While our home soil may provide us with an array of great plant-based foods, taking a page from other countries that have varying climates and fauna, is a great way to diversify your plate and even acquire higher levels of nutrients. Specifically, there’s so much to learn from other cultures regarding healing practices. Below are five foods with healing properties and health benefits from around the world.
Most of us are familiar with this delectable fruit: a beautiful green and red skin protecting and encasing soft and sweet bright yellow meat on the inside. Mango is a stone fruit grown in the warm international climates of Southern Asia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. While this unique fruit may find its way onto your meal plate, how much do you actually know about the health benefits of this international fruit?
To start, mango can be ingested as a fully ripened fruit or as a green mango, which means that it is slightly raw.
In Colombia, South America, slightly green mango is ingested to help with nausea. Green mango is also lower in calories than its ripened counterpart, making it the superior snack for weight management. Yet, there are a slew of other health benefits that can be gained from green mango.
If your adventurous side wants to try out some raw mango, it’s recommended to drain all of the “mango sap” from the fruit first, which can cause stomach issues, and then wash it thoroughly before consuming.
Slightly raw mango has been shown to help reduce acidity, which is just what the doctor ordered for those suffering from heartburn. Acid reflux, also called acid reflux disease, is generally caused when stomach acids escape through the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, a flap protecting the esophagus from the stomach, and cause burning sensations, chest pains, nausea, and even vomiting.
Slightly raw mango also helps increase the health of your liver. Specifically, if you chew on green mango (raw mango), it “increases the secretion of bile acids and clean[s] the intestines of bacterial infections.”
If you’re backed up, go get yourself some mango, green or ripe! In 2018, the Department of Nutrition and Food Science teamed up with the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, to conduct a pilot study regarding the effects of mango on digestive issues. A group of participants that suffered from “chronic constipation were each given mango over a 4-week period, and the results” showed incredible improvement in and relief from their constipation symptoms. This is largely due to the fiber content of mango, but may also be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of mango’s polyphenol-rich makeup.
Cooking with Green Mango
Almond Butter Roasted Tofu with Mango Avocado Salad/One Green Planet
Whether adding green mango or fully ripened mango to your diet, you’ll find a host of ways to enjoy this nutritious fruit. A great way to integrate a healthy helping of mango into your diet is in a salad such as this Toasted Coconut and Green Mango Salad or this hearty Almond Butter Roasted Tofu with Mango Avocado Salad. Of course, when it comes to diversity, look to dessert! Mango is a great way to increase the nutritional value of your dessert without the unhealthy added sugars. Here are a few mango-based desserts to get you started: Tropical Mango Coconut Cheesecake, Raw Mango Ice Cream, or this tropical splurge Mango Sorbet with Banana and Pineapple.
If you follow my writing, you’ll find a specific article dedicated to Manuka honey and I would be remiss to leave this incredible healing agent off of the international list. Manuka honey is a naturally produced, tree-born honey that hails from New Zealand and southeastern Australia. It’s known internationally for its anti-bacterial properties and has shown useful in the healing of skin-related issues such as burns, wounds, and even acne.
Manuka honey is so effective for wound treatment that, as of 2007, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States officially approved its use specifically for medicinal purposes. The healing magic of this honey is rooted in hard science, specifically, Manuka honey has powerful anti-bacterial properties — which fends off bacterial infections and infuses healthy bacteria — and is high in antioxidants — which helps reduce inflammation. Studies conducted by the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Pakistan have also shown that Manuka honey may boost tissue regeneration, decreasing the overall healing time of skin wounds.
Gastric Ulcer Prevention
Ever taken a spoonful of raw honey to relieve heartburn or ulcer pain? Try switching that raw bees honey for Manuka honey! Heartburn, caused by increased stomach acid, and ulcers, sores that “form on the lining of the stomach”, are both affected by a specific bacteria called H.pylori. Recent studies have shown promising effects of Manuka honey’s anti-bacterial properties on the reduction of H.pylori. While more research is needed in this area, the promising healing agents in Manuka honey can’t be ignored!
