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Food as Medicine - Immune Strengthening Foods

Chocolate, pomegranates, and chia seeds, every time you blink another superfood is being touted as the next greatest thing to heal body mind and soul... So how are you supposed to distinguish which foods are simply good for you, from the ones that are outstanding?

Well, when it comes to immunity, and fighting off diseases, certain plant based foods are better equipped to take on the task than others. But choosing is tricky; because even fruits and veggies that are technically healthy may not be under certain circumstances. For instance, before ordering that yummy kale salad for lunch, consider that kale is one of the Dirty Dozen (produce that retains the highest chemical residue). In addition to steering clear of the Dirty Dozen, familiarize yourself with the Clean 15, according to the Environmental Working Group, these foods are considered to contain the lowest amounts of pesticides. To discover more about healthy foods and how your body processes them, read on...

Food Combining

If it's true that the gut really is the second brain, then how does digestion and food combining factor into heath? According to Dr. Inna Lukyanovsky, Best Selling Author of "Crohn's and Colitis Fix" and “Digestive Reset,” Functional Medicine Practitioner and Doctor of Pharmacy, “There's a concept in nutrition you don't often hear about, called synergistic foods: when you combine certain foods, you potentiate their effects.” Which foods become stronger together? And how does it work? Dr. Lukyanovsky explains, “For example, eating raspberries alone will yield a certain number of antioxidants. And eating adzuki beans alone will yield a certain number... You can combine these foods and theoretically think their antioxidant numbers will be the combined effect.” What's amazing about this principle, is that together, certain foods have the ability to intensify the other's power. Like a beautiful collaboration born in nature, Dr. Lukyanovsky explains that the beans and raspberries miraculously become “at least 30 percent more potent when eaten together.”

Dr. Lukyanovsky sites another example... “When they were testing anticancer activity, they noticed that eating grapes will decrease the risk of breast cancer. And eating onions will decrease it too. But in combination they decrease it more that one and two put together!” Additionally, research supports the anti-cancer effects of combining vitamin C and E.

There are so many low fat and fat free foods on the market, advertising can fool you into believing all fats should be avoided. Not so. Previously, it was believed that you needed to combine fatty foods to properly absorb vitamin E. Although a recent study showed that you can consume the fat within a 12 hour period, and it's still effective. And if you think skipping salad dressing is the healthier choice, think again.  Another study found that adding oil to your vegetables helps absorb eight different micronutrients! When it comes to fats, Dr. Lukyanovsky recommends you consume “good fats like avocado with veggies.

Here's a look at some exceptional foods, worth integrating into your diet.

Maitake Mushrooms

AKA “Hen of The Woods,” these fungi can grow as large as a hundred pounds! With a savory taste and delicate texture, Maitake has an abundance of wellness benefits... known to boost immunity, the versatile mushroom is often studied for its anticancer properties. Read more about Maitake's link to fighting cancer on Sloan Kettering's Website. Because it's an adaptogen, it has the special ability to help the body lessen stress. It's also linked to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Considered a delicacy, it's easy to incorporate into soups, stir fries, and main dishes. Don't eat Maitake raw, or you'll miss out on its benefits, it needs head to activate its healthy magic. You can also find Maitake extract in tincture and capsule form, for holistic healing. Before taking, check with your medical professional on safety, side effects, and recommended dosage.

Blue (or Purple) Potatoes

Brilliantly colored Adirondack Blue is one of the most common types of blue potatoes. Considered heirlooms; for a breakdown of more varieties check out, Tucker Farms website. These blue beauties far surpass the healthiness of their paler sisters; the blue/purple is a powerful antioxidant called, Anthocyanin. They also contain calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Unlike other potatoes, blues contain significant amounts of phytonutrients, (powerful antioxidants). And research shows they may also lower blood pressure. Prepare them any way you’d normally cook other varieties of potatoes. Although, keep in mind, when it comes to the blues, less is more... because they are so flavorful, you may find they need little seasoning. Try them plain with a dash of sea salt and olive oil.


Juicy, tart, and bursting with vitamin C, lemons are easy to love; they are also powerful body cleansers: a research study showed that lemon juice decreased the growth of salmonella in toxic arugula. Lemon's are also being studied for their potential to help the body absorb carotenoids; so add a squirt of lemon juice to your carotenoid-rich sweet potatoes. Use liberally on salad, tea, yogurt, fish, water. Or make lemonade with a dash of immune boosting turmeric. To read more about health studies on lemons, along with recipes, check out food facts from Mercola.

*Be mindful with lemon, too much can strip away tooth enamel and cause heartburn.

Note: don't trash your lemon peel. It's rind contains a slew of vitamins and minerals. Although, if you do consume your peel, make sure it is organic, since the covering of fruit retains pesticide residue.

Pistachio Nuts

The ancient Romans and Greeks used pistachios for medicinal purposes. Today, these delectable snacking nuts are up there with the healthiest superfoods. Research explores their link to gut health and prevention of colon cancer. Compared to other nuts pistachios have a modest fat content. Plus, they’re rich in essential fatty acids, making them a terrific source of good fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Nutritional powerhouses, they boast high concentrations of plant sterols and esters, along with minerals, amino acids and Folate. If that's not enough, they also contain significant amounts of Lutein, a potent anti-inflammatory, which benefits eye health. Studies also show pistachio has the potential to regulate weight, blood pressure, and improve type 2 Diabetes.


Because it's an invasive species, often this lovely multicolored flowering succulent isn't appreciated for its health benefits. The leaves, stems, and flowers are all edible. Purslane can be on the bitter side and a bit chewy. So you'd prefer a gentler taste and texture, steam or sauté stems with a bit of olive oil. purslane’s benefits include, strengthened immunity, stronger bones, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Rich in B vitamins and minerals, it's worth noting that purslane is significantly higher in omega fatty acids both 3 and 6, than most greens; according to a health study, a compound in purslane that creates a relaxing, hypnotic effect that helps induce sleep. For a purslane dip and other recipes, check out: Hilda's Kitchen and Blog. And if you garden, consider growing your own. * allow them plenty of space so they won’t infringe on other plants.   

Maybe part of the reason why so many foods are thought to be super, is because they are. When it comes to nature and healthy plant-based foods, there's an abundance for the taking. The foods above are but a teensy sampling of nature's vast nutritional powerhouses. To learn more about healing foods, check out elderberry syrup, spicesbuckwheat, and pumpkin. Read about garlic, in Medical News Today, and adaptogens in Time Magazine.



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