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Food is so much more than just fuel for our bodies. Research shows that the food we eat can directly affect our health. For example, eating something deemed unhealthy can make us more at risk for heart disease, while other foods can almost act as medicine, helping heal us when we’re sick or preventing us from getting sick in the first place.

Trupti Sarang is a clinical pharmacist from Austin, Texas, who is a firm believer that the food we eat directly affects our health. She has had a lifelong thirst for knowledge about nutrition, herbs, fitness, and natural medicine. She is a huge proponent of taking a holistic approach to one’s health. Such an approach includes the fact that food has the ability to heal. She shares her insight into the different ways that food can act as medicine for the body.

Food and a Healthy Body

Foods with lots of nutrients have been proven to make people healthier. For example, our bodies need vitamins and minerals to survive and food is the best way to get these vitamins and minerals. Examples of important vitamins include vitamins C, E, D, A, and B-12. Studies have shown that when our bodies have insufficient amounts of such vitamins, it can put us more at risk for heart disease, immune dysfunction, and even cancer. Further, plant-based foods, such as fruit, vegetables, lentils, and beans, contain plenty of beneficial compounds, namely antioxidants. Consuming foods that are high in antioxidants has been proven to reduce one’s risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.

Fiber is another essential part of a healthy diet, which is why eating foods high in fiber (vegetables, beans, and grains) can help protect you against disease and inflammation. Lastly, a healthy diet must also include protein and healthy fats. Trupti Sarang claims that examples of healthy foods that are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, tofu, fish, poultry, yogurt, and cheese. What exactly do protein and fat do to your body? According to Sarang, they contain amino acids that help in areas like immune function and metabolism, as well as reduce inflammation and ensure a healthy heart.

Food and Disease

Trupti Sarang claims that the main way food acts as medicine is through its ability to reduce your risk of disease. Studies have shown that regularly eating a nutritious diet can lower your risk of disease while eating an unhealthy diet of highly processed foods can actually increase your risk of disease. Specifically, a diet that is rich in plant-based foods can help fight off disease. The Mediterranean diet is one example of a healthy diet. This regimen is high in whole grains, fatty acids, and vegetables.

Research has indicated that adopting a Mediterranean diet can specifically reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. Plant-based diets, such as veganism, or the paleo diet have also been shown to safeguard your body against disease. In addition to these diets improving your physical health, studies have also shown that those who adhere to a Mediterranean or plant-based diet experience lower rates of depression and better quality of life.

Foods with Medicinal Properties

Trupti Sarang says that there are plenty of foods with medicinal properties. This means that you’re guaranteed to find at least one healthy food you like that you can incorporate into a dinner or lunch recipe. Some of Sarang’s favorite foods that have powerful medicinal properties include berries, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, green vegetables (broccoli is her number one), mushrooms, and green tea (especially matcha). Another type of medicinal food that Sarang is a big proponent of is herbs. Many people don’t realize that herbs, including parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, and basil, not only provide a major boost of flavor, they also contain plenty of health-promoting compounds.

Even better, herbs are very easy to add to almost any meal, whether it’s the salad, meat or fish, or even dessert. Similarly, spices have lots of known medicinal properties as well and can be easily added to healthy recipes. Spices known for their health benefits include turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Fun fact: Turmeric has been used to treat arthritis and metabolic syndrome. Overall, Trupti Sarang urges everyone to think about what they’re putting in their bodies and to consider incorporating more foods with medicinal properties into their diets.