The positive effects of Manuka honey on acne are so promising that beauty products are being marketed with a combination of Manuka and low-pH products. Face creams, such as this Honeyskin Organics Aloe Vera + Manuka Honey or this Manuka Honey Healing Eczema Cream, are becoming popular natural home remedies to many skin ailments. Manuka honey fights acne with its anti-bacterial properties — helping to clear out pore-clogging bacteria — and anti-inflammatory properties — which helps reduce the inflammation caused by breakouts.
Cooking with Manuka Honey
Sage and Black Tea Latte/One Green Planet
We’ve already covered how to use Manuka honey as a topical wound aid, yet, if you want to infuse your body with its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agents, try using this sweet nectar as a substitute for added sugars. Honey is a great added sugar substitute in no-bake or raw recipes such as these-holiday inspired Pumpkin Spice Caramel Rice Krispie Treats, this No-Bake Lavender Fig Custard Tart, or this raw Pecan Pie. Manuka honey can also be used to naturally sweeten and infuse nutrients into warm beverages such as this Sage and Black Tea Latte, this High-Protein Caramel Cappuccino, or this Café Style Matcha Tea Latte.
Greece has been a leader in healthy natural diets over the decades. Most notably, the Mediterranean diet is lauded for its cardiovascular health benefits due to the content of high healthy fats, low carbs, and lean meats. The Greek isles are also the reason olive oil is such a popular staple in households around the world. Yet, Greece has also been purported to be the birthplace of saffron.
Saffron, also called kumkuma, a spice derived from a flowering plant, has been widely cultivated across the globe and is used, not only for cooking but for its many medicinal and health benefits. From digestive aid to anti-convulsant to an antidepressant, saffron is a must have international medicinal herb for your kitchen!
Saffron has been linked to improved mental states, especially for those suffering from depression. Two compounds within saffron, safranal, and crocin, “regulate neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which help reduce symptoms in mild to moderate depression.” In certain studies, saffron was shown to decrease stress and anxiety, while also boosting learning abilities and memory retention.
Saffron is packed with antioxidants within the dark orange carotene called crocin. This antioxidant helps to protect the body from “oxidant-induced stress, cancers, [and] infections.” Most notably, crocin triggers a process called programmed cell death, referred to as apoptosis, within “a number of different types of human cancer cells, leukemia, ovarian carcinoma, colon adenocarcinoma, and soft tissue sarcoma.”
For those under the weather with that pesky common cold, try a little saffron tea! This lovely spice “acts as an expectorant which loosens the phlegm from the lungs and throat,” and, ultimately, eases coughing and helps the body heal. The anti-inflammatory properties of saffron are also attributed to helping with more advanced respiratory issues such as asthma.
Cooking with Saffron
Yogurt Saffron Mango Cheesecake/One Green Planet
Saffron is a savory herb with a kick of heat making it a wonderful addition to almost any dinner recipe. When it comes to soups and stews try this Saffron, Corn, and Bell Pepper Soup, which infuses saffron dual calm and hot nature with the subtle flavors of corn and bell pepper. In this Saffron Risotto With Roasted Vegetables recipe, instead of mellowing the flavors saffron plays the central role. You can also infuse snacks and desserts with saffron, such as this Yogurt Saffron Mango Cheesecake or this unique Pavlova with Saffron Berries, Passionfruit, and Pistachios.
You’ve probably passed this unassuming winter tuber on the grocery store shelf many times. While, it may not have a strong physical appearance — thick, stumpy, and white with green sprouts — it’s many purported health benefits may have you taking a second look. Native to Southeast Asia or continental East Asia, the daikon radish is incredibly popular throughout the entire region, yet is most widely known via Japanese dishes.
Daikon is a natural diuretic. Diuretics also referred to as water pills, are naturally present in some plant-based foods and in this way food can act as a medical diuretic. These are foods that stimulate urination. Basically, they make you have to pee a lot! This detoxes the body by helping “to keep the kidneys clean and functioning at a high level by stimulating the elimination of excess toxins, fats, and even water through urination.”
