Food as Medicine: The Top Medicinal Foods

Lemon, Honey & Tumeric are all medicinal foods.

Eating healthy is a great way to stay healthy. But it can also be an effective way to treat and even reverse many common chronic diseases. In fact, the concept of how to use food as medicine has been around longer than you may think.

A few centuries — millennia, actually —  have passed since Hippocrates, the Greek physician, said, “Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food.”

Since then we’ve seen time and again that diets centered around plants can be transformative for those who are sick. Using food as medicine may seem daunting at first, but don’t be intimidated.

Fruits and vegetables have a positive impact on overall health, whether they are consumed in large quantities or small. Just swapping out eggs for oatmeal in the morning can make a difference, according to one Harvard study.  

Let’s walk through how two different plant-forward diets can be prescriptions for promoting lasting health.

Fruits and Veggies to the Rescue

A plant-based diet can keep you from living a life crippled by heart disease or dying in your prime. A large study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, found that those who had a high intake of protein from plants had a lower risk of death than those who got their protein primarily from processed and unprocessed red meats. People with diabetes who ate red meat also had a higher risk of death from diabetes.

The benefits of a plant-based diet are being touted by a number of medical organizations and managed care groups. Kaiser Permanente, the largest U.S. managed care organization, is one of them. Citing many studies as proof points, this group is encouraging physicians to make plant-based diets the “new normal” for patients and physicians. The recommendation reports that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases, like diabetes, and lower the risk of death from heart disease.

A plant-based diet encourages eating nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds and nuts in their whole form. For maximum benefit, processed foods, oils and animal foods are limited.

Hands down, a plants-based diet is the most effective choice when to comes to helping people get and stay healthy through food. Whether it’s one plant-only meal a week or one a day, it can make a difference. The diet is so effective that the medical community recommends it.

Mediterranean Menu Proves Powerful

There is more than one approach to achieving a healthy lifestyle, and the Italians, Greeks and others along the Mediterranean’s shores have one that is particularly popular.  

A Mediterranean diet has proven to be effective at reversing diabetes, dramatically reducing the risk of heart attacks, and out-performing low-fat diets for weight loss.

A 2014 study in the Diabetes Care Journal, found those on the diet experienced a greater reduction in blood sugar, a longer delay before needing diabetic medication, and a higher rate of partial or complete remission, compared to a group on a low-fat diet. They also sustained greater weight loss.

Harvard researchers reported that a Mediterranean-style diet cut heart attacks and deaths by 70% in a sample group.

This diet has proven popular, because it allows moderate amounts of red wine, and it focuses on nutrient-rich foods instead of restricting calories. It allows poultry and fish, adding to its appeal.

It includes fats, which is a plus, with monounsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil replacing animal fat. Monounsaturated fats have proven to be good for the heart, and they improve insulin sensitivity.

According to a Spanish study, people who ate plenty of good fats, like olive oil, at breakfast had better insulin sensitivity throughout the day.

Another study in the journal Neurology, found following this diet may keep the brain healthier longer, reducing the risk of stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s.    

The lifestyle benefits of this diet are well documented by the research community. The fact that it is easier to follow than many other diets adds to its value. While a plant-based diet may have the most significant impact on health, the Mediterranean version is another strong option.

What’s in Your Wellness Program?

What we regularly eat plays an important role in balancing blood sugar, regulating blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels.

Medication treats symptoms. Food treats disease, the underlying causes of those symptoms. This is why nutrition is an important component of corporate health and wellness programs.  

Zipongo is a digital nutrition platform that makes it simple to promote healthy eating habits. Learn more about how Zipongo works, or request a demo to see the platform in action.

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