7 tips on how to use Food as Medicine

Everything you put in your body has an effect.  That can either be negative and deprive you of energy or be positive and create vital energy.  Most things are somewhere between these two extremes and learning what works for your wellbeing is a great step forward in your own healing.

You’ll find some general guidelines below to help you use your everyday lifestyle choices to help you in your quest for healing and increased vital energies.

However, you are unique.  What works for one person may not work so well for you.  Your metabolism can be very different to someone else’s.  What’s more, your body works more like a forest than a machine – what it needs can change from day to day. Your body’s requirements constantly vary according to what balances and stresses you have in your life.

Developing Soul Seat Awareness will enable you to know, from one moment to the next, what your current needs are.

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Here are some things that are true for most people, most of the time:

  1. You need water. Your metabolism requires the different parts of your biochemistry to be in a solution. If you dry out the different chemical reactions in your body don’t work so well.  Make sure you drink enough, usually 8 glasses of water or two litres.  You need more in hot weather.

You also need more if you drink tea, coffee or alcohol.  These things are diuretics.  You will end up passing more water than what is in the liquid.  Most herbal teas are okay.

  1. You need minerals. You may have heard that you are mostly water.  This is true, but you’re not fresh water.  Life on planet earth started in the sea.  Then it got clever and figured out how to carry the sea around inside it.  You need minerals for your kidneys to work, as well as your metabolism.

Pure sea salt, like Himalayan salt, is a good source of minerals because it is pretty close to the mineral balance your cells need.  However, you absorb colloidal minerals best.  If you look for them you’ll see they have a long list of all sorts of strange minerals on the side, like molybdenum and vanadium.  You need a speck of each of these in order for various enzyme pathways to turn on.  In some countries, like Australia, you need to supplement your mineral intake of these trace minerals because the soils do not contain enough. Plants can’t manufacture minerals but can only absorb what is in the soil.

  1. You need vitamins. Plants can manufacture them but do it mostly during the last stages of ripening.  This is why organic food has higher levels of vitamins than normal commercial foods, which are often gassed with sulphur-containing gases and other things to make them appear ripe.   The additional vitamin intake derived from organic produce is a significant benefit of this type of produce, as well as its decreased toxicity.  Indeed, you may get enough vitamins from organic produce to be able to offset any increased cost of this produce, so you may want to consider it.
  1. You need protein. Your muscles are built out of this, as well as the working parts of most of your organs.  You can’t fully heal without enough of this.  Also, importantly, your enzymes are made from special proteins.  Enzymes make your metabolism more efficient and if your protein gets so low your system can no longer make enzymes you will feel depleted.

Protein is also important because it gives you a steady burn of energy throughout the day.  Carbohydrates, and especially sugars, can give you more energy in a short burst but it doesn’t last.

Poor protein levels are often a result of a vegetarian diet, and can lead to a feeling of weakness or tiredness.  It takes a bit more work to get enough protein if you’re a vegetarian.  You can’t just stop eating meat and have tofu and think you’ve done the same thing.  Here are general guidelines to get enough protein through vegetables:

*anything that is going to grow into something will have more protein.  Like your own body, the protein is used to build the vegetable body.   So beans, nuts, seeds, legumes (e.g. mushrooms) and sprouts (but only if they’re fresh as they’re using up the protein as they grow) will have more protein in them.

*vegetable protein is incomplete protein.  Protein is made out of amino-acids and your body can’t make all of them.  With some of them your body can ‘mix and match’ them to make the rest of them, but the ones your body needs are called essential amino-acids.  Whereas meat or fish or an egg has all the essential amino-acids a mung bean doesn’t.  A good rule of thumb is to always have at least 3 or more different types of vegetable protein together, at one meal.  This will be approximately a complete protein.  If you keep some jars of seeds and nuts in the cupboard this isn’t difficult to do.

*vegetable protein is also not as dense as meat protein.  It’s one of the reasons a lion doesn’t have to eat as often, or as much, as a gazelle.  To get enough protein from vegetables make sure you have some at every meal.  This is made easier by things like LSA (linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds).  A spoonful of with your breakfast can give you much better energy throughout your day.

