% decline in asthmatic symptoms?

My research lead me to a couple of lists, I thought I might share with you. These lists do not comprise an endorsement for any food, but they are all healthy foods, and I can’t see them causing any harm to anyone, unless you have an allergy. However, I am not a medical professional, just a reasonably educated consumer of knowledge. These lists might give you some “food for thought.”

The first list is of supplements, herbs and food that generally improve health and for various reasons, help with respiratory problems.

Immunostimulators, (Foods and/or supplements that wake up your immune system) Used during peak problems, Garlic, Echinacea

Immunomodulators, long-term tonics: Syberian ginseng, Shitake mushroom, Holy basil, Panax gingseng root

Liver Support: Bitters (with meals) decreases phlegm. Apparently, a healthy liver means other things are healthy, too.

Astringent Herbs: (Think cleansing) Rosemary and Yarrow, GoldenSeal for mucus membrane support

Additional Vitamins:Vitamin C, B complex, Quercetin (which is also found in apples), EPA/DHA, Vitamin D (sunshine is a good source), Omega-3 (which also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory).

My doctor added a B-12 supplement and an iron supplement to this list, because my blood tests showed I needed these things.

Next, I formed a list of foods that decrease inflammation in the body–it is estimated that 70% of illness can be somehow attributed to inflammation in the body.

Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, Spinach, broccoli, Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, Edamame, Greek probiotic yogurt, Tomatoes, tomato sauce, Ginger, Turmeric, Garlic, Onions, Olive Oil, Blueberries, Strawberries and Tart cherry juice.

I want to mention some research on tart cherry juice. You can read the whole story at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/2010/2010-07-07-tart-cherry-juice-r.cfm  

A study of athletes who competed in Oregon’s Hood to Coast Relay showed runners who consumed Montmorency cherry juice for a week prior to the race and on race day reported significantly less pain than runners who received a placebo. Hood to Coast is a 197-mile race from Mount Hood to Seaside, Ore., that involves 1,000 eight- to 12-person relay teams. “The bottom line is those runners who used tart cherry juice had less inflammation and faster muscle strength recovery,” said Kerry Kuehl, M.D., associate professor of medicine (health promotion and sports medicine)

The final list is a list of “superfoods”–foods that are extremely healthy, and may help ward off disease and illness in the future.

Fruits: Acai juice and berries, apples, avocados, bananas, blueberries, dried plums/prunes, grapes, kiwi, oranges, strawberries.

Dairy: Greek, probiotic yogurt, eggs, fat-free milk

Nuts, Seeds & Roots: Almonds, brazil nuts, edamame, flaxseed, garlic, ginger, sunflower seeds, turmeric, walnuts

Vegetables: Asparagus, beans, black beans, bok choy, broccoli and broccoli sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens, onions, shitake mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes

Fish & Meat: Mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, scallops, tuna, turkey

Canned Goods: Olives, canned pumpkin, salmon, sardines, tuna, tomato sauces

Miscellaneous: Brown rice, dark chocolate, olive oil, tea (green, black & herbal)

None of these lists are exhaustive. I am sure there are other foods that belong on these lists that I haven’t mentioned.

There is a lot of overlap in the lists. I think it’s fair to say a food that helps fight inflammation might also be a superfood.

Nor am I saying, “Only eat these foods!” Eat a balanced diet, but think about adding these foods into your diet. I know I am going to try. Fortunately, I already have a lot of these foods on hand. My goal every day is to eat 3 things from the 3 lists. So far, most days, I have done better than that. I also plan to pick up 3 items I don’t have on-hand from the lists, every time I go grocery shopping. I’ll keep you posted!

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