Healing is multidimensional. It means something different to each and every one of us. For many, it’s crucial Western medicine. For others, it’s in herbs, movement, and rest. One thing is for certain: we all need to eat, and we can choose to eat medicinally.
The earth has supplied us with a renewable source of wisdom and medicine that we can nurture and lovingly prepare as often as possible, if we choose to do so. Certified nutritionist, co-author of The Wellness Remodel, and nutrition contributor to Carrie Underwood’s Find Your Path, Cara Clark, shared with us her expert list of immune-boosting foods to heal and protect in uncertain times.
To Clark, medicinal food is “rich in nutrients that promote a healthy immune system and protect my body from pathogenic infections. The reason I say ‘my body’ is because each of us is different.” This is the truth about all things wellness. Not all herbs, vitamins, supplements, foods, exercises, and remedies are right for everyone at any given time. It’s largely intuitive, and it takes study and tuning in to what our bodies require.
“While onions and garlic are at the top of my list, some people, especially those with intestinal troubles, need to avoid these foods. So it’s important that you are always your own biggest advocate, even when reaching for healthier foods to help you prevent and defy disease and illness,” Clark says. “Knowing your body and what works for you is one of the biggest tools to using foods as medicine, because we are all unique.”
When it comes to boosting our body’s natural immune response and strength, Clark encourages us to consider the typical vitamins and supplements we would take. Not all supplements are pure, highly absorbable, or effective. While supplementing can be key in many circumstances, getting your vital nutrients from food will serve the most medicinal purposes. Some necessary vitamins are obvious, like vitamins C and D, but it’s easy to overlook other crucial nutrients, like the trace minerals zinc and selenium. Here is Clark’s list of foods that best support these health-boosting efforts:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, as well as a building block of collagen. It’s crucial for both skin health and immune strength.
Vitamin D helps us regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, so it’s a vital component of healthy bones, teeth, hair, and nails. It also builds our resistance against certain diseases. Studies even show it is important for our mood and mental well-being, as it can ward off depression.
Zinc is important for immune and metabolism function, as well as speeding up wound and skin healing.
Selenium is also a superhero antioxidant, and fights against early signs of aging. It’s essential for heart health, thyroid health, and some studies even note it can potentially prevent cognitive decline.
Nuts (especially Brazil nuts)
According to Clark, many foods contain the compounds commonly used in modern medicine. They’re mostly found in the form of spices and herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, and cloves for inflammation and more. Not only do these make your meals and elixirs more delicious, aromatic, and beautiful, but they also increase the medicinal benefits. Clark reminds us, “These are all foods, spices, and herbs to add into your regular healthy lifestyle. Don’t just save them for times when you think you need the extra support.”
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