Food as Medicine

Food as Medicine

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on August 25, 2013

What Food can do for your Body and Mind

Food. Food is a loaded word, and I'm not talking about loaded potato skins. I am also not talking about alcoholic beverages, which were used prior to anesthesia during surgical procedures or for pain relief.

Food, the meaning of food, the reasons to eat food and the effects of food on our bodies and psyches is profound. Food is for nourishment and nutrition. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and foods rich in B-complex can elevate the mood. Food can also be thought of as medicine, and not just medicine for the soul.

We have all heard about the following types of "comfort foods:"

  • Warm soup on a cold day
  • A favorite food when we need a pick me up
  • Eating chicken noodle soup when we have a cold
  • Sharing and eating chocolate with a loved one

You do not Need to be an Iron Chef to use Food as Medicine

There is quite a bit of research on food's physiologic effects on the body. See below for some fascinating tidbits on how you can use food to improve your health:

  • Drink some beet juice prior to your jog and increase your endurance by five percent. Beet juice boosts your stamina by helping to make your muscles more efficient. Eating beets also appear to help lower blood pressure. (Excessive beet ingestion can color your stool red and I have seen more than one anxious patient in my career who thinks they have intestinal bleeding due to red stool from beets.)
  • Bite into a juicy watermelon after your work-out to soothe your sore muscles. L-citrulline is the secret ingredient that accelerates muscle repair.
  • Chew on some juicy pineapple fruit and the stem of the pineapple for the effects of bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples and has been used as an anti-inflammatory. Many have used bromelain to help their osteo-arthritis pain since bromelain seems to help your body fight pain and inflammation.

How Foods Can Help your Skin

Now that you have buffed muscles from regular exercise, don't forget to pay attention to your skin tone. The following food tip can help give you glowing skin:

  • Be sure to ingest orange foods like carrots, pumpkin, and peaches. These foods which are rich in natural beta-carotene will give your skin tone a warm, natural tone. Be wary about ingesting excessive amounts of orange foods or you will develop beta-carotenemia in which the skin appears yellow and jaundiced from excessive yellow pigments.

In your quest to remain strong, healthy and in charge, remember the nutritional and the medicinal effects of foods and whole foods, not supplements, pills or potions.

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!

- Holly L. Thacker, MD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.

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