Culinary Medicine: Healing Yourself With Food

The first line of defense against disease could be your dinner plate. The science of culinary medicine combats illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes with recipes and meals designed to heal. Learn how your diet can defend against the diseases you fear most.

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Food is medicine – that’s the mantra of culinary medicine. As a pioneer in the field, Dr. John La Puma maintains that food is the best way to prevent, treat and even reverse illness. He’s harnessed the power of a healthy diet to fight obesity, diabetes, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and depression. Even your cancer risk could be reduced – over 80% of cancers are caused by controllable lifestyle factors, which include diet.

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Boost Your Immunity!

Preventing illness can be as easy as knowing which foods to eat and how to prepare them. Take small steps to fighting disease today by introducing nutrient-dense B-I-T-E-S into your diet:

Full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, fiber and omega-3s, eating these superfoods just once a week can provide potent illness-fighting benefits. And that’s just for starters!

Discover the top five cancer-fighting superfoods and the best immunity-boosters to keep in your disease-defense arsenal.

Superfoods to Fight Cancer

1. Bulgur Wheat

A Turkish grain, this powerful superfood is packed with cancer-fighters including magnesium, zinc and fiber. Research has shown that pre-menopausal women eating more than 30 grams of fiber per day cut their risk of breast cancer in half. Just 1 cup of cooked bulgur wheat supplies 8 grams of fiber – one-third of your recommended daily dose.

Choose coarse bulgur wheat, which raises blood sugar more slowly than the finely ground variety. Use this grain as a replacement for rice and potatoes, add it to ground meats as an expander, or serve it as a side dish. To get the most flavor out of your bulgur, try toasting it in a dry, unoiled pan.

Dr. La Puma recommends 1 cup per day.

2. Limes

Both the skin and juice of this citrus fruit contain a natural flavonoid called hesperidin, a cancer-fighting powerhouse shown to help combat breast, colon, lung, and liver cancer.

To maximize cancer-fighting benefits, aim for a half-cup of fresh limejuice a day. Avoid drinking undiluted juice to protect your teeth. Make your own drink by blending together 3 peeled limes with 2 cups of cold water. You can also take advantage of the intense concentration of antioxidants in the fruit’s skin by zesting. Lime zest is perfect as a garnish on grain salads, a flavor-booster for drinks, or as a salt alternative when sprinkled on veggies.

3. Concord Grapes

Grown in the Northern United States, these dark grapes are known for their tart, musky flavor. Seeded wine grapes like the Concord variety have thick skin and a high concentration of polyphenols, including resveratrol, which has been shown to inhibit lymph, liver, stomach, and breast cancers. This powerful antioxidant is found mostly in the skin and seeds, so make sure to eat the entire grape.

Have up to 2 cups a week for maximum benefit. If you can’t find Concord grapes, make sure to choose red or purple types – they contain significantly more resveratrol than their green counterparts.

For a fun way to eat these superfruits, freeze and add them to your drinks in lieu of ice cubes. For an added antioxidant bonus, pop them in a glass of grape juice, which is also a good source of resveratrol. Try for 2 (5 ounce) glasses of grape juice a week.

For even more cancer-fighting benefits, indulge in a glass of red wine. This type of vino, especially Pinot Noir, has been proven to reduce the risk of renal, lung and ovarian cancers when consumed in moderation a few times a week. Be sure to speak with your doctor before adding any alcohol to your diet.

4. Arugula

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. This leafy green contains two cancer fighters called kaempferol and quercetin that are released when you chew. One study found eating a cup and a half of leafy greens, like arugula, per day reduced the risk of lung cancer by 15% in nonsmokers. Aim for the same portion in your diet daily.

Try arugula raw or tossed with olive oil and lemon, or pile it on top of pasta. You can also try baby arugula, which is sweeter and nuttier in flavor. Remember to chew thoroughly to activate its disease-fighting enzymes!

5. Bluefish

Bluefish is chock full of vitamin D, which studies have shown interferes with the growth of colon and breast cancer and can improve the survival rate of lung cancer. Aim for 1 (6 ounce) serving a week. Grill or bake the bluefish without using oil (oil leeches out the vitamin D) to unlock its health properties.

Super Immunity Boosters

Steel your body against a season of colds and the flu. Boost your immunity with these Oz-approved superfoods.

1. Tahini

A classic Mediterranean flavor, this peanut butter-like spread is made from ground sesame seeds. It contains two immunity-boosting ingredients: magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is vital for optimal immune function, while zinc protects against infection.

Try tahini with hummus or in an open-faced sandwich with honey and apple. It also makes a great dip for veggies. Mix 1 cup yogurt, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of tahini and the juice of 1 lemon for a nutritious and tasty spread. Eat 2 tablespoons of tahini each day; it will only cost you 180 calories and your immune system will thank you!

2. Black Pepper and Oregano

Although it’s known for making you sneeze, black pepper can actually help to ward off the sniffles. Black peppercorns are high in piperine, a compound with anti-inflammatory qualities that can reduce swelling in joints. Piperine also helps you absorb the benefits of other spices.

In its fresh leaf form, oregano releases aromatic oil that is antimicrobial and antiviral. It’s been shown to kill Staph bacteria on the skin and E. coli in food. It even fights off yeast infections! A study at Cornell University found that oregano was effective against 30 different germs! Experience the benefits yourself by crumbling a fresh leaf onto your pizza or pasta.

Try for 2 teaspoons of both black pepper and oregano per week to boost your immunity.

3. Pumpkin

Pumpkins contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant found in all bright orange, yellow and red fruits and veggies. Your body converts these carotenes into vitamin A, which is essential for a strong and healthy immune system. Pumpkins also contain zinc, a powerful immunity-booster.

Have a cup of pumpkin each day to obtain your daily-recommended dose of vitamin A. Mix a can of 100% pumpkin purée with a teaspoon of butter. Add a sprinkle of stevia and cinnamon. Heat the mixture in the microwave for a delectable side dish.

For a heartier main course, try Dr. La Puma’s Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Also, try Dr. La Puma's Honeyed Chinese Chicken for a complete stress-busting meal that improves blood flow, decreases fatigue, and improves mood.