  1. You need carbohydrates, though not as much as you might think. Your brain needs some carbs and most of your cells use glucose of some kind. However, you may find you eat more of these than you actually need.  This may be because you’re not getting enough protein or it may be simply due to your body thinking you need to build up energy reserves to survive the coming winter.  Unfortunately, your body’s desires for carbs is often more a result of genetic history, when scarcity through winter was common, than it is because of a true need.  If you feel you’re over-indulging in your carbs try having some protein with your breakfast and you may be surprised.

You may also be getting a ‘snack attack’ around 4pm.  This is a time when many people’s blood sugar takes a dip.  This is a sign of imbalance somewhere.  You may want to try having some protein with breakfast or lunch.  If this doesn’t help you may need further dietary advise.

  1. You need good oil, not bad oil. You have two types of nutrients.

Ones that are water soluble, like Vitamin B.  Its watery nature is why your urine looks a funny colour after you’ve taken some.  The good thing about them is they’re easy to get around your body because they dissolve in the liquid part of your blood.  These are mostly used inside the cells to run your metabolism.  However, they don’t store in our body’s very well as it’s too easy for them to get washed out.  So we need to ingest them pretty frequently, if not every day. These are not oils.

Ones that are fat soluble, like Vitamin E, need a different way of being transported.  These are oils and, as you know, oil and water don’t mix.  If you’ve heard that sometimes taking the good oil will reduce your cholesterol, it’s correct.  This is why it’s important to check not just your cholesterol levels, but the LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).  Lipid is a fancy word for fat, so a lipoprotein is part fat, part protein.

You need cholesterol because that transports your fat soluble nutrients around the body.  It forms something like a little bubble inside of which the fat soluble nutrient can float in your blood plasma until it gets to where it’s going.  The trick here is that the HDL is so dense it can transport much more than the LDL can.  So sometimes, if your cholesterol is high because you’ve got low HDL, and high LDL, it means you’re not getting enough of the good oil to build the good cholesterol – the HDL.

Fat soluble nutrients do things like build cell walls, as well as the sheaths around your nerves.  They’re readily stored in and held in the body so it’s important that you have the good sort, as you don’t want to store the bad sort, even if your cholesterol is okay.  The good sort is high in the essential fatty acids – omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9.  That’s the good oil.

We need a lot of these, especially omega 3 for your nerve sheaths.  It’s usually found in fish oils and flax seed oil.  The problem with these oils is that they off fast – so never cook with them and always keep them in the fridge.  The flax oil is what comes out of the linseeds so it’s important to also keep your LSA in the fridge.  A spoonful of flax oil a day is usually enough.  Mix it half-and-half with olive oil and you’ve got about the right mix of 3, 6 and 9.

  1. You need all five tastes to stimulate all your different organs. The five tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter.  A satisfying meal is easy to prepare if you remember to include at least a little from each taste group.  This is why you might put a pinch of salt in the cake or a drop of honey in your stir fry.  Examples of each taste group are:

*sweet – honey, of course, but also vegetables like carrots or pumpkin

*salty – salt, of course, but also things like soy sauce or tamari

*bitter – this is an important taste as it stimulates bile flow and the modern diet has all but eliminated it.  Many root vegetables, including beetroots and carrots, used to be bitter but they’re now selected to be quite sweet.  Without a little bit of bitterness your liver may be a bit weak.  Add parsnips or radishes, rocket or radicchio for bitterness.  You can also add a splash of old fashioned vinegar, like white wine or apple cider (balsamic vinegar is sweet) or the pith or rind of citrus fruit.

*sour – the juice of most citrus, but especially lemons and grapefruit.  That’s what gives them their tanginess.  The juice is sour, while the rind is bitter.

*pungent – most herbs are considered pungent, especially if they’re fresh.  They lose a lot of their pungency once they’re dry.  Many herbs also have additional healing properties, e.g. oregano and thyme have anti-parasitic as well as antibiotic properties, while rosemary oil will help open up your airways.  If you have a herb garden, or buy them fresh from the market, think about what will assist your healing when you’re collecting your herbs for the day.

There is also a herb called yarrow which has little taste but it’s easy to grow and has a long history of healing.  It appears to have some antiviral properties, as well as antibiotic ones.  It can be added fresh to salads or used to make tea when dried.

*umami – is another taste group, but if you include a splash of tamari or soy sauce you’ve generally got this one covered as well.

*Disclaimer:  These are general guidelines for educational purposes only.  They are not meant to address your specific healing and health needs. For specific advice on your situation please consult your wellbeing professional.