By Dr Mona Dahiya
Every now and then countless representatives from pharmaceutical companies recommend new advances in medicines. However, none of them is known to recommend healthy eating habits for the treatment of a disease. One does hear about the latest drugs available in the market, but rarely does one hear about healthy food is medicine. Drug research companies are not the gatekeepers of the knowledge of health and it is time we understand the fact that ‘healthy eating habits are medicines for one’s life.
Most diseases are reflections of our lifestyle choices. Since we are what we eat, our diet affects our health directly and a good diet provides prevention against diseases. While home-cooked meals promise a plethora of nutrition, the intake of home food is getting increasingly difficult with most people having a hectic work life. Today we find more and more people losing their life owing to a disease or an ailment rather due to old age.
From time immemorial we have been considering doctors to be credible sources of nutrition but most of them are not adequately trained to counsel patients on a diet. We live with an assumption that we should eat as we may and take medication when unwell. This has resulted in a global expenditure for prescription drugs to reach the one trillion $ mark indicating the wide-scale use of prescription drugs.
Research has proven that 80% of the illnesses are a result of our faulty eating habits. Our life expectancy has increased over the decades but the extra years are not healthy years. If we consider the common diseases in the past 3 to 4 decades to the diseases common today we can see a noticeable increase in the diseases owing to our lifestyle i.e. heart attacks, cancers and lung diseases. While earlier people would get diseases because of under-nutrition, now people get diseases because of over-nutrition.
This pandemic of chronic diseases is related to a gradual transition towards animal-sourced and processed foods i.e. more meat, sugar, oils, soda and refined food items. This shift from lentils, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to refined carbohydrates, packaged snacks and fast food is the biggest reason for an unhealthy life. Medicinal drugs which are prescribed to cure these lifestyle diseases only target specific functions, and can have dangerous side effects. They only treat the symptoms of a disease without alleviating the root cause of the ailment. A healthy diet, on the other hand, benefits all organ systems of the human body. One of the most common healthy eating habits found to best prevent and recover many of these chronic diseases is a whole-food and plant-based diet which is defined as an eating pattern that encourages the consumption of unrefined plant foods. Often, people ignore the potential benefits of good nutrition and quickly depend on medications instead of treating their disease through healthy eating and active living.
During COVID-2019 pandemic, it is imperative that we improve our immunity and adopting a preventive approach to stay healthy. Ado[ting healthy eating habits should top the priority list.
Here are 10 Essential food items that one should include in their diet to curb lifestyle diseases.
ONION: The sulphur compounds in Onions have potent anti-inflammatory properties that relieve cold and flu-related aches and congestion. Onions help reduce high blood pressure and protect our body against blood clots. Onions contain anthocyanins which reduce the risk of heart disease. Onions help control blood sugar, which is especially significant for people with diabetes. Onions are a rich source of prebiotics and fibre necessary for gut health.
TURMERIC: Turmeric contains a very powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Curcumin improves brain-derived neurotrophic factor; it is linked to improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases. It further lowers the risk of heart diseases. There is evidence through studies that curcumin is a beneficial herb in cancer treatment. It has been found to affect cancer growth.
ALOE VERA: Also known as the medicinal plant for centuries. Aloe vera contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols. Aloe vera eases inflammation and arthritic pain heals ulcers and a wide variety of digestive disorders and complications. It reduces heart attacks and strokes and helps halt the growth of cancer tumours.
SPINACH: It’s a powerhouse of nutrients and a rich source of iron, calcium and magnesium. Spinach contains alpha-lipoic acid, which lowers glucose levels, increases insulin sensitivity and is a great food for diabetes management. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene which is a very useful treatment for patients with Asthma. Spinach is high both in fibre and water which promotes a healthy digestive tract and prevents constipation.
BROCCOLI: It’s a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. The antioxidant effect of sulforaphane in broccoli helps reduce inflammation for people with autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes and arthritis. Dietary fibre of broccoli helps prevent constipation and lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. Calcium and collagen, the essentials for bone health are actively present in broccoli. A good presence of vitamin K helps treat osteoporosis.
LENTILS (DAL): Lentils are a plentiful source of proteins, fibre, potassium and folic acid. Lentils support overall heart health, reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Potassium, magnesium and calcium in lentils decrease blood pressure naturally and a great diet for blood pressure patients. Lentils are rich in fibre and very helpful for digestive tract health and bowel movements.
LOTUS STEM (KAMAL KAKDI): Lotus root is a great panacea for people with varied diseases and has been used in Ayurvedic medicines for ages. Lotus stem has astringent, diuretic, emollient, antifungal, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antibacterial, and anti-steroidal, cardiotonic, antiviral, anticancer, anthelmintic, anti-obesity properties. Lotus stem promotes brain development and has a strong influence on your stress levels.
TOMATOES: Rich in Vitamin C & antioxidants, Tomatoes are great for people to avoid cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. Lycopene and beta carotene present in tomatoes prevent prostate and colorectal cancer. Potassium and choline content support reduced blood pressure and heart health. Tomatoes keep a check on blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. Tomatoes are extremely nutritious plant food for people with low energy and obesity.
GARLIC: Garlic has triglyceride and cholesterol-lowering properties leading to heart protection and lower Blood pressure. Garlic is rich in phytochemical and protects cells from damage with cancer-fighting characteristics and helping in the prevention and progression of cancer. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body’s protective mechanisms against oxidative damage and hence reducing the risk of Brain Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – as the famous Greek physician Hippocrates (often called the father of Western medicine) puts it – be the conclusion to this article.
The author, Dr Mona Dahiya, is the Co-Founder and Director of Homefoodi, a Mobile Application dedicated to home chefs. Dr. Mona is also a well-acclaimed Obstetrics and Gynecologist with over 18 years of experience in the Medical field and specialization in the field of infertility and IVF.