Foods As Medications
September 18, 2004
We're well-acquainted with the idea that certain foods can act as medicines. We've been warned away from eating a lot of eggs at one sitting, and saturated fats are to be eaten only in moderation. Trans fats should be avoided entirely. But until the last few years, I wasn't aware that some foods act as powerful positive medications. Tonight's Science News kicks off with a press release extolling the powers of broccoli not just as a cancer preventive elixer, but as a possible treatment modality for existing cancers! Four related articles have been included to expand upon this featured news item. Broccoli has also been cited previously as a possible treatment for stomach ulcers (suppressing the helicobacter pylori bacterium), and as an agent that improves vital glutathione production in aging organisms. Of course, other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts also possess similar cancer-fighting chemicals.
Onion and garlic also have well-known medicinal properties, and blueberries and strawberries have been shown to rekindle aging brains. The health benefits of red wine are also widely known. The reason we haven't heard more about this is probably at least in part because pharmaceutical companies aren't (understandably) advertising food on TV the way they're touting their own proprietary drugs. (Pharmaceutical companies are accountable to their shareholders... e. g., large pension funds... and all these investors care about is how much money they make.)
For most of us, foodstuffs may take weeks-to-years to show its medical effects, but apparently, they do make major differences. The old bromide, "You are what you eat." may contain a grain of truth, particularly as we grow older.
Foods probably have a combination of effects. This would mean that some foods may have effects that cause more harm than good, while other ingestibles offer effects that are, on balance, beneficial. Among the benign vegetables might be broccoli and the other cruciform vegetables, and spinach, kale, turnip greens, and other green, leafy vegetables. Fruits and vegetables that are strongly colored inside and out are the ones that come recommended by the heart and cancer societies. They would have been the vegetables that could most easily have been spotted by our primate predecessors living in tropical jungles, although just how that plays into evolution, I don't know. Other fruits and vegetables that are strongly colored inside and out would be beets, carrots, yams and sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries and other berries, oranges, peaches, and kiwi fruit.