Whole foods have been shown over and over again to help our bodies function more efficiently, but some can do more than just provide the body with nutrients. The twelve foods on this list actually have properties that can help the body prevent and recover from illness, from cancer to heart disease. These healing foods can also help ease traits that can lead to serious illness, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The very same yellow flowering plants which give gardeners fits has actually been used as a healing herb by cultures around the world for centuries. Traditional Chinese medicine uses a concoction of dandelion mixed with other herbs to ease bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses, and the white sap from the stems and roots can be used to treat warts.
Dandelion greens are packed with nutrients; one cup of raw greens contains 112% of the RDA for vitamin A and 535% of the RDA for vitamin K. Dandelion is actually one of the best food sources for vitamin A and beta-carotene. The greens also contain copious amounts of potassium, calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamin C.
Dandelion is a natural diuretic. The increase in urine production helps flush the kidneys of toxins and excess salts which may develop into kidney stones and provides relief to patients suffering from high blood pressure, bloating, edema, and water retention. Not only that, but the potassium in the greens helps a person on any kind of diuretic to maintain a healthy level of potassium in the body. Dandelion is also used to treat liver disorders like jaundice and hepatitis.
Dandelion has digestive benefits as well. It can act as a gentle laxative by stimulating bile production, but it also has anti-diarrheal properties; like apples, dandelions help the digestive system maintain balance. The leaves and roots can both be used as a treatment for indigestion and heartburn, and the inulin fiber found in the leaves provides a healthy probiotic meal for the useful digestive bacteria in the gut. Inulin also helps balance blood sugar levels, which prevents diabetes, and increases the efficiency of calcium absorption. The vitamin C and pectin in dandelions work together to reduce cholesterol.
Kale, a relative of broccoli, is full of nutrients and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Chinese healers have traditionally used kale as a treatment for lung congestion. In just one cup of cooked kale, you can find 89% of the RDA for vitamin C, 192% of the RDA for vitamin A, and a staggering 1,328% of the RDA for vitamin K, plus loads of iron and calcium. The bountiful vitamin K helps skeletal strength by anchoring calcium to bone. It also protects the heart and helps blood platelets clot more efficiently.
Kale contains high levels of a compound called sulforaphane, which has been shown to help protect against cancers of the colon, cervix, and breast. It provides large amounts of beta-carotene and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. In fact, kale gives its eaters more antioxidants than spinach or broccoli.
Eastern medicine looks to cabbage as a treatment for colds, whooping cough, irritability, depression, constipation, and stomach ulcers, and they’re onto something; the glutamine in cabbage acts as a natural remedy for peptic ulcers. Cabbage also promotes general intestinal health, along with easing allergic reactions, reducing inflammation, and strengthening bones.
Cabbage is another leafy green full of important vitamins. One cup of cabbage can provide 50% of the RDA for vitamin C, which is actually 11% higher than oranges. That serving of cabbage can also supply 91% of the RDA for vitamin K along with abundant manganese, folate, vitamin B6, and fiber.
Like kale, cabbage contains high levels of sulforaphane antioxidants which neutralize free radicals harming DNA. Sulforaphanes also cause the body to release enzymes which nullify carcinogens trapped in the body. Cabbage and related vegetables are better at reducing cancer risk than any other fruits and vegetables, and researchers believe this dual-action attack is the reason.
For being as remarkably low-calorie as it is, watercress provides an amazing array of nutrients. Compared on a calorie-to-calorie basis, watercress supplies four times as much calcium as milk, more iron than spinach, and as much vitamin C as oranges. Like other leafy greens, it’s full of carotenoid antioxidants and vitamins A and K.
The combination of nutrients in watercress help strengthen the immune system, build healthy bones, and transport oxygen through the body more efficiently. Some compounds in watercress help to block carcinogens and protect healthy cells; there’s even evidence that watercress can help to destroy cancer cells.
Natural health proponents use watercress to treat urinary problems, jaundice, mumps, sore throat, and bad breath. Traditional Chinese medicine uses watercress to improve night vision, reduce tumors, and improve digestion.
Spinach can do quite a lot. It contains 1111% of the RDA of vitamin K, which helps calcium stick to bone. Popeye’s favorite snack is also a great source of iron, folate, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A and C. It contains a carotenoid antioxidant which destroys prostate cancer cells and keeps them from spreading, and the large concentration of folate lowers the risk of breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers. The vitamin C and beta-carotene reduce inflammation and work to prevent colon cancer.
