FOOD: A Preventive Medicine!

Eating Vegetable Salad is a healthy habit

They say the future doctors will be “Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merry-man”.

A specific quote from the bible says that a merry heart doeth good like medicine.

And here I am declaring that food can be a preventive medicine!

So let me explain myself with this simple joke conversation; someone was once asked:

QUESTION: A good doctor vs. a good cook, Choose one

ANSWER: A good cook!


ANSWER: If I eat properly, I will hardly need the service of a doctor and even if I need the service of one, it definitely will not be soon.

As funny as this may sound, there is some real truth in such reasoning. Permit me to say that good food translates to good health (emphasis on Good Food as in Healthy-Eating). Food is the fuel on which the body runs and the quality of the fuel will determine the efficiency and of course, the durability of the engine.

Food basically provides the body with the nourishment it needs. This nourishment supplies the body with the necessary nutrients for prompt replacement of worn out tissues, maintain the body’s metabolic processes, provide energy and vitality, etc.

However, there are other essential components of foods that are not exactly nutrients but have been proven to have some functional properties that are beneficial to the body. In fact, some of them have been indicated as being medicinal and known to fight diseases.

Phytochemicals and the Protective Properties of Food

It has long been acknowledged that certain compounds in plant foods, though non-core nutrients are very protective of the human body. These are collectively referred to as Phytochemicals (Phyto = Plant origin).

Unlike the well known vitamins and minerals, scientific research is still yet to concretely establish its nutritional value. But inconclusive evidence so far, is suggestive of their protective roles in guarding against cardiovascular diseases and cancers. They seem to have different mechanisms of actions as some act like Anti-Oxidants while others seem to behave like endogenous hormones. Some of these phytochemical have been extracted in the past and used for the production of medicines to treat diseases. One of such is Quinine.

Leafy Green Vegetables- SpinachAnti-oxidants from fruits and vegetable are increasingly gaining popularity as they have been proven to prevent the oxidation of free radicals in the body by providing the necessary ions to neutralise such free radicals. This action slows down the development of atherosclerosis (plaques in blood vessels), high blood pressure, diabetes and possibly prevents the onset of some cancers. These powerful agents may offer protection from diseases and have been postulated to even slow down aging.

Here are a few of such phytochemicals and their common food sources:

Polyphenols:  Green tea, grapes, red wine

Isoflavones:  Soy beans

Phenolic acid: Tomatoes, citrus fruits, carrots, whole grains, nuts

Allyl sulphides: Onions, garlic, leek

Indoles: Cabbage

Lycopene: Tomatoes

Flavanoids: Fruits

Lutein: Green leafy Vegetables (e.g. Green and Ugwu)

CAUTION: Over the years, several companies have produced and marketed several products laden with some of the compounds as magical food supplements. I call this a note of caution because there are many other things marketing don’t tell you about food supplements! As already noted, most of the research on these phytochemicals are not yet conclusive. Besides, the food supplement industry is not under any form of strict rules or prohibition since they are not exactly drugs/medication.

In the interest of #Healthy-living, the current best advice still remains: Eat a good dose of fruits and vegetables daily! Therefore plant sources of fruits & fibres are not only excellent for their easy satiety, they are also good medicine for the body!


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