By Clare Zivanovic ND
Imagine it’s dinner time and your family is sitting at the table. You plate up the meal you’ve somehow found time to create, place it in front of your kids and hear, “Ugh, do I have to eat my vegetables tonight?”.
Your eyes roll with frustration, but you contain yourself enough to respond with, “Yes, you do – they’re good for you”.
As a lovingly parent, you want your kids to be the healthiest and happiest they can be. That’s why you encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables, even when they complain.
You’ve learned over the years from your parents, teachers, books and TV programs that these foods are essential for growing bodies. But, do you realise these healthy foods are in fact MEDICINAL?
Hiding inside healthy foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes) are special powers that take the form of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Like magic, these elements work together to create energy, boost immunity, treat infections and heal wounds.
As a Naturopath with 20 years experience in the health industry, I assure you that recognising food is medicine is one of the most empowering pieces of information available to you and your kids.
At this unprecedented time when health is in the forefront of everyone’s mind, there’s never been a better opportunity for people of all ages to discover how food can be used as medicine. It’s especially valuable to expose children to this wisdom now – during times of crisis – as it can help:
– Self-empowerment (even if they don’t know what this is yet).
Even when medical intervention is needed for illness or injury, understanding that food is medicine means knowing you can always do something to contribute to your healing journey.
Of course, children also need to understand which foods hinder healing, decrease vitality, and are best eaten in only small amounts, i.e. refined sugar (sugar from fruit is fine); processed cakes, biscuits, muffins, donuts; high fat and high salt foods. Having a thorough understanding of this basic information gives your child the best chance to thrive in the long term.
If you’re keen to educate your kids about food as medicine, but have no idea how to start, here are some easy-to-find medicinal foods you can talk about. Sourced from my children’s nutrition book, Superfood Attitude, these fun facts will help prepare your child for a healthy future.
Making conversations fun and relevant to the situation you’re in is key to having this wisdom soak into your little human’s brain. For example, if your child says they feel tired, but they still have a schedule of activities ahead, it’s the perfect time to suggest they eat a banana because it’s medicine for their energy. If they follow up with, ‘But why?’, use the information underneath each food to explain.
BANANAS are medicine for your energy
– Bananas contain natural sugars, which are used to quickly fuel your brain and energise your body. Their high potassium content also helps your energy by supporting the movement of your muscles.
GARLIC is medicine for colds and flus
– Garlic is a natural antibiotic that kills certain pathogens, such as the bacteria and viruses, that trigger colds and flus. Its most active compound, allicin, stimulates your immune system to help your body better defend itself against bugs that can make you sick.
PINEAPPLE is medicine for bruises
– Pineapples are an excellent source of vitamin C and bromelain. Together, these substances help heal bruises by decreasing swelling and inflammation, and repairing damaged blood vessels.
THYME is medicine for a sore throat
– Thyme is an herb that grows in the garden. This anti-inflammatory herb contains Thymol, which is one of the strongest germ-killing substances available. Given that most sore throats are caused by germs, this herb knows how to help you feel better.
WATERMELON is medicine for your lungs
– Watermelon is rich in nutrients that support your lungs, like vitamins A and C, lycopene and beta-carotene. Each of these contain antioxidants that work together to nourish your lung tissue, as well as your entire respiratory system.
Using food is medicine is a wonderful first line of defence or adjunct treatment. However, if you’re concerned about your family’s health or find a condition isn’t improving, please ensure you see your practitioner to discuss the situation.
Clare Zivanovic is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist whose expert knowledge has earned her a place on commercial television, podcasts and in best-selling health magazines. She recognises that food is medicine and believes self-empowerment makes the world a happier place, which is why Clare recently published a fun children’s nutrition book called Superfood Attitude.
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