Aside from all that, spinach also helps to prevent heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure, protect against dementia and promote general brain health, and prevent eye disorders.
If you’re asked the question about which food you’d want with you if stranded on an island, beans should be one of top choices. Beans are a very complete food; they contain protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and antioxidants. Red beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans are in the top four on the USDA’s list of most antioxidant-rich foods. They also provide good amounts of vitamins B1, B2, and K as well as folate, magnesium, and potassium. Soybeans even supply omega-3 fatty acids.
Harvard researchers found that women who have two or more servings of beans per week have a 24% lower chance of developing breast cancer. Many studies have linked beans to reduced risks of breast and colon cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
Beans have many functions in Chinese medicine; various forms have been used to treat rheumatism, alcoholism, food poisoning, diarrhea, edema, high blood pressure, kidney stones, and myriad other disorders.
Sure, they have a strong odor and flavor, but onions are also strong in antioxidants. They contain a natural antihistamine called quercetin, which reduces allergy symptoms, and large amounts of vitamin C to fight off colds and flu. Onions provide a peptide which helps prevent bone loss and sulfides which lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Eating onions lowers the risk of prostate, esophageal, and stomach cancers as well as the risk of death from heart disease. They’re even a pain reliever; onions contain anti-inflammatories which help ease arthritis.
Chinese medicine uses carrots as a sort of all-purpose medicine; it treats night blindness, ear infections, indigestion, tumors, rheumatism, and many other ailments. Given the high number of caretenoid antioxidants delivered by carrots, this is not surprising. Studies have linked caretenoid-rich diets to lower risk of cancers of the breast, cervix, prostate, bladder, esophagus, and larynx. Some studies indicate that carrots also reduce the risk of kidney, ovarian, and lung cancers. On the other hand, people whose diets are low in carotenoids have a higher risk of chronic diseases, such as various cancers and heart disease.
One compound in carrots, alpha-carotene, may be able to prevent tumor growth. Carrots are full of vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Nutrients provided by carrots help to maintain healthy ears and eyes, boost the immune system, protect the colon, and work against cardiovascular disease.
Broccoli combines an amazing amount of nutrition into one simple food. A cup of steamed broccoli provides about twice the RDA amounts of vitamins C and K, 50% of the RDA for vitamin A, and a strong supply of B vitamins, fiber, sulfate, folate, and iron. It also contains protein; in fact, it contains almost two times as much protein as steak.
Broccoli is full of anti-cancer nutrients called indoles, which inhibit tumor growth and help the body rid itself of carcinogens. Research has shown that broccoli can be linked to reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, esophagus, stomach, breast, cervix, and skin. Other studies have found that eating broccoli can reduce the risk of heart disease by 20%.
Cherries can fight bacteria and viruses, and they also contain a multitude of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Anthocyanins act as natural painkillers. They also reduce the risk of colon cancer and lower uric acid in the blood, which cuts the risk of gout. The quercetin and ellagic acid found in cherries can help reduce tumors and cause cancerous cells to self-destruct.
Cherries are used to treat anemia, arthritis, and gout in Chinese medicine.
Guavas are still somewhat rare in the U.S., but they’re worth looking for. They are full of vitamin C and potassium; in fact, a serving of guava contains 60% more potassium than a serving of banana.
Guavas are also a wonderful source of lycopene, an antioxidant which fights cancer. Guavas actually contain 20% more lycopene than tomatoes.
Lycopene defends cells against free radicals which can cause cancer, clog arteries, cause joint pain, and irritate the nervous system. Lycopene has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and lower the risk of prostate cancer. In men who had already been diagnosed with prostate cancer, men who took lycopene supplements improved more quickly than men who did not. Some research suggests that lycopene may also work to prevent coronary artery disease.
Kiwifruit has a unique property; it actually makes itself more edible when someone cuts into it by releasing enzymes which cause the flesh to become more tender. This is a fortunate thing; kiwifruit is one of the most nutrient-rich fruits around. It supplies more potassium than bananas, more fiber than apples, and more vitamin C than oranges.
Kiwifruit is also a natural blood thinner without the stomach-irritating side effects of aspirin. It helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and lessen the formation of dangerous blood clots. The antioxidants in kiwifruit reduce the oxidation which damages DNA and even encourage the damaged cells to heal themselves.
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