Whether you live to eat, or eat to live, it is important to choose your food carefully. For instance, if you consume too much oil, you will have increased cholesterol levels. Similarly, an extra dose of spices may cause hyperacidity.
Thankfully, there are some food categories that are universally considered good for health. Let us discover a few of these wonder victuals.
Ginger brings a tangy zest to food. Ginger contains plant chemicals called xanthenes that have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Excess inflammation in the body is the cause of most chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, arthritis, some cancers and aging of skin. Ginger is one of the top-rated spices for preventing diseases. In addition, the photochemicals in ginger are valuable for boosting immunity, especially in combating viral infections and nausea. Tea with ginger is a perfect antidote for a cold. Ginger boosts alertness and decreases fatigue.
Cinnamon has recently won enthusiastic acclaim for its ability to boost insulin sensitivity and improve cholesterol metabolism. Since many people in our country suffer from diabetes and/or cholesterol problems, cinnamon – or dalchini – seems like a wonder herb. Its properties are particularly valuable for people with Type-2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Cinnamon has a pleasant flavour and can be used in a variety of foods. Add a stick to your tea and savour its unique flavour. You can also sprinkle about one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder onto foods such as oatmeal, toast and coffee. It tastes good when sprinkled on desserts. Cinnamon sticks can be added to curry while frying the gravy. Add a few sticks of cinnamon while grinding your garam masala.
A word of caution: Cinnamon is supposed to be a warm food. It should not be consumed in excess, especially in the hotter months.
Garlic is truly a wonder food. It contains medicinal plant compounds called allyl sulfides that boost cardiovascular health by lowering LDL [bad] cholesterol levels. It also lowers blood pressure and thins the blood. These plant chemicals also have well-documented immunity-boosting properties, making garlic the perfect spice for the cold season. To maximise the goodness in garlic, use it freshly chopped or minced, and add it to your foods at the end of your cooking. Burn a clove or two of garlic in mustard oil. Rub the concoction on the chest of a person suffering from cold, especially children, and see the cold vanish. A clove or two of garlic, taken the first thing in the morning, is very helpful for controlling cholesterol levels and for heart patients.
This pungent herb fends off aging via its antioxidant properties. It also contains strong antibacterial and antiviral compounds that help shake off stress-induced colds and infections. Raw, crushed garlic is best; cooked garlic is less powerful but still benefits the cardiovascular system.
Spices like turmeric, hot peppers like chili pepper, wasabi, and cayenne pepper are good for you. The hot peppers can boost your moods. These hot spices stimulate the pain receptors in the mouth, which, in turn, results in the release of endorphins within the nervous system. Endorphins are the body’s natural morphine-like chemicals that promote a feeling of euphoria and enhanced wellbeing.
Turmeric has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Raw turmeric root boiled in milk works wonders for sprains or other orthopaedic conditions.
Leafy vegetables are a source of folic acid and iron compounds that protect you from anaemia. Chemicals called homocysteines are a normal part of protein metabolism. However, very high levels cause Alzheimer’s diseases well as heart disease. Homocysteine has a toxic effect on arterial walls. In order to break themselves down, homocysteines require folate and B12 or B6, vitamins found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, methi [fenugreek] and bathua [pigweed].
Spinach is full of antioxidant power. Scientists have found spinach to be beneficial in slowing down cognitive deficits and age-related problems in the central nervous system. A salad with spinach has more than three times the amount of foliate as one with iceberg lettuce.
Warm up with hot cocoa to help your brain as well as your frostbitten fingers. The antioxidant content of two tablespoons of pure cocoa powder is almost two times stronger than red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea. The antioxidants in hot cocoa protect brain cells from oxidative stress that can lead to Alzheimer’s and other disorders.
Drinking grape juice in moderation increases longevity. New research shows that grape juice significantly improves short-term memory and motor skills. It is not just a heavy dose of antioxidants. Grape juice increases production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Grape juice has the highest total antioxidant level of any fruit, vegetable or juice tested.
Nuts are rich in antioxidants and have been found to lower blood cholesterol levels. A Harvard study showed that women who ate more than 140 gm of nuts per week had a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate 28 gm or less. In addition, they do not contribute to weight gain as much as other kinds of fatty foods. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and almonds give you a lustrous skin and a fine memory.
A staple ingredient of the highly touted “Mediterranean Diet,” olive oil contains the potent antioxidants called polyphenols. Olive oil is known to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The extra-virgin variety is best.
Most of the items listed above are used routinely in our kitchens. Just pay a little heed, make them a part of your regular diet – and feel the difference.
A word of caution: it is advisable for chronic heart patients and people suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol to consult their doctors before experimenting with new food items.