You may know which foods are good for health, but what about foods that heal? Researchers are now learning some foods actually have healing benefits.
Not everyone loves vegetables, but they are important for health and can help a person heal.
"The nice thing about some of these vegetables is that we're finding chemicals in them that help the body's immune system recognize cells that may be going astray. So they may be one of the first lines of defense for cancer protection," said Patti Milligan, a nutritionist from Sprouts Market.
The good news includes more than vegetables. Now there is a pyramid of healing foods, and the base of the pyramid is very important.
"This one's unique in that the bottom is water. And it makes sense because 80 percent of us is water. All the reactions in the body happen in water," Milligan said.
Fruits and vegetables are next in the pyramid, packed full of healing chemicals and the ability to process some of the "junk" in our environment.
"It turns out broccoli and squash really help the liver deal with some of the toxins we take in," Milligan said.
Studies prove these so-called "healing foods" can help fight five disease conditions including cancer, immune system disease and diseases of the skin and eyes.
They also fight the biggest killer out there, heart disease, thanks in large part to healthy fats.
"It's the omega 3 fatty acids, good fish fats, and the good oils in nuts that feed our brain that seem to tell our bodies not to make as much cholesterol," Milligan said.
As you travel up the pyramid the amount and frequency of these foods decline.
"A smaller category now is dairy. We've got yogurt and cheese and eggs, moving up again, the flesh proteins -- get your fish and lean cuts of meats."
So, for optimum results drink 8-12 cups of water a day and eat 4-11 servings of whole grains and beans. A minimum of 3 servings of healthy fats and 1-3 servings of dairy are important. Don't forget to include a variety of healing herbs and spices.
"I like this category of seasonings, where tumeric, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger all have great phytochemicals that seem to help the body," said Milligan.
"And eating to heal doesn't mean no more fun! The top of the healing foods pyramid includes red wine, green tea and my personal favorite ... dark chocolate," said 10News anchor Carol LeBeau.
And when you eat to feel good, Milligan says there's so much to choose from, you won't even miss your favorite processed foods.
"Hopefully it'll crowd out the idea that people don't have to give up stuff. You concentrate on getting all these foods in and at the end of the day, you don't have time for the junk!"
The "healing" in healing foods doesn't necessarily mean a cure. Patti milligan calls it restorative healing, using foods to strengthen the body's natural defenses.
For more information, visit:University of Michigan Department of Integrative Medicine
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