“Food is Medicine”
You probably heard that “food is medicine” and that “you should eat your veggies” or “eat the rainbow,” but did anybody ever explain to you the how and why.
Your body evolved with nature.
When you think about eating your veggies, you mostly think about getting your macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) from them alongside a bunch of vitamins and minerals. So you might think about what you can get from them, But there is so much more to your relationship with veggies.
What are Secondary Metabolites?
Did you know that plants have thousands of chemical compounds that we know little about?
Plants have this problem; they are rooted to the ground, so their ability to run away from predators is limited. Moreover, plants can not speak or yell for help, limiting their ability to communicate with other species in the natural world.
Plants are intelligent beings, so they developed a chemical language of signaling. Plants produce a diverse array of chemicals that deter predators or attract pollinators. These chemicals might manifest as form, smell, taste, or toxicity. They are meant to communicate: stop and be aware of the danger you might encounter or come close to; let’s play.
Did you ever go into a patch of stinging nettle with shorts? I bet this is an experience that you are always going to remember.
Like in animals and humans, plants, too, have optimal stress levels that allow them to grow and thrive.
Too much stress is overwhelming and depleting. However, not enough stress quashes any need for growth and development. The goldilocks effect is the sweet spot where stress and anxiety motivate you to learn new things and master new skills.
When a plant is in this sweet spot, it produces all kinds of metabolites that protect it and communicates what it learned from its stressful experience.
Take, for example, the mint family. The blossoms of the mint family are inconsequential to us. They do not carry any shape or color that appeals to our eyes. But for bees, they are a great attraction. Mints grow on the hills of the Mediterranean, where the sun rays reflect from exposed rocks creating a warming and drying atmosphere. The mints evolved to develop highly concentrated volatile oils that are antiseptic and antioxidant in a drought year. Mints bring warming, drying, and relaxing qualities when used as medicine. Think about thyme for damp cold cough or peppermint for stagnant digestion. What they learned about hot, dry ecology they gave to us.
A plant is a riot of thousands of different molecules
Human intuition is an expression of the interaction between
complex living systems
– Guido Masse
It’s a Dance!
Every time you touch, smell, taste, or ingest a plant, you directly contact these secondary metabolites that impact your inner ecosystem.
The relationship you have with these secondary metabolites is not one-sided. When they meet your internal chemical environment, they are broken down. In the process, new compounds are created that have different influences.
In its own way, your body developed a way to “listen” to the information these plants communicate, learn from it, and grow. The second metabolites are the compost of your inner ecosystem.
Vegetables are medicine
Usually, when we think about second metabolites, we think about herb constituents that make them such great medicine for us. But what is true for herbs is also true for the veggies in the produce market (or better yet, in the farmer’s market stool)
Vegetables have multi-layered benefits:
They contain fibers that feed your gut bacteria and support many body processes, from mood to immune modulation.
They are rich in vitamins and minerals essential to the optimal functioning of every cell in your body.
They establish a relationship with your inner ecology full of intelligence and, by doing so, nurture your overall well-being.
Next time you visit your grocery store and reach for the box of easy-to-make processed food, stop to evaluate what you are giving up by eating food that is high in calories but lacks this intelligence and connection that comes from eating whole plants.
Your body knows what to do with the plant; they, so to speak, “have a history.”
Your body does not know how to decode processed food messages and is left deprived of its innate need to connect, listen and receive from nature.
In Eat Well Bee Well, I focus on a healthy digestion and help you design a nutrient dense diet that is well balanced and fit your budget and lifestyle.
Join Eat Well Bee Well to learn:
- What are healthy carbohydrates.
- How to source healthy protein
- The oil change – my system of using only “good” oils
- How to shop for nutrient dense food on a budget.
- How to keep it simple in the kitchen