There is no love sincerer than the love of food– George Bernard Shaw

We are a junk food nation. In some way shape or form, everyone in this country has had a love affair with unhealthy food at some point in time. This is much more obvious now with childhood obesity rising at an alarming rate. There is no healthy balance — no healthy in-between.

Food can be debilitating or it can be used to your advantage. There are foods called healing foods. Easily transplanted into your diet, you may notice that you’re preferring these foods to your guilty pleasure, whatever that may be. You can still have that guilty pleasure, just not in excess.

A way to bring a healing food into your diet is to use olive oil when cooking. Heart disease, diabetes, asthma and colon cancer risks are considerably lower when using olive oil. It also has the ability to lower cholesterol and may reduce arthritis symptoms.

Garlic and ginger are two other healing foods that can be added to your diet for the better. Garlic has a history of healing, including lowering hypertension and cholesterol and preventing stroke and heart disease. If eaten raw, it can be used as an antibiotic.

Ginger has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine, especially in the matters of digestive illnesses. It is an efficient motion sickness or morning sickness cure and with regular consumption may help alleviate painful symptoms of arthritis.

Another pain reliever is the unlikely cherry. An old remedy for the gout was eating black cherries and scientific studies at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California can confirm this remedy. In a study that had volunteers eat a bowl of 45 fresh Bing cherries, scientists measured their CRP (a marker in the blood produced by the body due to severe inflammation). After 3 hours, the level of CRP had decreased. So instead of a candy bar, incorporate this sweet treat into your diet, especially if you suffer from arthritis.

Even though our doctors have warned us away from fatty, but delicious nuts, lately, it seems that they’re not all bad. AARP reports that walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, the same substance in salmon that reduces the risk of heart disease and hypertension. They are also high in arginine, an amino acid that increases blood flow to the heart.

Instead of buying foods that read “enriched,” buy the one that says “whole” instead. This comes from Susan Moores, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Whole grains, if eaten three times daily can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains can include oats, whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur and bran.

While it’s easy to say, “eat these things or ELSE!” changes that include these foods don’t just happen overnight. It’s a gradual change. A way to slowly transplant these changes into your diet is to trick your brain. A method I use — especially in summer — when I crave something sweet and cold, is eating frozen fruits. Relatively cheap, you can purchase frozen fruits at the grocery. These can be eaten instead when you’re tempted to reach for the ice cream.

The biggest problem food, especially for women, is chocolate. Fortunately, they’re not as bad as we think. Though high in both sugar and fat, cocoa is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are also found in apples, red wine and green tea and are very healthy for the heart, relaxing the blood vessels and improving blood flow. The flavonoids are at their highest in dark chocolate. While this still doesn’t mean that we have the go-ahead to eat as much chocolate as we want, the knowledge that it’s not all bad is comforting.

An alternative to your ordinary chocolate bar is CocoaVia, chocolate bars that are 100 calories and contain 100 mg flavonoids. They also contain a great deal of phytosterols, which reduce cholesterol. These chocolate bars can be found at Wal-Mart stores or online.

It truly is possible to be healthy. It simply takes work, dedication and balance, but it is possible. Just find that healthy medium and you’ll be on the right track.

Gabriele deGroot Redford, Healing Foods, AARP Magazine

Junk Food That’s Good For You, Men’s Health Lists

CocoaVia Official Website