Deciphering Medicinal Foods

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Healthy additions include medicinal and super foods such as Omega 3, Coconut oil, B vitamins, chia, whey protein, probiotics, psyllium husk, blueberries, yogurt and more!

Unless you live in a cave (without access to the Internet or TV), you can’t help hearing about new breakthroughs in nutritional supplements, medicinal foods and super foods and their effects on improving health, increasing our lifespan and even curing, or at least, stalling diseases such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

Sounds great, right? I thought so too..  So when a friend asked if I’d like to attend a one day seminar on medicinal foods, I was in! This was one of those CE (continuing education) courses offered for healthcare and related professions as well as being open to the “interested public” – the latter being me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, kitchen pharmaceuticals? Extreme diets where you cut out everything but raw, organically grown vegetables and quinoa? I was intrigued..

And so I attended.. Armed with a flavored sparkling water, cliff bar and an inquisitive mind, I made my way to my seat flanked by two friend/attendees – one who’s a nurse and the other a massage therapist. Surrounded by knowledge and prepared to learn! The speaker was a Psychiatrist/Neurologist from California (Dr. Mike Lara) who integrates nutrition and exercise into his treatment plan. I was impressed with his knowledge and presentation. I was also grateful to have a biology degree to draw from as some of the slides brought back memories from my required science classes. Amino acids, krebs cycle, ATP, etc.. Suffice to say, there is a ton of science and research backing the use of medicinal food and supplements for prevention and treatment of things like inflammation which can lead to cognitive decline, neurological disease, arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease and more.

So, what’s a the deal with inflammation? Isn’t that a normal healing response? Well, yes, it is, and we all have it to some degree but too much can wreak havoc on our bodies. Chronic inflammation is caused by many things; stress, too little or too much exercise, poor diet, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity and other factors.

A fun related fact: Since 1850, the average annual consumption of sugar has skyrocketed from 3 pounds to 150 pounds of sugar consumed per year! That’s per person. Bottom line, sugar contributes to inflammation and inflammation leads to disease. Those of us with sweet tooths may need to rethink that cookie, donut or candy bar. Moving on…

In addition to inflammation, the seminar covered antioxidant benefits, gut flora and the importance of having the right intestinal bacteria, ketosis and the benefits of intermittent fasting. A lot to digest (pun intended).

While I can’t do justice to a full days seminar (and years of research and studies) in one blog posting, I do want to give you some food for thought and maybe pique your interest to find out more ways to improve overall health with these supplements and foods. (For in depth detail, you can visit Dr. Lara’s website or Facebook page. You can even subscribe to his newsletter with nutritional supplement updates. Www.drmikelara.com or Facebook.com/BrainMD.)

Disclaimer, I’m not an MD, RN, Nutritionist or anything other than “interested public” and these are just my take-always and things I’m planning on (possibly) integrating into my own lifestyle.

  • Omega3 (fish oil) – Benefits: Decreases inflammation, improves heart function, improves brain function, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Recommended daily dose: 2-4g/day (talk to your doctor if you are on blood thinners)
  • Coconut Oil – has shown promise in Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment. This can be used in place of other oils for cooking, baking and even stirring into hot drinks or foods (great in oatmeal)
  • Probiotics – from supplements or in fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi): gut flora has a huge impact on our overall health.
  • Amino acid supplements and Whey protein to recover and build muscles after exercising. As we age, our body isn’t as good at cellular turnover. These protein building blocks are essential.
  • Super foods such as; blueberries, green tea, cherries, dark chocolate, tomatoes, Maca, turmeric, cinnamon, etc (these have various effects including anti-inflammatories, blood sugar regulation and anti-oxidant properties.)
  • Intermittent fasting (12-16 hours) helps body reset and has the same anti-inflammatory benefits as exercising. Suggest you google this for more details and guidelines.
  • Bullet-proof coffee (made with MCT oil and butter) – this is supposed to do great things for your brain. Has to do with the brain using MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) as an alternate energy source to glucose. This also occurs in ketosis.

At the end of the seminar, the presenter did say that many of these “medicinal food” benefits could be experienced  with “regular” foods. Ie. Omega three is abundant in salmon and seaweed. He also shared several recipes for recovery anti-inflammatory drinks. Again, visit his website for details. Other informational websites related to nutrients include:

I’m looking forward to integrating some of these into my life and I’ll let you know what results I get in future posts. Let me know if any of these work for you as well.

Here’s to more healthy habits in our lives – Striving and Thriving in the middle years!

 

2 thoughts on “Deciphering Medicinal Foods

  1. Peggy, I have a request? Could you do a short piece on exercise hydration? What should we drink, when, how often and what are your thoughts about electrolyte replacement drinks? Looking forward to your thoughts. Thanks Bill

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