One of the most powerful ways to be vibrantly healthy is to use food as your medicine.
But what does that mean, let food be your medicine?
How can herbs and foods be used to promote health in a way that really makes a difference?
Sure we can all add a dash of oregano to our spaghetti or eat a few more vegetables each day, but how do we use foods, herbs and spices to create a state of vibrant health that shines through our eyes, glows from our skin, and bursts through us with energy?
Today’s newsletter is about why food as medicine is so powerful and how to use food as medicine most effectively. We’ll end with one of my favorite recipes for putting this into practice!
Why is using your food as medicine a powerful tool towards vibrant health?
#1 Secret is in the dose
What do you think really makes the difference in a person’s long-term health? The 60 drops of tincture they took or the healthy nutrient-dense food that they eat over a lifetime?
One of the core principles behind food as medicine is that the food we eat every day directly effects our health and well being. Those food choices are going to have a much greater impact on long-term total health than a squirt of tincture or cup of tea ever will. (Understanding, of course, that tinctures and teas have lots of benefits themselves.)
I often hear from people… “Oh yeah, I was drinking that tea (or taking that tincture) and it seemed to help but then I slowly stopped and forgot about it.”
Most people eat every day and they don’t lose the habit of eating! Every day we eat food, which means that every day we can be consistently fueling our body with valuable nutrients.
Sitting down to a delicious meal can be one of life’s simple pleasures, but food as medicine isn’t simply what’s on the plate. It can also be in the company and conversation. Culinary herbalism is fun, pleasurable and delicious, which makes it a joy to keep up!
Here are three ways of HOW you can use food as medicine with the best results.
#1 Eat Seasonally
Most of us already know the cravings of eating seasonally. Light and cool foods like watermelon and gazpacho are enjoyed in the summer while hearty stews and dense foods are craved in the winter. Matching foods energetically for the seasons is a big part of healthy eating.
Eating foods in season also means those foods are more nutrient-dense as well. Grapes shipped from Chile to the US in January don’t hold nearly as many nutrients as grapes gathered in season and locally in the summer.
Often times it is the exotic herbs that make the headlines for their health benefits. One week it is noni berries for cancer or maca root for restoring fertility. But many of our own fruits and vegetables achieve the same results.
Did you know that the more onions you eat the more your risk of cancer is decreased?1
That is but one of thousands of examples of the benefits of our local every day foods!
#2 Eat Foods For You
If you are using food as medicine then it is especially important to eat foods that are good for you. Have you heard that saying, “one person’s food is another person’s poison”? Just because your aunt Jane swears by such-and-such doesn’t mean it’s a good match for everyone!
Some key principles in eating foods that are good for you are to avoid foods that you are intolerant to (gluten, soy and dairy being the most common) and to match your food to your constitution. If you tend to feel cold and have dry skin then eating warming and moistening foods will be better suited to you than cooling and drying foods.
#3 Use herbs and spices liberally
A lot of the health benefits attributed to herbs and spices are due to their high antioxidant levels. Antioxidants reduce systemic inflammation in the body and have been shown to decrease chronic pain, increase heart health and reduce the risk of cancer. Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases and antioxidants reduce inflammation.
Like many things, the power is in the dose.
Many of our recipes in the US call for a dash of this spice or a pinch of that. But the real power of culinary herbalism comes with using a 1/4 cup of this and a 1/2 cup of that. The goal is to maximize the benefits of each meal while still enjoying the taste.
For the past two months we’ve been focusing on the herb cayenne at HerbMentor.com.
There are lots of benefits to eating cayenne in foods. It’s been shown to support heart health, decrease chronic and acute pain and promote digestion. But the amount a person can eat is variable because some people are highly sensitive to this hot spice.
Paprika is a pepper with the same genus and species but is often more mild-tasting than cayenne peppers. (It can also be very hot, but the paprika sold at Mountain Rose Herbs is mild.)
Paprika offers many of the same health benefits as cayenne, but people can consume a lot more of it.
Today’s newsletter is one of my favorite recipes. We eat it practically every week during the colder months. It is loaded with antioxidants that have been shown to protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.
You’ll probably notice this recipe is very similar to Buffalo Hot Wings. We use chicken thighs instead of wings and cook it at a lower temperature so the olive oil doesn’t heat up too much, which would cause it to go rancid. However, I think the secret to this yumminess is in the smoked paprika!
To make this recipe you’ll need..
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Half bottle of hot sauce (we use Frank’s)
- 1/2 cup of smoked paprika powder (regular paprika works too)
- Teaspoon of cayenne (depending on how hot you want it, use less if you want it milder)
- Teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
- 1.25 pounds of chicken thighs (or whatever cut of chicken you prefer)
- In a cast iron pan combine the olive oil, hot sauce and spices.
Stir them well until they form a thin paste.
Put the chicken pieces in the pan and coat them well with the paste. Let them marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
We cook them in the broiler with the thermostat at 3500 F for ten minutes, then flip them and cook for another ten minutes. (Or bake until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the meat thermometer reads 1650 F).