While our modern lifestyle may seem to be filled with drugs and supplements of all kinds for various ailments to be kept in check, a closer look at our diets may surprise you about the curative properties we’re already boosting our health with.
Anyone familiar with traditional Chinese medicine or herbal remedies would already know that our bodies are really wonderful when it come to warding off infections and conducting repairs to fix various problems.
Oftentimes, all our bodies need is just a little nudge in the right direction or some sort of dietary deficiency needs to be addressed and we’re back to optimal health once more.
Even when things do go wrong, taking a combination of the right cures can help stave off a more debilitating situation and many still swear by housewives remedies for seemingly simple ailments rather than going to the doctor.
The simple fact is that there are just so many of such solutions available if we were only to listen to our bodies and also those who are more experienced.
Is it any wonder then just how many of these health boosts are already in our daily or regular diets without us being fully conscious of their benefits?
When it comes to Asian cooking, there’s one item we all can’t seem to do without – onions. Apart from making food tasty, these layered bulbs have also long been considered a cure-all for many ailments.
Now, research has given scientific backing to many of the anecdotal evidence. For starters, thiosulfinates (sulphuric compounds responsible for the distinctive smell) in onions can reduce diabetes symptoms and protect against cardiovascular disease.
Then, another flavonoid found in onions – called quercetin – prevents the inflammation associated with allergies and also protects against stomach ulcers and colon, oesophageal, and breast cancers.
And if you’re looking to boost your athletic abilities, just consume more onions as the quercetin also helps increase endurance – as was found in a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
While it is also possible to get quercetin from tea and apples, a Federation of European Biochemical Societies report has found your body absorbs this flavonoid at least three times faster from onions.
One point to note though – cooking reduces the potential benefits gained as the onion’s nutrients, especially the thiosulfinates. So, it’s best to eat onions raw or lightly cooked and pop a mint into the mouth later to reduce the breath odour.
Still on athletic enhancements, you might want to couple your onions with chillies. Why? Think about it – without chillies, our food may seem to lack zest – though there’s a price to be paid in terms of having to nurse the fires in our mouths and throats during and after the meal.
Surprisingly, the very ingredient that gives chillies its overpowering sizzle – capsaicin – has also been scientifically proven to be effective as, and is hence now widely used, for pain relief!
Studies found this substance works by slowing the flow of chemical messengers that transmit pain messages in the brain and thus easing muscle aches, post-operative discomfort and arthritis.
The other gain from chillies is equally impressive – these can help you lose weight. A 2009 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that capsaicin-related compounds helped people lose abdominal fat.
The European Journal of Nutrition adds that capsaicin also seems to control blood sugar – a study found the bodies of those consuming capsaicin had higher blood levels of a sugar-regulating hormone and less ghrelin – the ‘hunger hormone’ – than those who ate a bland meal.
If you’re still not convinced that vegetables are good for you, consider this – a Harvard Medical School study of more than 13,000 women found those who ate lots of leafy vegetables lowered their brain age by one to two years!
It really doesn’t matter what vegetable you prefer but it’s best to get all sorts from broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy to brussels sprouts. Remember to avoid overcooking these and take them raw or in salads where possible.
Why are vegetables so effective? They’re filled with antioxidants like vitamin C and plant compounds called carotenoids, which are particularly powerful brain protectors.
Antioxidants prevent damage from free radicals, which are waste products your body makes when cells use fuel to create energy. Your brain is especially vulnerable to damage from free radicals because it uses a lot of fuel (it’s only about 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy).
Since your mind makes a lot of these toxic by-products, ample antioxidants help to disarm and defuse them.
Still on brain food, here’s more reason to eat more fish – fish like salmon, cod and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, powerful and versatile nutrients that are essential for a healthy mind.
About 40% of the fatty acids in brain cell membranes are DHA, one of the main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Experts believe it’s probably necessary for transmitting signals between brain cells.
In a 2006 study, researchers at Tufts University found that people who ate fish three times a week and had the highest levels of DHA in their blood slashed their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 39%.
Reducing sugar intake has become such a common mantra that it is easy to forget just what gains can be obtained from moderate sugar intake.
Apart from being an essential energy source for our cells, here’s an unusual sugar remedy – as a hiccup cure, according to Bethesda University of the Health Sciences professor of medicine in the emerging infectious diseases Andre Dubois.
He says a teaspoon of sugar swallowed dry can stop hiccups in minutes, as the sugar is believed to modify the nerve muscles that would otherwise tell the muscles in the diaphragm to contract spasmodically and contribute to hiccups.
Better yet, if you’re often hit by migraine headaches, try the same dry sugar remedy – which produces a similar effect on muscles and nerves in reducing or completely eradicating the often-debilitating pain.
Then, there’s the forever guilt-inducing chocolate – which is good for you if taken in moderation and better if the cocoa contents is higher compared with other ingredients like milk, fats and sugar which give this luxurious dessert its sinfully rich taste.
Cocoa is rich in antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols, which include procyanidins, epicatechins, and catechins – studies have shown that people with high blood levels of flavonoids have lower risk of heart disease, lung cancer, prostate cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes.
Apart from being a comfort food, chocolate also has a direct effect on the heart – by improving the functioning of the endothelium, a layer of cells in arteries (including those in the heart) that prevents plaque build-up and protects against high blood pressure.
Research suggests that flavonoids can directly act on endothelial cells and stimulate the production of nitric oxide, a substance that dilates arteries.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s always a good idea to explore some other remedies handed down through the generations – especially if these don’t seem likely to pose any real danger or add inconvenience to your daily schedules. You never know what health benefits you may gain stealthily, apart from expanding your palate.