In the 4th century Hippocrates said: “Let your medicine be your food and let your food be your medicine“. Let’s try to understand the meaning of those words and review the progress of our dietary habits from ancient to modern times and also the nutritional values of several unknown, misunderstood and forgotten food categories, which can give us health and longevity.
First of all, anyone who writes about diet for humans must take into consideration the general rules of healthy eating and also the personal temperament of each individual, depending on trends, heredity and pathology.
That being said, here are some important food categories, to take into consideration:
1st Category: Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
The leavened bread (bread with yeast) was known to the Greeks, at least from the early 5th BC Millennium and it was considered as sacred gift of the Goddess Demeter to the people. During the Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical periods, grains were the basal diet of the entire Mediterranean. It is worth noting that the lunch of the Pythagoreans was bread and honey and the ancient Romans and the modern Italians made the spaghetti their national food.
But, the whiter and more processed cereals and bread are, the less their strength and their nutritional value is. White flour does not contain anything other than starch, coming from the centre of the grain, which is an area very low in solar energy and nutrients. The pure process of whole grains, fermentation and baking are the right efforts of the ancient people to combine digestible, delicious and healthy eating.
Grain products contain complex carbohydrates, high quality proteins, beneficial lipids, abundant fibre and they are rich in vitamins, minerals and elements. Unfortunately, modern diets have deprived the diets of people of grain products (inadequately consider as “thickeners”); but, eliminate grain products from the daily diet is dangerous to the health.
Pulses are another important, but also misunderstood food category. Legumes, such as lentils, split peas, beans, chickpeas, etc, are foods rich in vegetable proteins, complex and high quality carbohydrates, abundant fibre and few beneficial fats. They also contain several vitamins and minerals, as required by the human body. But, because legumes do not contain essential aminoacids, the proteins, in order to be absorbed completely from the body, need grain products; so, legumes combined with grain products become a great and complete meal. Legumes are also classified as therapeutic foods, since their consumption reduces blood cholesterol and possibly protects from cancer, heart and circulatory system diseases; they also help diabetics to reduce the levels of sugar in their blood and they slow down the aging process.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are the most misunderstood food category from all plant foods. Our ancestors considered nuts as main food. The nuts were basal food for philosophers. Besides, nuts contain important ingredients, such as high quality proteins and carbohydrates, almost all the essential vitamins and minerals and the so-called anti-aging lipids, Omega 3 and Omega 6. For example, almonds contain 50% more calcium than all kinds of dairy products and 200% more iron than white meats; almonds are also rich in zinc, potassium and selenium. The same applies to walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc. The nuts should be eaten raw with fresh or dried fruit, with salad or cereal (muesli) but not toasted or salted.
Modern diets do not contain seeds and it is not good, as seeds contain Omega 3, Omega 6, unsaturated fatty acids and other beneficial substances, which may even inhibit several severe degenerative diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease. Seeds are rich in vitamins A, C, D, K, E, the whole complex of B and B12 and all minerals. They are also rich in proteins (30% -35%), chlorophyll, alpha and beta carotene, alkaloids. These substances are necessary to the smooth functioning of the human body. Special mention should be made of the tahini (sesame pulp) which in the antiquity was the star food of the Greeks and Romans warriors, athletes and Olympic medallists. Tahini with honey smeared on bread with a few raisins and cinnamon provide a perfect and delicious breakfast. Finally, by including seeds in our diet there is no risk of fattening. “The food must be prepared with seeds (pumpkin, flaxseed, sunflower, sesame, alpha-alpha, etc.) and other similar fruits; and if these foods are greasy, does not matter, because one can get enough by eating little”.
2nd Category: The olives and the olive oil
The olive tree in antiquity was the sacred tree of the goddess Athenà and a symbol of triumph, wisdom, abundance and health, while the “olive branch” was the sacred symbol of peace. The fruit of the olive tree, olives and their “gold juice”, olive oil, are two of the best foods we can eat, as they contain large quantities of vitamin A, E, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, micronutrients, etc. Pure olive oil has also anti-aging and therapeutic effects in many types of diseases. The olive oil and the pulp of olive leaves were used from ancient doctors and physiotherapists to treat illness and, using them raw as a salad dressing, are the best natural preventative health treatment.
Also, the pure raw olive oil does not thicken us, as it is very easily metabolized into energy from our body. However, the fry method of cooking leads to obesity!
