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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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 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!
Rice is the staple food for half the world’s population. It provides energy and protein. It originated in southern Asia and has been cultivated in India and China for 6,500 years.
Rice is used in natural medicine to cure digestive problems. The BRAT diet is enormously helpful for curing bouts of diarrhoea. The B is for bananas, the R is for white rice, the A for apples, and the T for white toast. I had occasion to try this last summer, and it really works!
New research suggests that eating rice bran may reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Certainly it helps to alleviate diverticulitis. I have always believed that brown rice is better for you than white, but too much brown rice can inhibit the absorption of calcium and iron.
I used to love rhubarb when I was a child. I would eat a stick straight from the earth! Full of prana, life-force.
Rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit. It’s full of potassium, and also contains vitamin C and manganese. It’s a mild laxative, but is not recommended for anyone with joint problems, such as arthritis. This is because it contains oxalic acid which can exacerbate joint pain. Interestingly, oxalic acid inhibits calcium and iron absorption, so you wouldn’t want to eat rhubarb on a daily basis. It is absolutely delicious in the occasional crumble, though! Wait till it comes into season and eat local, organic rhubarb. Mmm
Organic raisins are available!
Dried fruits make such an excellent snack. Man has been drying fruits in the sun for the last 5,000 years. Romans used raisins in many of their medicinal remedies, and it’s easy to see why. They are a wonderful source of instant energy, containing both glucose and fructose. Raisins alleviate tiredness, anaemia, chronic fatigue, and are a pick-me-up for insomniacs. They contain fibre, which helps to lower cholesterol and promote healthy bowel function. They contain iron, selenium, and potassium. This latter is important as it stops fluid retention and regulates the blood pressure. Raisins also contain some vitamin C and vitamin B. The B vitamins are great for beating stress.
Now you know the reason to buy raisins!