If you're trying to eat to improve your health, then you'll definitely want to add a few of these foods into your diet. A great many foods have medicinal potential, and these five are no exception.

1. Garlic
A fresh bulb of garlic. Don't have any in your kitchen right now? You should. Here's why...garlic is loaded with sulfur, a mineral that helps rid the body of toxins. Garlic has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Garlic has been used in the treatment of high blood pressureatherosclerosis, and bacteria-related illnesses. 

To maximize the benefits of garlic, add about one half of a fresh clove to your next meal. Fresh garlic yields greater benefits than cooked, but if you can't stomach the fresh stuff, chop it up and add it to a meal at the very end of the cooking process. Try to eat your garlic within a few days of bringing home from the store. Like any food, garlic loses much of its nutrient value over time.

2. Kale
Thanks to the phyotnutrients in this leafy green, including glucosinalates, biflavonoids and cartenoids, Kale is arguably one of the best cancer-fighting foods you can eat. While all leafy greens are extremely healthy, kale happens to be exceptionally high in calcium. Kale is also researched for its anti-inflammatory properties. According to the website The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com), "it only takes 100 calories of kale to provide us with 25-35% of the National Academy of Sciences' public health recommendation for the most basic omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA)."

Conventional kale is particularly high in pesticides, so if possible, buy organic. Make a simple kale salad, or steam it for a few minutes and sprinkle with sea salt.

 3. Cinnamon
Problems keeping your blood sugar levels in check? Then you should absolutely, positively keep cinnamon in your pantry and use it generously! Add it to your morning oatmeal, yogurt, whole grain toast for breakfast, or as a sidekick to a savory dinner. Cinnamon is also a great digestive aid, so if you're experiencing heartburn or indigestion, try some cinnamon.

If you're not a big fan of the taste of cinnamon, you  can buy it in capsule form.  I really push cinnamon because a) it really does help with blood sugar levels and b) it's relatively inexpensive and convenient. Sketchy blood sugar levels is not something you want to mess around with. We all experience highs and lows, but prolonged blood sugar instability can really hurt your health.

4. Coconut Oil
This once maligned tropical oil got a bad rap because of its high saturated fat content, but this amazing oil is loaded with short and medium chain fatty acids, which mean they're much more readily available for energy use. Despite the fact that it's high in saturated fat, coconut oil contains no cholesterol. Most notably, coconut oil has been shown to promote weight loss by boosting metabolism, improve heart health, and give your immune system a hand.

Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so depending on your climate, it might be in liquid or solid form. In our house, we use coconut oil each and every day. I use it to bake at high heat because it stays stable and won't oxidize like an olive oil would. I also use it on top of my kids popcorn and sometimes in their oatmeal. Give coconut oil a try. A little goes a long way. Substitute this oil in place of any corn, canola or soybean oil you might already be using.

5. Ginger
The benefits of ginger are many! This potent root has the ability to detoxify, improve circulation and act as an antibiotic. One of the most touted benefits of ginger, however, is in research done on arthritis. According to Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Dr. Elson Haas, "ginger has been used in studies of osteoarthritis and rheumatism to reduce several aspects of inflammation, including swelling and joint pain. Ginger may lower inflammation by lowering the levels of messaging molecules that trigger inflammation in the first place."

Ginger can be purchased in fresh root form, prepared (typically in bottles), or in capsule form. 


Want more tips like this? Traci D Mitchell is a healthy living and fitness expert. Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.

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