Foods with Medicinal Properties

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Did you know that many of the foods in your kitchen could help you treat or prevent illness? Learn about the healing properties found in foods like tomatoes, carrots, berries, onions, cruciferous vegetables, fish, tea, nuts, chocolate and red wine.

Food and Disease

Did you know that the best medicine is sometimes found in the grocery store, instead of the pharmacy? The risk of many chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers are increased in people who eat a lot of nutrient-poor foods, such as processed and fast foods. So it stands to reason that a diet filled with nutrient-rich foods would have the opposite effect. In fact, there is a relatively new science that is emerging called Nutrigenomics that studies the interaction between the foods you eat and the genes that cause disease. In this lesson we will highlight some foods with medicinal properties.


When it comes to plant foods, it is a good idea to eat the rainbow. Natural chemicals called phytonutrients are the disease-preventing substances that give plant foods, like fruits, vegetables and beans their rich array of colors. It is estimated that there are more than 25,000 phytochemicals found in plant foods, so the more colorful your diet, the more phytonutrients you are likely to consume.

get phytonutrients by eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables
colorful fruits and vegetables

Here are a few examples of foods that contain phytonutrients and their healing properties.

  • Tomatoes get their red color thanks to lycopene, which is a phytonutrient that is thought to lessen free radical damage and may protect against prostate cancer.
  • Carrots get their rich orange color from beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A inside your body. Vitamin A is an important nutrient for eye health and night vision.
  • Strawberries as well as other red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, which protect against heart disease, and may contain some anti-aging properties.
  • Onions lack color, but they are rich in a type of phytonutrient called quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage.
  • Red wine has been heralded for the heart healthy phytonutrient it contains called resveratrol.
  • Cruciferous vegetables, which include kale, cabbage and broccoli contain glucosinolates. These phytonutrients are thought to prevent cancer.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Many people who are at risk of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks turn to medication to help their condition. Research shows that they can enhance their heart health even further by eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can protect against heart disease. This essential nutrient is found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and sardines as well as flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds.

Green Tea

green tea contains antioxidants called catechins
green tea

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