March is National Nutrition Month with the theme of “Put Your Best Fork Forward!” Food is perhaps one of the most simple ways to create and maintain health in our bodies. As something we do multiple times each day, how can we make the best choices to support our healthiest selves? The answer is incorporating medicinal food into our diets.
From a Western nutrition perspective, the basic principle is: eat more of the “good stuff” (natural ingredients) and less of the “bad stuff” (processed food).
Recently, on the Today Show, the topic of American diets came up. According to the American Heart Association, food is one of the most effective ways of improving heart health, therefore decreasing America’s leading cause of death—heart disease.
As a country, we eat too much “meat, cheese, processed grains, sugar and salt.” But how can we better balance our diets? Turns out, medicinal food can help us lead happier, healthier lives!
What Can Medicinal Food Do For You
Moderation, is the key. Eating anything in excess can be harmful, even if it’s kale! But there are some foods that we want to only have on occasion since the science shows that they are contributors to inflammation or illness in the body.
- Sugar (check out 61 alternative names for sugar)
- Sugar substitutes (Splenda, Equal)
- Processed and refined grains
Nutrition, in its most basic practices, can go a long way in encouraging our health. It can also be tailored in more specific ways to provide medicinal benefits for your unique health needs.
What Kinds of Conditions Do Medicinal Food Help?
Qi Nourishing Foods
Qi, our life force, is produced by our internal organs, and is meant to nourish our mind, body and soul. Eating the correct foods can help balance your qi, leading to a more balanced life.
Qi deficiency can manifest as:
- Low energy (feeling weak and sluggish)
- Slow digestion (bloating and indigestion)
- Irregular bowel movements (constipation)
Oats & quinoa strengthen our digestive tract, build and regulate our qi/energy. Try this nourishing recipe for breakfast or lunch!
- 1 cup quinoa, soaked
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 cups water
- Place all ingredients in a pot and cover
- Bring to boil, reduce heat to low
- Simmer 30 minutes
- Turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes with closed lid.
- Serve with cooked or baked fruit or squash. (Winter squash nourishes the spleen and stomach, reduces inflammation and improves qi and energy circulation.)
Blood Nourishing Foods
In Chinese medicine, a blood deficiency diagnosis does not mean an actual physical loss of blood, but the inadequate circulation and nourishment of the blood to the body. Blood is a key factor in nourishing muscles and organs.
Blood deficiency can manifest as:
- Dull diffuse headaches
- Muscle cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
How do you enrich and build the blood through medicinal food? When we think of blood nourishing foods, most gravitate towards a hearty steak/beef. An easy (vegetarian) option is beets and black beans.
- Beets are sweet in nature and have a cooling function in the body. They also calm the spirit and nourish the heart.
- Black beans are also sweet in nature, yet have a warming effect in the body. They also help to tonify and strengthen the kidneys.
Put the two together in this delicious recipe!
Food truly is medicine! With every health condition, there are specific foods that can help nourish and heal.