This article gives a peek into a few more foods that have healing powers for various ailments.
Tea: Tea is the oldest and most popular beverage that is drunk all over the world. There are various types of teas – Black, Green, Oolong or Ponchong or red tea that are available. Drinking tea helps revitalises a person and has many health benefits. Hot tea has an important prophylactic role as it helps induce perspiration and stimulates the metabolic processes in the body. Tea also contains alkaloids that help revitalise a person by relieving mental fatigue. Tea also contains low doses of caffeine which contributes to the mild stimulating effect and theophylline which is responsible for its bronchodilator action that provides some relief to asthmatics. Tea contains very large amounts of bioactive phytochemicals – polyphenols and flavonoids that are responsible for most of the health benefits of tea. Both polyphenols and flavonoids are powerful antioxidants and help improve cardiovascular function. Studies have shown that green tea helps reduce the abnormal development and growth of cells of the cervix (cervical dysplasia) caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Studies have also shown that green tea has anticancer properties particularly against bladder, oesophageal, ovarian and pancreatic cancers and has also been shown to reduce the risk of or delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease and reduce elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Tea contains large amounts of tannins that are known to interfere with iron absorption from a meal and hence it is best to avoid drinking tea along with meals or immediately after that.
Here is an effective remedy to relieve a sore throat. Take a cup of warm black tea and add a pinch of salt to it and gargle. Do this three to four times a day and you should feel better. Tea polyphenols have also been shown to have bactericidal and bacteriostatic action which reduced the chances of developing infections.
Garlic and onion: These are vegetables that belong to the allium family. Alliums contain sulphur compounds such as diallyl sulphide, triallyl methyl sulphide, diallyl disulphide, ajoene and allicin that are powerful phytochemicals. Both garlic and onion possess antioxidant, anticancer, hypo-lipedemic and hypo-cholesterolemic properties. They help lower the levels of serum triglycerides and serum cholesterol. Garlic helps reduce the thickness of the blood thereby preventing the formation of a blood clot. Research studies have shown that onion contains similar compounds that make the platelets less sticky thereby preventing them from sticking to each other, forming clots that can block the blood flow. Crushing garlic flakes helps activate the allicin making it more effective. Onions have a number of medicinal benefits. They are used as insect repellents and also in home remedies to provide relief from colds and coughs. A mixture of onion juice along with honey is a common home remedy for cough while onion juice, honey and black pepper powder is useful in asthma as it reduces chest congestion and wheezing. Onions and garlic are good sources of fructo-oligosaccharides which act as a prebiotic by stimulating the growth of good bacteria which suppresses the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the colon. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of tumours developing in the colon.
Turmeric or haldi: Turmeric comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant that has been traditionally used as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent in the treatment of wounds and other skin ailments. Turmeric contains a particular type of phenolic compound called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that curcumin and turmeric have antimutagenic and anticancer properties and have also been shown to be effective against Alzheimer’s disease in animal models. A glass of hot milk with a pinch of haldi is a common household remedy for a cold and sore throat. Curcumin is fat soluble and needs to be absorbed in the presence of fat. Hence haldi should be fried along with the seasonings in oil. Black pepper has also been found to increase the absorption of cucurmin. Supplements containing haldi extracts or curcumin should be taken after a meal as the fat in the meal helps in its absorption.
Prunes: Prunes are dried plums and are considered as a laxative food. They contain natural sugars mainly glucose and fructose which contribute to its caloric value. Prunes also contain sorbitol – a natural sugar alcohol – and are rich sources of soluble and insoluble dietary fibres which along with sorbitol is responsible for the laxative action of prunes. Prunes are rich in potassium and iron and have a high content of polyphenol antioxidants that help protect LDL from oxidation thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
To be continued . . .
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on email@example.com)