Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Food as Pharmaceuticals

Aug 01, 2011 08:22PM ● By Anonymous

As a nation, America is rife with health issues. Whether afflicted with high cholesterol or hypertension, inflammation or obesity, many individuals seek the help of prescription drugs, and often with good reason. However, in some cases, keeping a stock of pills and tablets may be far less important than simply keeping a stock of fruits and vegetables. Underestimated by much of the population are the pharmaceutical properties of whole foods—ranging from produce to proteins

Nutrition is one of the best methods of not only disease prevention, but it may also be a potent weapon in the treatment and healing of many ailments.

Physician’s Desk Reference or Grocery List?
You may be surprised at the medicinal qualities of some pantry staples. Parsley, everyone’s go-to garnish, is good for more than decoration. And humble celery may do more than provide a sturdy vessel for Ranch dressing. In a new study (published in Cancer Prevention Research), a University of Missouri researcher discovered that apigenin, a compound found in parsley, celery, and other plant products “can stop certain breast cancer tumors from multiplying and growing.”

In his study, Salman Hyder, professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center, exposed rats with a certain type of breast cancer to apigenin. The rats that were exposed to the apigenin developed fewer tumors and experienced significant delays in tumor formation compared to those rats that were not exposed to apigenin. Although apigenin is most prevalent in parsley and celery, it can also be found in apples, oranges, nuts.

Celery has also been touted to help alleviate hypertension, lower cholesterol, and aid insomniacs. Health foodies believe it has a calming effect on the body as well as providing aphrodisiac properties. And, at 10 calories a stalk but still providing plenty of chew, celery is the ideal diet snack.

Mighty garlic also does wonders for heart health (though it may do less for your dating life than celery). It chisels away at arterial plaque while its potent antioxidants team up to prevent cardiovascular damage. Garlic can also prevent joint pain stemming from arthritis. When garlic combines with onions, a strong (though pungent) anti-cancer cocktail is born. Both contain high levels of allyl sulfur, a compound proven to prevent the reproduction of cancerous cells.

The springtime soldier that is asparagus is brimming with benefits, and historically purports to cure everything from warts to kidney stones. We do know that it is high in potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure, it can also balance insulin and pH levels, promote digestion and excretion, and serve as a prenatal vitamin with its high levels of folate. Eating asparagus may even yield Viagra-like results, as it’s a supposed aphrodisiac.

Peanuts aren’t usually touted for being the healthiest snack, but they too hide a host of beneficial nutrients within their oblong shells. Most prominently, these legumes are an excellent sources of choline, which is critical to brain health. Quinoa, a little-known but protein-packed grain, can also promote fluid thinking and prevent the decline of memory with the incline of age.

And the rumor is true: dark chocolate really is good for you. When eaten in moderation, it has been proven to reduce both cholesterol and hypertension. It contains compounds similar to those in aspirin and promotes the free-flowing of platelets, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots. But before you devour a Special Dark Hershey bar, there are a few things to remember when choosing dark chocolate. Chocolate is deemed “dark” if the cocoa content is 65 percent or higher. Only one to three ounces per day provide ample benefits; the fat and sugar content in larger amounts would negate the advantages of eating any at all.

Of course, food alone is not a cure-all. It is important to realize, however, that foods in their purest state provide an infinite number of health benefits—light years more than salt, fat, or sugar-laden choices. It is also important to realize that “medicinal” foods yield the most apparent results when eaten in conjunction with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating whole foods may not save money on the grocery bill, but it’s a choice that will very probably save you a few trips to the doctor’s office. “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food,” Hippocrates once said—Timeless advice from the “father” of western medicine.