Food as Medicine

September 26, 2016


It's been a several years since I left the kitchen to pursue teaching yoga full-time and while I've never regretted that decision, I do miss cooking for people all the time. One of the great things about being a chef is that people often ask me for recipes, so I get to enjoy sharing my love of food and cooking with others. I was inspired this morning after waking up feeling a bit under the weather (yes, yoga teachers get sick) to break out one of my very favorite winter soup recipes. This brothy soup is perfect on a chilly day or to help kick a nasty cold. The kale and garlic are good for the cardiovascular system, the wheat berries are high in fiber, and the mushrooms contain eritadenine, an amino acid that speeds up processing of cholesterol in the liver.


The list of scientific studies citing evidence linking good food to good health goes on-and-on, so I won't bore you with ALL of them, but I think it's important to know why certain foods are beneficial for you, and to have an idea on how to use them when they're needed as medicine.

Get ready for some serious science-y bits-  eat your heart out Alton Brown.


Garlic: Allium sativum, common garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium (or Alliaceae). Its close relatives include: onion, shallot, leek, and chive. Garlic is a great source of chromium, a mineral that enables the cells to respond adequately to insulin in the blood. Basically, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics. The amount of vitamin C and manganese in the garlic also helps in the treatment of colds and the flu.


Garlic also contains sulfur compounds (or sulfide compounds) which reduce the risk of colon cancer, as well as many anti-vampiritc properties which significantly reduce your risk of death by exsanguination.


Also, its freakin' delicious.


When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, an organo-sulfur compound called allicin is released. Allicin is an oily, slightly yellow liquid that gives the garlic its unique recognizable odor. Allicin generated this way is very unstable, and quickly changes into other sulfur containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide. (That's the stuff in garlic that sometimes gives you gas). HINT- thinly slice your garlic with a very sharp knife, don't "anger" it, and this won't happen as often.


Several studies published between 1995 and 2005 indicate that allicin may also reduce atherosclerosis and cholesterol build-up, normalize the lipoprotein balance, decrease blood pressure, have anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory activities, and function as an antioxidant.


Onions: Allium cepa (cepa is literally "onion" in Latin), AKA the bulb onion or common onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. Onions are mostly water (84%) and contain low amounts of essential nutrients. However, onions also affect the health of the blood system, and play a key role in protection against cancer. Onion extract, which is rich in numerous sulfides, inhibits tumor growth, and the vegetable itself is a natural antibacterial agent. Eating a diet rich in onions strengthens your immune system and can protect you against viral conditions and bacterial diseases.

They won't do much for your dating game, though.


Kale: Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-founder of National Kale Day (yeah, that's a thing) tells us in his book, 50 Shades of Kale (honestly, I can't make this stuff up) that one of the reasons kale is so amazing is because it packs in more nutrients than practically any other whole food. A cup of kale comes with 14% of your daily calcium, 659% of daily vitamin A (helps you use important things like your eyes) and more than 900% of your daily vitamin K (you need this stuff so your blood clots properly, your bones stay strong, and so you don't get heart disease.) Per ounce, cooked kale contains more protein than steak, so feel free to tell your carnivore friends to put that in their bacon-flavored pipes and smoke it.




Mushrooms: Ok, mushrooms (fungi) are just about the coolest things on the planet. National Geographic generally explains everything better than I do, so check out this 3 minute video explaining why you should abandon all your life choices and become a mushroom farmer.



Garlic and Kale Soup


Please use organic, local ingredients wherever possible

You will need a 6 qt crockpot

Serves 8




1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight or simmered for 20 minutes

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 lb mushrooms, sliced (I prefer criminis but you can also swap 6oz for sliced shiitakes)

10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 small yellow onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced legthwise

2 quarts vegetable broth

1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped




1. Soak wheat berries in large bowl of water overnight.

2. Heat oil in 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat.

3. Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic in batches, until lightly browned. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Please do not use iodized salt. EVER. Transfer each batch of mushroom/onion/garlic mixture to crockpot.

4. Deglaze the pan with about a cup of vegetable broth, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan. Add this to the crockpot with remaining vegetable broth and ginger.

5. Drain the wheat berries, and add to crockpot. Cook 3 hrs on high.

6. Stir in chopped kale AFTER cooking and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. This will maintain the nutritious integrity of the kale (overcooking changes the nutritional value of most vegetables).

7. Serve, and enjoy!


NOTE: to make this GF, swap 1 cup of brown rice for the wheat berries (no need to soak), and add 1 cup of water.


nutritional information: (per cup) Calories: 138/Protein: 4 g / Total Fat: 5 g / Saturated Fat: 1 g/ Carbohydrates: 20 g / Cholesterol: 0 mg/ Sodium: 103 mg/ Fiber: 3 g/ Sugar: 4 g






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