Diuretics such as daikon also allow the kidneys to release more sodium into the urine, which helps sap water from the blood, decreasing the fluid within blood vessels, and relieving pressure on these vessel walls. In short, diuretics help to lower blood pressure.
Along with offering a slew of other nutritional benefits including ample servings of vitamin C, folate, and phosphorous, daikon is also calcium-rich offering 4.6 milligrams per radish. Calcium is essential for bone health. A diet rich in calcium lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone disease that occurs when you’ve lost too much bone or your body produces too little.
Managing a healthy weight is all about the appropriate balance of macronutrients — fat, protein, and carbohydrates — within your daily eating regime. Daikon is a great addition that fills you up and yet is low in calories and cholesterol. How does daikon accomplish this? You can thank its “low calorie and cholesterol nature, combined with its high fiber and nutrient content,” which offers that sweet spot of balance.
Cooking with Daikon
Summer Daikon Rolls with Avocado and Micro Greens/One Green Planet
Differing from other radishes, daikon is rather mellow and lacks the spicy bite that red radishes are known for. Given this characteristic, daikon is generally served raw on top of salads or noodles — such as this Peanut and Daikon Radish Noodle Salad or this Gingery Carrot and Daikon Salad — or in raw-recipes — such as these refreshing Summer Daikon Rolls with Avocado and Micro Greens or this Ginger Carrot Daikon Kimchi. Consuming daikon raw is a great way to get all you can out of the nutrient content as well.
Turmeric is yet another international spice that I have written exclusively about and now I find myself revisiting in this article. And for good reason! Turmeric is one of the most widely recognized healing spices. Native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, this ginger-related spice is now distributed worldwide and has become a staple in almost every kitchen spice rack.
Known for its bright yellowish-orange pigment, turmeric, in both the raw root and dried form, offers an incredible palate of nutrients. Simply looking at one tablespoon of ground turmeric, you find omega-3 (32.5 mg) and omega-6 (114 mg) fatty acids, vitamin C (1.7 mg), folate (2.6 mcg), calcium (12.4 mg), magnesium (13 mg), phosphorous (18.1 mg), and phytosterols (5.5 mg). It’s due to this range of nutrients that turmeric has been used as a healing agent for many conditions.
If you don’t currently suffer from some form of arthritis, it’s a good bet that later in life you may. Arthritis is a blanket term referring to more than 100 different types of specific arthritis ailments and related conditions. With that said, the most common form of arthritis, degenerative or osteoarthritis, displays in “swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.” Turmeric has been shown to ease arthritis symptoms due to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of its main component curcumin. One specific study published by the Nirmala Medical Centre, discovered that rheumatoid arthritis patients reacted better to curcumin over an anti-inflammatory drug.
Along with being a great anti-inflammatory, curcumin has been found to affect “cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level,” and has been found to be a contributing factor in cancer cell death and the reduction of angiogenesis — the “growth of new blood vessels in tumors.” Curcumin has also been shown as a possible cancer preventative.
Boosts Antioxidant Effectiveness
If you’ve done your reading on the positive benefits of plant-based diets, then you most likely know all about antioxidants. Oxidative damage is a naturally occurring event within the body in which free radicals, “highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons,” negatively react with organic substances and damage cells. Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds in plant-based foods that protect your body and fight off the damage caused by free radicals. Turmeric, specifically curcumin, is a “potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals due to its chemical structure,” while also boosting the “activity of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.”
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric Falafel/One Green Planet
The wonderful aspect of turmeric is that you can add a dash to almost any savory recipe! From Turmeric Tea to breakfast Turmeric, Mango, and Chia Oats, this diverse spice will not only flavor dull concoctions but will also add a splash of beautiful coloring. With that said, turmeric is traditionally used in many Asian-inspired dishes such as this Coconut Turmeric Dal, this Turmeric Falafel, of this Easy Khao Soi Thai Noodle Soup.
Looking for ways to add these international healing foods to your diet? We highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!