I love thinking of how various foods help your mind, body, and spirit in different ways. We’ve gone over best stress-busting foods, libido-boosting foods, immune-system foods, and mind-clearing foods. Lately though I’ve become interested in best healing foods, partly because I’ve been unusually prone to injuries and minor illnesses. These ailments haven’t really required going to the doctor’s (think falling, cutting and scraping, creaky joints, inflammation). But I’m taking it as a sign that my body wants a little more TLC from healing foods to help restore it. Here are some of the best healing foods around to speed recovery, mend injuries, and prevent chronic diseases.
1. Spices: To heal from injuries and illnesses, your body starts inflammation process. But while this inflammation process is necessary especially as a response to an acute injury, chronic inflammation is actually damaging to your tissues and overall health. Spices are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods out there: fresh ginger (anti-inflammatory, stomach and GI soothing, nausea), cinnamon (good for blood sugar, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial), turmeric (anti-inflammatory). Cloves are anti-bacterial and mildly anesthetic. I like to use garam masala or 5 spice powder to get the healing power from several of these spices at once: they both taste amazing with your quinoa or rice pilaf, tofu scramble, sauteed vegetables, and curries. Or try making your own DIY chai blend.
2. Maca: In addition to stabilizing your hormones and giving you energy, maca also helps heal wounds faster. It’s also a great source of vitamins C, E, and B, and calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein, so that your body can be well-supported through your healing process.
Maca Miso Dressing– 2 birds with 1 stone!
3. Seaweed and Kelp: seaweed is one natural ingredient that doesn’t just have nutritional value, but medicinal one. Seaweed has been studied for cancer treatment, shrinking goiters, lowering cholesterol, lowering toxicity of the body, dissolving tumors and cysts. There are many different kinds of seaweed to experiment with so have fun with it! Make vegan sushi at home with dried nori, or lightly coat with sesame oil, sprinkle with salt, and toast the nori sheets over open flame for Korean gim snack (you can also find these at natural stores like Whole Foods). I keep dried wakame at home for a quick energizing miso broth: just boil a little water, add a few sprigs of wakame (they expand a lot) and boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add a teaspoon of miso, and stir. I love hijiki in macrobiotic bowls with black beans and tofu, and colorful vegetables.
4. Vitamin K: Vitamin K is not just essential for blood-clotting, the first step to stopping and healing an injury. If you bruise easily, have gum bleeding or calcification of cartilage (think creaky knees or osteoarthritis), vitamin K deficiency may be to blame. Vitamin K is essential to both healing injuries and maintaining bone health. A serving of kale has whopping 1180% of your daily vitamin K needs, followed by spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens.
5. Fermented soy products like tempeh and miso: There are actually 3 different kinds of vitamin K, and one of them, vitamin K2, is just founded in fermented soy products. Miso is a high-sodium food but studies have shown that it actually supports cardiovascular health. It contains antioxidants Vitamin E, Vitamin B2, zinc and manganese, and even phytonutrients. It reduces the risk of several types of cancers including breast, colon, lung, and prostate.
6. Beets: Its brilliant red color means beets boast an amazing anti-oxidant content. Studies have shown beets reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and help protect against cancer and heart disease.
What are some of the foods your mom used to make when you were sick or injured and not feeling your best?
Photo: Steven Depolo via Flickr; Mary Hood; Jessica Renae