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Foods can help the healing process in two ways. First, when you eat healthful foods, you provide your cells and organs with the nutrients needed for optimal functioning. Such foods also support your body's natural healing processes. Second, when you avoid harmful foods, you stop creating the conditions for diseases to set in and allow your body's natural healing processes to take over.
How foods that we eat can benefit us
Food might be beneficial in the following ways:
- Real natural foods nourish our body and mind optimally. They contain more nutrients compared to foods produced through chemical-based agriculture.
- Organically grown natural foods are free of harmful substances such as pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, antibiotics and chemical additives. Without such chemical toxins, our body and mind have much more vitality.
- Foods that are unprocessed or minimally processed, such as unpolished brown rice, wholemeal flour, virgin olive oil and natural sea salt, have most of their nutrients intact. They also do not contain harmful chemical additives. Natural sea salt, for example, contains over 80 minerals whereas refined salt is virtually pure sodium chloride.
- Certain "superfoods" are functional foods that are exceptionally rich in nutrients and may be taken regularly to enhance health.
- Certain foods have specific effects on the body that can help with specific diseases. Garlic and many other pungent herbs have powerful antibiotic properties and can protect us even against bacteria that are resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics. The medium-chain and short-chain fatty acids from coconut oil have similar anti-microbial properties. Ginger is effective in preventing motion sickness.
How foods that we eat can harm us
Foods might also be harmful in several ways:
- Some foods contain toxic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, flavour enhancers, etc. Some even contain artificial "goodness" in the form of synthetic vitamins. These chemicals are present only in tiny amounts, so they don't immediately kill us or make us sick. But their effects accumulate and worsen over time. Actually, small doses of toxic chemicals often do produce immediate effects, except that the symptoms are vague, such as tiredness and a general feeling of unwell.
- Some foods are harmless - or even nutritious-to most people but can provoke adverse reactions in a small number of people who are allergic or intolerant. Such foods include milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts and seafood. Allergic reactions can be as serious as death. But when people are merely intolerant or sensitive, they may again develop only vague symptoms.
- Some foods are harmless in small amounts, but harmful when taken in excess. Alcohol and coffee are good examples. Sugar has similar effects. Excessive consumption of sugar can lead to metabolic diseases like abesity, diabetes and behavioural disorders. Likewise, omega-6 fatty acids are essential, but too much of them relative to omega-3 fatty acids can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases like allergy, eczema asthma, heart disease and brain malfunctions.
- Some foods-in fact, most modern foods-lack essential nutrients, due to modern farming and food processing techniques. Refined white wheat flour is almost pure starch. The refining process strips off most of the protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre. Foods made from refined ingredients satisfy only our hunger and taste buds, but not our nutritional needs. They may not actively harm us, but do so passively by failing to provide the body with what it needs for optimal health. Over time, you will develop diseases of malnutrition.
This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.