With homecooked food, you can incorporate different ingredients to make your dishes healthy and of good quality. Aside from cooking proteins and incorporating vegetables for a balanced diet, you can also make use of our common aromatics and culinary herbs for better health. This is therapeutic cooking — preparing food that brings healing and overall wellness to your family. Or, you can call this “food as medicine.” Read more and how to make this a lifestyle.
- Related: Why Family Meals are Important
Practice Therapeutic Cooking at Home
Food does not only satisfy hunger. It should be our sources of nutrition that can bring health. But what if it can give more, such as healing?
Most of the culinary herbs that we use actually have a lot of healing properties and health benefits, but we only use them for the purpose of flavor. If we are aware of them, we can reap their healing properties and also protect our bodies from sickness.
Here are some of the most common kitchen ingredients in Filipino homes that are actually packed with compounds that are good for our bodies.
We love to use garlic when cooking and it’s a staple when we saute. Not only is it very aromatic, but it also adds a lot of flavor to a dish. Moreover, it contains allicin — a compound that lowers blood pressure and improves arterial stiffness, thereby preventing stroke.
However, to reap the health benefits of garlic more than just the flavor and aroma, it is best to eat them raw or add them when the dish is cooked.
- Cooking tip: To get all the goodness of garlic, from the aroma, flavor, and health benefits, you can saute garlic and add some when the dish is almost done.
Most Filipinos are now complaining about the very high prices of onions. Worldwide inflation has been unprecedented. But onions are just so good with stews, soups, and even salads.
The best thing is, onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides, and reduce cholesterol levels. This makes onions good for the heart because it lowers the risk of heart disease. Plus, their potent anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce high blood pressure and protect against blood clots.
Onions are best eaten raw. But thankfully, its compound called quercetin, which is good for heart health, is destroyed by heat.
Ginger has a lot of health benefits, which range from anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, to anti-cancer properties. It also increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes it good for preventing depression and maintaining mental health.
It is nice to see a sprinkling of green onions on top of dishes. However, green onions are more than just garnish. Much like the onion, it lowers cholesterol, helps control diabetes, boosts immunity, and is good for the heart. It also reduces inflammation. Plus it is a good dose of dietary fiber.
- Tip: To always have green onions at hand, buy a bunch from the market (not from the supermarket chiller). Plant them in a pot. That way, they won’t rot as fast when they are just left refrigerated. They may also grow and propagate so you don’t have to keep buying.
There are many Filipino countryside cooperatives that are growing turmeric and making dried teas. That is because of the many health benefits of turmeric and how easily it is taken when in tea form. It is good for arthritis, digestive disorders, respiratory infections, allergies, liver disease, depression, and many others.
However, many health experts are concerned about the renal toxicity of turmeric when taken in large doses and in high concentrations at one time. So I prefer to cook with it. I use a lot of turmeric in my comforting Arroz Caldo, Chicken Curry with coconut milk, and the Indian dish, Chicken Biryani.
Notice those little green leaves floating in a bowl of Molo soup? That’s usually chives that were cut into small pieces. Studies show that chives contain both choline and folate — two nutrients linked to improving memory functions. Plus, they are known to be good diuretics, which makes them good for kidney health.
Curry leaves are rich in antioxidants that protect from oxidative stress. Plus, they lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. This is used for Chicken Biryani as well as Chicken Curry. But you can also use a few leaves to add aroma to fish soups.
A favorite lechon (whole roast pig) stuffing, the lemongrass is very aromatic. But aside from its aroma, lemongrass is widely known to reduce bad cholesterol levels and bring down high blood pressure. The leaves also contain substances that relieve pain and swelling and improve blood sugar levels. It is good for Chicken Tinola as well as other pork dishes, like KBL (Kadios, Baboy, Langka).
More than just their color and flavor, bell peppers are rich in antioxidants and are beneficial to prevent heart disease. And the good news is, they are better cooked in order for the body to absorb their nutrients.
Commercials for tomato sauces are pushing that their products are rich in the antioxidant called lycopene and for good reason. Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, is reported to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. When eaten raw, it is a very rich source of Vitamin C. However, tomatoes have to be cooked in order for the body to be able to utilize lycopene.
If you are into spicy food, then you are in for a treat. The capsaicin in chili helps reduce LDL or the bad cholesterol levels. It also increases metabolism and burns fat.
More than just a spice, black pepper is rich in anti-oxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties. It controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels, too. So next time you cook, add more than a dash. Also, it is best to use freshly ground peppercorns so you might want to invest in a good peppermill.
Practice Therapeutic Cooking
Use more of these ingredients in your homecooking for better health. Also, research more on the best ways to use them in order to reap the most health benefits.