Healing with Food
No one wants to spend the summer feeling sluggish or rundown. Or battling colds and allergies. Or gaining weight. The best way to avoid any of these scenarios is to eat energizing, immunity– boosting food.
"Everyone knows the expression 'You are what you eat,'" says Dale Bellisfield, R.N., a clinical herbalist with a practice in New Jersey. "But I tell my clients, 'You are what you absorb.' Every part of your body—your neurotransmitters, immune system, skeleton, and muscles–puts the nutrients in healing foods to work." In Bellisfield's kitchen, healing foods include fish to fight fatigue, herbs and spices to fortify the immune system, and teas to hydrate and tonify.
Eat to beat fatigue
"When a client comes to me with fatigue, I tell them first to get rid of the stimulants in their diet—coffee and sugar that can burn them out—then energize with protein, good fats, and dark leafy greens."
Buy quality protein. Get your protein from a combination of organic whole grains and legumes; from the meat of free–range, grassfed, organically raised animals or low–mercury, sustainably raised seafood; or from soy–based products like tofu. Protein increases our metabolic rate, and because we digest protein more slowly than carbohydrates, we get a long–term energy boost rather than a brief burst.
Enjoy fats wisely. Incorporating olive oils, eggs, nuts, and seeds gives you the most efficient, energy–dense fuel and helps create the building blocks for compounds that fight inflammation and maintain brain health.
Choose dark leafy greens. Kale, spinach, and collards—all of these contain energizing B vitamins (including folate, the B vitamin critical to the generation of healthy new cells), antioxidants, and dark green chlorophyll, which helps in tissue growth and repair.
Eat to boost your immunity
"Lately I'm really keen on 'black foods' like olives, berries, figs, dark chocolate, and sea vegetables," Bellisfield says. "The darker the hue, the higher the immune boost."
Pile on the onions. To ensure a healthy immune system, get your fill of onions, shallots, leeks, and fresh raw garlic. High in pungent sulfur compounds, these aromatic veggies can provide potent protection against harmful microorganisms and cancer.
Sprinkle in some herbs. Fresh and dried herbs like turmeric, ginger, rosemary, and thyme, all have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiinflammatory properties.
Learn to love fermented foods. To optimize the effectiveness of herbs and spices, Bellisfield adds foods like miso, yogurt, or sauerkraut for their ability to aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Eat to lose weight
"Eat a rainbow," says Bellisfield, who recommends colorful fruits and vegetable—bright orange, for example, indicates beta–carotene, while darkblue and—red produce is high in the antioxidant anthocyanin.
Choose good proteins and carbs. Foods low on the glycemic index, like sweet potatoes, berries, eggs, fish, and whole grains, and sweeteners like agave syrup and stevia, don't spike blood sugar the way white potatoes and refined flours do.
Discover low–calorie foods. Lowcalorie winners include quinoa, goji berries, black beans, and broccoli, says Bellisfield.
Eat to detox
Bellisfield starts a cleanse with spring greens like dandelion leaves, watercress, and broccoli rabe.
Blend sour fruits and bitter greens. The sharp flavors of tart fruits and bitter greens increase digestive enzymes and nutrient absorption–ideal for cleansing, toning, and stimulating digestion.
Drink tea. Accompany your fruits and greens with organic white or green tea or a tea made with an adaptogenic plant like holy basil or ginseng (which help reduce stress and fight fatigue) to stay hydrated and ease gentle digestive cleansing.