3rd Category: Fresh and dried fruits and vegetables
The concept of health is directly associated with these foods.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential food for humans. The two top vegetables that help in longevity are garlic and onion. All ancient people knew the healing properties of these miracle foods.
Garlic and onion balance the blood pressure, they are both blood thinners to dissolve clots, lower the “bad” cholesterol, aid digestion and stomach diseases, enhancing the immune system and eliminate germs and microorganisms, by acting as antibiotics. Garlic is considered as equivalent to penicillin (but without its side effects) and may neutralize at least 23 different species of bacteria, 60 types of fungi, gangrene, infections and many kinds of epidemic diseases (typhoid, cholera). Onion is rich in silicon, phosphorus, iodine, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, zinc. Their use alleviates diabetes, infections, the lymphatic diseases, cancer, leukaemia etc. Furthermore, grapes, figs, pomegranates and apples are the kings of fruits. Man who does not eat any raw fruits and vegetables has serious health problems.
The forgotten dried fruits and vegetables, such as, figs, prunes, dates, raisins, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc, are great sources of minerals and trace of elements and they are recommended by all modern physiotherapists and dietitians. Dried fruits are premium quality sweets for all hours of the day, which provide us with strength and vigour. Dried fruits should be eaten before meals (half an hour) or between meals, rather than with meals. They contain antioxidant substances minerals and vitamins, which protect the immune system from aging and degeneration.
4th Category: Therapeutic and natural sweeteners
We all know that chemically processed sweeteners like white sugar, glucose, fructose, aspartame are fattening and gradually affect our health. However, most of the people do not know that Demerara sugar, molasses, pure honey, maple syrup can nourish and heal our bodies. These natural substances are very rich in vitamins, trace of elements and minerals. Specifically, two tablespoons of molasses containing 280 ml calcium, 10 ml iron, 14 ml copper, 1.170 ml potassium, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and B complex. Honey contains vitamins B1, B2, B12, A, C, E, K and salts and helps fight constipation, mental fatigue, eczema, infections, etc. Honey has antioxidant and antimicrobial action and cures many degenerative diseases, even impotence. An even stronger nutrient substance is royal jelly, which, as we all know, is the king of all natural supplements. We can use these sweet natural substances on fresh wholemeal bread, on muesli, in drinks or wherever we want.
5th Category: Fish
Fish contains high quality proteins, about 25%, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and several minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine, potassium, sodium, fluorine and manganese. It is easily digestible and, in combination with raw green salad and vegetables, is a perfect tonic meal. However, it is preferable to avoid farmed fishes, as they grow up with drugs and unnatural foods. But, even more dangerous is eating big fish; in fact, big fishes eat food from the bottom of the sea, which, in many areas, is polluted by heavy metals, especially mercury that settles on the top layer of the surface of the seabed.
Finally, the brewer’s yeast is a premium natural food supplement, containing large amounts of iron and other elements and all the vitamins of the series B. It has an antioxidant and anti-aging action.
In conclusion, let’s see the Basic rules for good health and longevity:
- Always prefer raw and organic foods; the consumption of raw food was one of the key secrets of longevity of the ancient Greek philosophers, because raw foods give to the body the necessary vital energy.
- Avoid as much as possible, packed and processed junk food, which is full of dangerous chemicals (antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, dyes, etc.);
- Limit the amounts of animal products and prefer fish;
- Add to your diet grains, pulses, seeds, fruits (fresh and dried) vegetables and olive oil;
- Avoid drinking tap water (because of the chemicals it contains) and the water in unhealthy plastic bottles; prefer the filtered water from carbon filters;
- Do not exclude from your diet completely salt, coffee and spirits, but eat and drink them with moderation; a glass of good quality red wine 3-4 times a week with lunch nourishes and helps the digestion;
- Prefer the juices of fresh fruit instead of soft drinks;
- Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly. Eat small amounts of food and several meals (for example, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner).
I would like point out that a healthy diet is a natural and powerful therapeutic tool, but the food alone is not enough to sustain humans in good health, if you do not combine it with exercise. “Food and exercise contribute mutually to maintain health”, said Hippocrates.
All the above is provided for information purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
ANTIQUE APOTHECARY® Herbalists do not diagnose disease, but we work with herbs and nutritional healing to support health and to improve your life’s quality.
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