Medicine doesn’t always come in a pill. In fact, some of the most powerful medicines are delicious and can be found at your local supermarket or “farmacy.” Healing foods have been used for centuries in Asia as part of the cuisine. In fact, in Asia, food and medicine are often the same thing.
Here are five superfoods that you may never have heard of but that can be found at most Asian markets and even places like Whole Foods. Try them. You might be surprised by their unique and extraordinary good taste. And they may help you lose weight, reverse diabetes, lower cholesterol and prevent cancer.
Whenever I visit Europe — whether to explore a few former Soviet bloc countries or to take a 2,000-mile driving trip through Italy and Switzerland’s Ticino region — I’m always struck upon “re-entry” into the U.S. by how BIG everything is here at home.
We drive big cars, especially here in Colorado, where every other vehicle seems to be an SUV. Our cars have big cup holders for our venti Frappucinos and Big Gulp sodas. We live in big houses that we furnish with stuff we buy at big-box stores. Our big refrigerators – and often an extra freezer – are crammed full of food we purchase at big supermarkets. And, alas, we ourselves are big, and getting bigger: According to the American Heart Association, more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight, and of those, nearly 38 percent are obese.
Europeans clearly do things differently from us. Yet their ‘smaller’ lives seem in many ways richer and fuller. I’ve begun to notice some of those differences that we might do well to consider. Here are five that really struck me:
I have thought a lot about the way in which I want to end this year. Especially since the new energy of 2012 is fast approaching. As I contemplated my plan, what came to me was “cleansing and clearing.” Often I take time in the spring to clean and clear out closets to create space, but this felt different. What came to me was that I was to clear and clean myself from the inside out. I decided to do an 11-day cleanse and allow my body to release old toxins. That decision created a powerful domino effect that I want to share with you.
Twenty years ago, as a freshly minted doctor, I swallowed the propaganda that doctors are invincible — that “MD” stood for “medical deity.” During my training, one of my surgical residents told me, “real doctors don’t do lunch.” I thought I didn’t need to follow the same rules of biology like everyone else. I believed sleeping, eating real food and resting were luxuries, not necessities.
In fact, even though I knew all about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle and had always exercised, I felt I could push the boundaries of my body. When I started my medical career, I worked 80-100 hours a week as a family doctor in a small town in Idaho. I delivered hundreds of babies, ran the emergency room, and saw 30-40 patients a day. Sleep was an afterthought. I ordered Starbucks coffee by the case straight from Seattle, bought an espresso machine and served up 4-5 espressos a day. I lived in a perpetual state of fatigue and pushed my way through on adrenalin.
What you put at the end of your fork is more powerful medicine than anything you will find at the bottom of a pill bottle.
Food is the most powerful medicine available to heal chronic disease, which will account for more than 50 million deaths and cost the global economy $47 trillion by 2030. All you need to do is eat your medicine and think of your grocery store as your pharmacy.
Recently, I went to Asia to lecture on prevention, wellness, health, nutrition and the new field of nutrigenomics, the science of how molecules in food interact with our genes to support or interfere with our health. I came away feeling humbled and awed as I realized that the average Chinese person knows more about the medicinal properties of food than I do after years of research. Medicinal foods are part of their everyday diet, and I learned more from matter-of-fact discussions about the healing properties of food I shared with my Chinese hosts than from my hours researching medical journals.
A while back, a few members of The FIRM Believers Web Club started chatting about how they make “green monsters” in their blenders using spinach, kale, avocado and other green gems. These monsters were essentially the healthiest drinks that I’ve heard of!
The idea was somewhat novel to me. Because I really enjoy eating whole vegetables, I’ve never really considered juicing. And because I am not a fan of juicers that extract the fiber out of the fruits and vegetables, I never really considered making my own juices. But these FIRM Believers changed my mind, and my blender is now getting a workout!
If you can’t convince them, confuse them.
— Harry Truman
The current media debate about the benefits (or lack of harm) of high fructose corn syrup in our diet misses the obvious. The average American has increased his consumption of HFCS (mostly from sugar-sweetened drinks and processed food) from zero to more than 60 pounds per year. Obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven-fold. HFCS is not perhaps the only cause, but one that cannot be ignored.
Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency. Recently, these have been used skillfully through massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to dispel the “myth” that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of “medical and nutrition experts” that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a “natural” product that can be a healthy part of our diets when used in moderation.
Except for one problem: Even when used in moderation, it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay and more.
We’ve said it hundreds of times in our decades of sharing fitness with the world, but we all need a reminder now and then. In order for fitness and weight loss to be successful long-term, exercise and changes in your diet must be integrated into your lifestyle. And the only constant in life is change. Your diet and exercise routine has to be flexible. Your mindset about them both has to be flexible. Enter a key word: moderation.
For as long as I can remember, corn has been one of my favorite summertime foods. As a kid, I loved to sit on the picnic table in our backyard shucking ear after ear of the patchwork white-and-pale-yellow Olathe sweet corn my mom would bring home by the bushel. Later I’d slather it with butter and salt and sink my teeth in the way my dog attacks a meaty beef bone.
When I got my braces in fifth grade, I learned to eat corn on the cob one row at a time to minimize the hardware-cleaning process (corn was officially forbidden by the orthodontist, but I really think I outsmarted him on this one; don’t ask about my Milk Dud incident). I always thought eating something as nutritious as a fresh vegetable — especially since I loved it so much — was worth it.
I did a Google search on what causes stress in people’s lives and I found things like unemployment, divorce, financial problems, health issues, fatigue and so on. In reflecting on how I deal with stress, let’s just say that far, far less than unemployment has caused me to eat a dozen donuts in one sitting!
Yes, I’m talking about stress eating. Most of us have had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing it at one point or another, and it is not for the faint of heart. I can down a whole can of party peanuts if Auden has a particularly bad day at school! Thankfully I have come to terms with the real me and I am now able to recognize the signs of impending stress and do a fairly good job of not eating us out of house and home when things get rough. Please allow me to share some of my tips, and I welcome any you have to share that have worked for you.