Food is medicine

On this ‘Yoga Prescribed’ blog, we have had a romp through a variety of foods which have medicinal value. Yoga teaches us to be aware; to listen to our bodies. The more in touch with the body that we become, the more we are able to read the signals. I develop a headache in a specific place if there is not enough oxygen in the room. I develop a headache in a different place if I am dehydrated. In both cases, the headaches disappear immediately once I have fixed the problem. Listen to your body.

Including a variety of foods in the diet will take care of your nutritional needs. Eat a rainbow of vegetables. If you are drawn to a certain fruit or vegetable, eat it. Your body is telling you what it needs at this moment. For instance, you might find that you are fancying carrots and oranges. Yes, you might need betacarotene and vitamin C, but on a more subtle level your sacral chakra could be out of balance. You might need more of the colour orange in your life. Listen to your body.

Always remember that the way you eat matters, too. Yoga teaches us about the three gunas. These are qualities or constituents of nature. Eating in a rush is rajasic. When you are busy, busy, busy, it is not an appropriate time to eat. Eating because you’re bored and indolent is tamasic. You’re feeding your emotions, not your body. However,eating when you are calm and balanced is sattvik. You have time to consider your food and what your body needs. You eat slowly and with appreciation. Listen to your energies…Listen to your body.

‘Food is medicine’ is an ancient Chinese proverb, and it is still so true today.

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Watercress

Hampshire, where I live, is the home of watercress. Indeed, we boast the Watercress Line, a lovely little steam train, which still runs from Alton to Alresford.

Hippocrates described watercress and its medicinal values in 460 B.C. He built the world’s first hospital next to a stream flowing with pure spring water so that he could grow fresh watercress for his patients. Nero, Hippocrates and even Henry V111 enjoyed this wonderful vegetable.

Watercress is packed with vitamin C. It was prescribed in the 1500s to cure scurvy. It is a powerful antibiotic, and fights off chest and urinary infections. Watercress is also a useful source of iodine, thus it is important for regulating the thyroid gland.

Always wash watercress thoroughly under running water, and do source organic. It’s great for sandwiches!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes were introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. They are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids such as betacarotene and lycopene. They contain vitamins C and E, and so protect the heart, the circulatory system and the body against cancer. They are low in sodium and high in potassium, thus are helpful with conditions such as high blood pressure and fluid retention.

Canned tomatoes lose very little of their nutritional value, so always keep some in the larder. The lycopene contained in tomatoes protects men against prostate cancer. Tinned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato ketchup and sun-dried tomatoes are all important nutritionally. They protect men and women against heart disease. I love cherry tomatoes! So much nicer than sweets!

Seeds

I have pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on my breakfast each morning. In addition to nuts, cereals and pulses, seeds contain protein. They are a good source of vitamins E and B, and are full of dietary fibre. This is great for keeping the bowels regular.

Seeds make a useful contribution to soups, salads and casseroles. They are also a great snack when you are out and about.

Pumpkin seeds contain iron for healthy blood, magnesium for maintaining healthy cells and zinc for growth and development. Zinc aids the immune system, too.

Sunflower seeds are a useful source of vitamin E and an acid known as linoleic. This is necessary for the maintenance of cell membranes.

Sesame seeds contain vitamin E and calcium.

Sweet potatoes

I got into sweet potatoes big-time when we lived in the States. They are very popular in the Caribbean, and date back a long way. Indeed, Columbus brought them to Europe, and you will find them in every supermarket in England now.

Sweet potatoes contain starch, which is energy. They provide some protein, vitamin C, vitamin E and a huge amount of carotenoids, including betacarotene. They are considered to be strong in combating cancer.

Sweet potatoes are delicious in homemade juice. Try combining apple, celery, carrot and sweet potato.

Mashing this delicious vegetable with others, such as ordinary potatoes, parsnips or swede, is a great way to introduce them to children. Get them organically grown if you can.

Strawberries

There is an old wives’ tale that strawberries are bad for anyone with joint problems. In actual fact, they have an ability to increase the body’s elimination of uric acid, which aids arthritic joints and inflammation.

Tiny, wild strawberries grow in our garden. Until the early 1600s, these were the only strawberries known in Britain and Europe. 100g of this delicious fruit contains almost twice your daily requirement of vitamin C. They also contain a little iron. They alleviate fatigue and anaemia, and eliminate cholesterol. Strawberries keep the heart and circulation in tip-top condition as they contain antioxidants. They are believed to have antiviral properties, too.

Strawberries are always associated with the tennis championship at Wimbledon. A bowl of delicious strawberries. eaten on a sunny day, is a complete tonic for mind, body and spirit! (Do buy organic…)

Raspberries

Raspberries are a very rich source of vitamin C which is essential for healthy skin, bones and teeth. This vitamin supports the immune system and is also an antioxidant. Vitamin C may prevent certain cancers.

Raspberries contain vitamin E, folate and fibre, too. Raspberry juice cleanses and detoxifies the digestive system, and helps with fevers and cystitis. Raspberry vinegar is used as a gargle for sore throats, while raspberry leaf tea is a tonic for the female reproductive system. Many women drink raspberry leaf tea at the onset of labour. It is believed to assist contractions, and make delivery easier.

Do buy organic!