If you know what to eat in order to maintain good health, you have a treasure trove of knowledge with which you can treat both minor and major health problems. The philosophy that food can be used as medicine is gaining popularity. More and more people want to use alternative methods of healing, as they find that allopathic medicines have toxic side effects.
Scientists now believe that fish oils can soothe inflammatory diseases like arthritis or asthma, and that having trans fatty acids will aggravate these conditions. Similarly, herbs like methi, cinnamon and flax seeds have healing properties.
The friendly methi:
Fenugreek is used both as a herb and as a spice while making pickles, curries and pastes. It is used to treat a variety of ailments including digestive problems and menopausal symptoms. Recently, it has been found to be an effective treatment for both type I and II diabetes. Eating 5-8 grams of methi seeds reduces fasting and post-meal sugar levels in diabetics. The soluble fibre improves glucose tolerance.
Tea made with two tea spoons of methi seeds, along with lemon and honey, helps reduce fever. The seeds improve metabolism and provide relief from constipation. It helps purify blood by flushing out harmful toxins. The seeds dissolve mucous and are therefore help to treat colds and skin problems.
Apply a paste of methi seeds on the hair or chew a few of them in the morning. They help prevent dandruff and hair fall. You can prevent pimples, black heads and wrinkles by applying a paste of fresh methi leaves on the face for 10-15 minutes every night. It helps you look younger and improves complexion. You can even wash your face with water boiled with methi seeds. Methi is safe and well tolerated but in high doses, it can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Cinnamon — the sweet sprinkle:
Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices. It stimulates digestion, improves circulation, eases colds, stomach upsets and menstrual cramps, and regulates blood glucose and insulin levels.
Consuming half a teaspoon of cinnamon every day can help reduce total cholesterol. Cinnamon has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which fight internal and external infections. It also controls bad breath and head lice.
Consume half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily to treat insulin resistance and control blood glucose levels. Improvement in insulin resistance can help in weight management and reduce the risk of heart diseases. Quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon with honey helps in treatment of chronic cough and cold. It also corrects sore throat and congestion.
Cinnamon boosts cognitive function, memory, alertness and concentration. Quarter teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with honey boosts the immune system. Also, cinnamon acts as a natural food preservative, is a blood thinner, reduces urinary tract infections, and is known to fight cancer.
Flax seed — the wonder food:
Flax seed or alsi is a rich source (more than 50 per cent) of alpha linolenic acid, which gets converted into omega-3 fatty acids in the body and offer tremendous health benefits. To gain the maximum benefits from flax seeds, it is best to grind them into a powder rather than consume them whole (as they may be removed undigested from the body).
Taking one teaspoon of flax seeds daily boosts our immune system and also provides respite from respiratory infections. Omega-3 fatty acids present in the seeds reduce pain and inflammation in arthritis.
Flax seed protects our heart by reducing bad cholesterol in the body. It prevents blood clots and regulates blood pressure. Flax seeds are a rich source of fibre and good fats. It helps balance the estrogen levels in menopausal women.
The onset of acne is triggered by the production of hormones called androgens. The essential fat present in these seeds controls androgens, improves skin texture, prevents water retention and promotes fat burning. Massaging the scalp with flax seed oil helps remove dandruff and kills lice.
Just as wrong food has been linked to disease, the right food can be used for prevention and treatment of disease. Specific foods can be used for their medicinal benefits to promote a state of wellbeing and improved health.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.