Food as medicine

Affecting more than just our appetite, food is the key to the complete wellness and healing ability of our bodies. Our favourite naturopath and nutritionist Janella Purcell outlines the A to Z of some foods that’ll see you to good health.


Credit: Louise Lister

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One of the oldest cereal varieties, it’s extraordinarily healthy as a cereal or foliage because of its high protein content. It has loads of fibre, amino acids and vitamin C, and has more calcium, magnesium and silicon than milk. Amaranth is great for those with increased nutritional needs: lactating mums, pregnant women, children and those who do physical work.


Despite its name, buckwheat is not a cereal. It is a plant native to Central Asia and its seeds are ground into a flour, used to make soba noodles, breads and cakes. It’s great for treating heart-related conditions, such as poor circulation and high blood pressure. Sprouted buckwheat is high in chlorophyll, enzymes and vitamins and improves appetite and digestion.


Raw cacao is the most nutritionally complex food on the planet. It contains super high levels of antioxidants – for instance, while blueberries contain 32 antioxidants, cacao beans contain 621. Raw cacao products are also a source of beta-carotene, amino acids (protein), omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin C, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur and potassium, and one of the best food sources of muscle-relaxing, stress-relieving magnesium. They are great for blood pressure and blood sugar.

Dulse & other sea vegetables

Organic minerals from plant sources are important, especially if you consume refined sugar. Sea vegetables contain 10–20 times the mineral content of land plants. Extremely high in protein, sea vegetables are among the few good natural sources of fluorine for teeth and bone health. Dulse is very high in iodine, and used to reduce fevers and seasickness.


There are various reasons for chronic (long-term, underlying) fatigue, but dietary considerations and lifestyle choices are leading causes. Helpful foods are wholegrains, such as rye, barley, spelt, millet, amaranth, brown rice, quinoa and oats, plus fruit, vegetables, sardines, mussels, oysters and prawns. Avoid refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, animal fats including meat and dairy, and refined vegetable oils.


Flaxseeds (linseeds) are the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids and contain a good deal of magnesium, potassium, fibre, B vitamins, protein and zinc. They strengthen immunity, keep arteries clean, lower blood cholesterol and help with arthritis, weight loss, cell renewal, depression, migraine, allergies, liver function, enlarged prostate, phlegm reduction, stomach ulcers, period pain, hormone balance and irritable bowel syndrome.

Goji berries

Available as dried fruit, in powder form or juiced, goji berries contain many nutrients and antioxidants. They’re very high in fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron and are prized as an anti-inflammatory and detoxer.

Herbal teas

Herbs, the oldest medicines on our planet, are still used as the primary curative measure by more than 75 per cent of the world’s population. A skilled medical herbalist will assess your health before prescribing a treatment, but even the simplest of herbal teas are able to energise, relax and restore.


Iron is important for digestion, energy, immunity, growth and mental stability. Causes of deficiency are heavy periods, poor digestion, too much coffee and tea, long-term illness, excessive exercise, heavy sweating, cancer, candida, chronic herpes, rheumatoid arthritis and parasites. Emotional symptoms include nervousness, depression, irritability and anxiety. The average vegetarian diet can supply twice the minimum daily requirement of iron. Studies show that vegetables, fruit and nuts have a much higher iron content than beef. Helpful foods include dried peaches, raisins, raspberries, tofu, nuts and seeds.


Consume fresh fruit and vegetable juices first thing in the morning. They contain an array of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, purified water, proteins, carbohydrates, chlorophyll and various co-factors that enhance individual nutrients.


Kale has more antioxidants than any other vegetable and a good amount of calcium and iron. It’s also very high in vitamin A, vitamin C and sulforaphane (a chemical with anti-cancer properties). Like its relatives in the Brassica family, it boosts DNA repair in cells. It’s high in chlorophyll, so is great for the liver. It is also high in fibre, helping to remove cholesterol.


A stagnant liver, caused by over-eating, excessive drinking or too much stress, causes sluggishness. You may feel angry, edgy, depressed or moody, make poor judgements, have difficulty making decisions and experience negativity. You may suffer allergies, lumps or swelling, indigestion, neck and back tension, fatigue and eye problems. Nausea and reproductive issues may arise. Lemon juice in warm water kickstarts a sluggish liver.


Millet is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. It balances overly acid conditions, strengthens the kidneys, reduces bacteria in the mouth, is loaded with amino acids and silicon, helps prevent miscarriage and reduces candida overgrowth. It may also ease morning sickness. It’s best to soak it overnight.

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