In Asia, food is more than sustenance. It’s medicine. It’s the key to long life. The world’s oldest healing sciences, such as Ayurveda, rely on diet as a means to healthy body, mind and spirit. “Without a proper diet, medicines are of no use; with a proper diet, medicines are unnecessary,” notes the Charaka Samhita, the oldest authoritative text on Ayurveda, dating perhaps as far back as 400 BCE.
I love that quote. Somehow, somewhere along the line, we seem to have morphed into a pill society. Most everyone seems to pop one or two or three a day. Don’t get me wrongâ€”I know and love many people who would not be here were it not for modern medicine to cure and control the diseases they have acquired along life’s way. But I also think there’s something to the ancient idea of eating for healthâ€”eating for prevention. And I can’t help but wonder: would we have so many “Western diseases” if we continued to eat the way our ancestors did?
Modern science is just beginning to prove, on its own terms, what many age-old cultures have told us for centuries. Asians have long consumed turmeric to fight inflammation (among numerous other conditions); today, curcumin, a key component in turmeric, is sold in pill form as a leading arthritis fighter. That’s just one example.
I’m so curious about these issues, I wrote an article about the healing properties of food, published today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Recipes included.) Asian cuisines are full of disease-fighting ingredientsâ€”the list goes on and on. Did you know basil has antibacterial properties and is recommended as a natural produce wash? And the Polynesians view coconut as a cure-all? It turns out, even the fat in coconut might protect against heart diseaseâ€”contrary to the long-held belief that it’s a “bad fat.”
Those lovely little green pea eggplants pictured above? One of my Thai cooking instructors told me they help lower cholesterol.
That noodle soup pictured below?
The herbs and spices contain elements capable of fighting everything from salmonella to cancer.
No wonder Asian meals are packed with vegetables and herbs. And most every trip to the market yields large bundles of greens….