The Miracle Of Food
To most of us, miracle drugs are the brainstorms of pharmaceutical geniuses -- magic bullets concocted in a laboratory to cure all our ailments, large and small. But many scientists are increasingly engaged in a search for a far different treasure of drugs that were created on this planet millions of years ago. These drugs come from other living creatures and plants. They are the stuff we put in our mouths, often unconsciously, every day.
These substances, too, are miraculous -- awesome in their ability to affect our well-being. In the larger scheme of things, the miracles these food essences continually perform inside our cells, outside our awareness, are very tiny. But they are major miracles in the lives of cells, changing forever their destiny -- and consequently our destiny, with their cumulative effects.
Who can say it is not a minor miracle that garlic can kill cancer cells? That substances in spinach can imprison and paralyze the virus that otherwise would cause cervical cancer? That an obscure compound in asparagus and avocados in test tube experiments stopped the proliferation of the virus responsible for the greatest infectious tragedy of our day -- AIDS? That cabbage compounds can help detoxify our bodies of twentieth-century air pollutants -- a job never anticipated at the time of the plant's creation? That compounds, spun out by plants to fight off their own destruction, become angels of mercy inside our bodies to prevent blood dots fomented by a fatty diet out of control? That particles freed by digestion from the fibrous structure of plants can tell our liver to cool down its cholesterol output? That chemicals from the plant kingdom can enter our brains and affect the transmission of messages among neurons, influencing our mood, our memories, our alertness -- everything we cherish as distinguishing our humanness.
Make no mistake about it eating is not a trivial event for the billions upon billions of cells that constitute your being. As scientists, for the first time in human history, have begun to vigorously investigate and appreciate, the act of eating is of great consequence, a communion with nature that promotes life or death. The choice is increasingly ours, as new scientific discoveries uncover the enormous impact of our everyday diets on our prospects for health and longevity.
New research shows that food can bestow health and vigor, freeing us of minor discomforts and protecting us from devastating diseases. Or it can make us ill and miserable.
Food can quicken the brain and lift our mood. It can infuse our brains with spurts of electrical energy that make us think faster and perform better. It can quiet our distress as surely as a prescription tranquilizer can, or it can make us drowsy and play havoc with our concentration. It can pull us out of depression or reduce us to panic. Food can set in progress silent attacks that erode our joints and clog our arteries -- and it can help reverse the damage. The type of food we eat as children or young adults may subtly alter our brain chemistry, leaving us in middle age the victims of muscle destroying multiple sclerosis or in old age with the tremors of Parkinson's disease.
Food can promote aberrant activity within cells that years later end up as cancerous growths. Conversely, food can release agents that literally vaporize cancer-causing chemicals or extinguish chain reactions of molecules that roar through the body, ripping apart the membranes of healthy cells, corrupting their genetic good intentions or leaving them to die. Even after abnormal cell growths have emerged on their way to becoming cancer, food can cause them to shrink or disappear. Or when the wandering cells from a breast cancer are scouting for new places to attach and grow, food's emissaries can create a hostile surface that cannot be colonized by cancer cells.Foods can also
- keep the lens of the eye from becoming opaque with cataracts in old age
- dilate air passages, easing breathing
- rejuvenate cilia, the tiny beating hair-wings in the lungs that help wave off emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- create substances that cause flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis or mute the arthritic's pain and swelling
- trigger headaches and asthma attacks as well as prevent them
- increase the stomach's resistance to ulcers
- reverse the redness, itching and pain of psoriasis
- Stimulate the body to make more natural killer cells and interferon to ward off infections
- attack bacteria and viruses with a vigor equal to that of laboratory-made drugs
- cure diarrhea in infants and constipation in the elderly
- alter immunity, chasing away common colds and hay fever
In heart disease, food is a prime player. Food can set in motion destructive processes that leave arteries narrow and stiff just right for the formation of blood clots that cause heart muscle to suffocate and die. Conversely, food can supply a chemical armada that circulates in the blood, disarming the artery's enemies and even scrubbing away some of their dangerous handiwork from artery walls. Food can create blood-clot solvents, blood thinners and cholesterol reducers. Food can stimulate insulin release and control blood sugar surges. Food can send hormones to relax artery walls, reducing blood pressure.
Food can interfere with the so-called natural processes of aging. Food can deter the body's deterioration.
There is hardly a health problem or natural bodily process that is not influenced in some fashion by the substances you put in your mouth. Food is being redefined as powerful medicine -- medicine you can use in preventing and curtailing diseases of all kinds and in boosting mental and physical energy, vigor and well being.
Food is the breakthrough drug of the twenty-first century.
"Food folktales are not just fairy tales." -- David Kritchevsky, Ph.D., Wistar institute, Philadelphia