Properties of Foods
Lenore Y. Baum, M.A.
Centuries ago, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, declared "Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food." He incorporated this axiom into the oath that every medical student recites at graduation. Sadly, modern medicine has all but forgotten these words of wisdom. Now, it is up to us to learn about the healing properties of food to restore and maintain our health.
What we eat makes up our blood, which in turn feeds our cells. If we make wise food choices, our blood is healthy. This strengthens our immune system and contributes to vibrancy, harmony and happiness. Of course, the opposite is also true. Poor food choices lead to illness, disharmony and unhappiness.
Organic foods in their whole, natural state are the most health-promoting foods. Organic foods are those grown without the use of pesticides. Pesticides are poisons which are designed to kill living organisms. They have been linked to cancer in humans. The addition of organic grains, vegetables and beans to your diet offers significant benefits.
Whole cereal grains are complex carbohydrates. They offer a long-lasting supply of energy to keep you going throughout the day. Grains also add phosphorus, B complex vitamins and protein to our diet. According to Michio Kushi, a well-respected macrobiotic teacher, rice is the easiest grain to digest. It is also the least allergenic and the highest in B complex vitamins. Another highly reputed grain is barley. It is beneficial to the liver and gall bladder and it helps the body discharge fat. Millet is excellent for the immune system and is the least allergenic of the grains, next to rice. Oats help reduce blood cholesterol and normalize blood sugar levels. All grains should be chewed thoroughly since salivary enzymes help begin the digestive process.
Vegetables can help us to heal the body naturally. According to oriental medicine, dark, leafy greens like watercress, collards, kale and turnip greens are particularly beneficial for the liver and gall bladder. They are also a good source of calcium, averaging 175 mg. per serving. Lastly, because they are high in chlorophyll, they help build red blood cells. Besides adding a delicious, sweet taste to any dish, onions are reputed to strengthen muscles, calm nerves and nourish the spleen, the cornerstone of the immune system. Other sweet vegetables such as squash, carrots and parsnips also nourish the spleen and satisfy a sweet tooth. Burdock, a dark, brown root, has been used in the orient for centuries as a blood cleanser, intestinal tonic and as a rejuvenator for sexual vitality. Daikon, a white radish, helps eliminate excess body fat and mucous deposits, neutralizes animal fats and toxins, reduces fevers, and helps break down oily foods.
Among the most common sea vegetables are wakame, kombu, nori and arame. High in calcium, iron, iodine and protein, they contain significantly more trace minerals than land vegetables. They are also high in vitamins A, C, E and B complex. Sea vegetables are reputed to detoxify the body of heavy metals using their alginic acid, which converts metals into salts that can easily be discharged from the body. Research at McGill University has confirmed that sea plants are even capable of removing radioactive strontium-90 from the body!
Beans offer a plentiful supply of protein, with radically less fat than animal sources. The most "lean" bean is the aduki, considered especially healing for the kidneys. White beans are reputed to be beneficial for the liver, split peas for the stomach and black beans for sexual health and vitality. Tofu is high in calcium and protein, with 128 mg. and 84.4 mg. per portion respectively. While beef has 23 grams of fat per serving, tofu has only 4.2 grams. Tofu also has the benefit of being easy to digest.
Condiments, pickles and seasonings are also healing foods, as they help complement whole grains. Gomashio, a condiment made from roasted sesame seeds and salt, is high in calcium. Kushi recommends gomashio for strengthening digestion, improving blood quality, and alleviating nausea, headaches and general fatigue. Unpasturized miso, fermented soybean paste, is high in protein and has many beneficial enzymes which aid digestion. Homemade pickles and sauerkraut also contain beneficial enzymes, provide a rich source of minerals and vitamin C, and are reputed to strengthen the immune system.
In conclusion, by eating natural foods, we can heal and prevent the many degenerative and disabling diseases that are rampant in our modern world. The choice is ours.