Food as Medicine

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Do you know that by eating right you can actually control your health to a large extent? Well choosing what you eat has been scientifically proven to alleviate and cure several lifestyle diseases as well. And while the word diet has been long associated with fads and misnomers here are a few that will actually help you cure yourself.


DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and is aimed to lower blood pressure. Today of course its benefits extend to reducing cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity. This is a diet that is more than just low salt and low sodium and is rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. With a focus on whole grains, this is a diet that has less refined grains and is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber. This diet is recommended by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (one of the National Institutes of Health, of the US Department of Health and Human Services), The American Heart Association, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure. Lovneet Batra, Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis La Femme, says, “this is a high fibre, low sodium diet that focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lentils, low fat dairy, fish and nuts. The foods restricted are highly processed foods high in salt, sugar, trans fats and additives.”

The DASH diet is rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber; and has a low content of sodium (salt) and saturated fat. Adding more of these nutrients improve the electrolyte balance in the body, allowing it to excrete excess fluid in the form of urine and sweat that contributes to high blood pressure. These nutrients also promote relaxation of the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. These key nutrients are boosted by including more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy in your daily diet. “The DASH diet was developed to help people lower their blood pressure. It provides additional heart health benefits, lowering cholesterol and inflammation. Recent research shows that it is effective in lowering blood pressure in children as well as adults. Many people who are lactose-intolerant can include milk substitutes such as soy, or rice milk/ yogurt/ cheeses in their diet plan. Goat milk can be another option for people with sensitivities to cow milk protein,” explains Lavanya T G, Nutritionist and Product Developer, Nutriparadise Foods. NHLBI-funded trials showed the health benefits of the DASH diet, such as lowering high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, and shaped the final DASH eating plan recommendations. Combining the DASH diet with sodium reduction gives greater health benefits than the DASH diet alone. People can lose weight and lower their blood pressure by following the DASH eating plan and increasing their physical activity. To benefit from the proven DASH eating plan, it is important to limit daily sodium levels to 2,300 mg, or 1,500 mg if desired, and to consume the appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if needed.

Foods that can help

  • Whole grains.
  • Broccoli, carrots, green peas, kale, beans, potatoes, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.
  • Apples, apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, mangoes, melons, peaches, pineapples, raisins, strawberries.
  • Fat-free milk or buttermilk; fat-free/ low-fat cheese; fat-free/low-fat yogurt.
  • Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, lentils, split peas.


Vegans follow plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey as well as products like leather and any tested on animals. In a long-term clinical trial published in May in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Barnard and other researchers found that a plant-based diet helps people with diabetes lose weight and improve their blood sugar and cholesterol. The randomized, controlled trial is a milestone in diabetes research because previous studies had collected data for six months or less. Dr. Paramesh, Guest Clinician, LifeInControl & MD Bangalore Diabetes Centre says, “these foods are very much helpful to improve your health like increased energy, feels light, detoxification of body and younger looking of skin etc. These above results are due to the foods rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals reduced saturated fats high fibre and packed with antioxidants. Diabetes reversal by vegan or any other diet is not possible for type 1 diabetes, pancreatic diabetes and monogenic diabetes. Even people suffering from Gestational diabetes or those suffering from diabetic complications should consult their physician before making any changes in the diet.”

Although the American Diabetes Association has set up paradigm for the management of type 2 diabetes is to prescribe a diet containing about 40% of energy from carbohydrates and then adjust medications as necessary to maintain glycaemic control. This diet encourages following a vegan dietary habit to manage blood sugar levels. It claims that veganism can reduce the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes by 78% as compared to those who eat meat on a daily basis. “It works through two ways. A diet that focuses only on plant based food sources helps in reducing body fat and weight, which automatically slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes. Cutting meats are high in cholesterol and saturated fat that contribute to insulin resistance, the cause of diabetes,” opines Luke Coutinho, Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Holistic Nutrition. The types of fats in the diet are also important, with saturated fats and trans fatty acids increasing the risk while, PUFA and MUFA decreasing the risk. “Type 2 diabetes is always preventable, often treatable and sometimes reversible through diet and lifestyle changes. Reducing or totally avoiding animal products may be beneficial to prevent or treat the diabetes symptoms in combination with the proper exercise regime. But long term avoidance is totally dependent on the person’s needs and requirement of other nutrients. Inclusion of cinnamon -3gms/day has shown a great effect on insulin sensitivity and diabetes improvement,” says Mansi Belani- Modi Fitness Nutritionist (Specialised in Food Nutrition and Dietetics, PG Sports Science Fitness and Nutrition) Senior Nutritionist- Hairline International Hair and Skin Clinic.

Foods that can help

  • Nuts / seeds
  • Low glycemic index fruits ( melons, guava, apple, berries)
  • Cinnamon
  • Fenugreek
  • Plant based sources of protein like kidney beans, black beans, peas
  • Whole grains like ragi, bajra, jowar, buckwheat


MIND stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The MIND diet aims to reduce dementia and the decline in brain health that often occurs as people get older. “It combines aspects of two popular diets, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. The MIND diet aims in prevention of dementia and loss of memory as individual ages,” says Zoya Fakhi, Nutritionist, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai. The MIND diet aims in prevention of dementia and loss of memory as individual ages. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease published in NCBI. A study by the researchers at the Rush University Medical Center  found that the MIND diet cut people’s risk of Alzheimer’s by an average of 53 percent. In fact the U.S. News & World Report also named MIND America’s easiest to follow diet and their study also found that the longer people stuck with the diet the greater their benefits. The diet envisages a combination of lean protein, heart- and brain-healthy omega 3s, antioxidants and fiber, as well as low levels of added sugar and saturated and trans fat that reduces inflammation to help cut risk of dementia. A 2015 review published in suggests that inflammation may trigger and speed up the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Foods that can help

  • Green, leafy vegetables.
  • All other vegetables
  • Berries: they are rich in antioxidants.
  • Nuts.
  • Olive oil.
  • Whole grains.
  • Fish.
  • Beans. This includes all beans, lentils and soybeans.
  • Poultry.

TLC diet

TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) which aims at lowering cholesterol levels. The lifestyle changes include diet, exercise, weight loss, and not smoking. This diet can be followed by individuals who want to stay healthy, reduce weight and lower blood cholesterol levels. Dr. Muffazal Lakdawala, Founder and Chief Surgeon – Digestive Health Institute by Dr. Muffi Effects explains, “the TLC consists of three phases – diet, exercise and weight loss. The focus of the TLC diet is to lower LDL levels (Low density Lipoprotein OR bad Cholesterol and simultaneously increase levels of HDL (High Density Lipoprotein OR good Cholesterol). This can be done cutting out saturated fats and Trans fats. This diet can be followed by individuals who want to stay healthy, want to reduce weight and lower blood cholesterol levels. TLC is a way of living which one can follow for a healthy lifestyle to stay fit and remain healthy. According to the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s NIH Publication No. 06–5235 dated December 2005 says a person can lower LDL cholesterol by following various steps in the program. For instance, when Saturated fat is decreased to less than 7% of calories an 8–10%LDL reduction is seen. Likewise when dietary cholesterol is decrease to less than 200 mg/day, there is a 3–5% reduction in LDL.

Foods that can help

  • Peanuts
  • Cold pressed oils
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Garlic
  • Cinammon

Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet is most commonly followed by people on a weight reduction regime. But did you know that a keto diet can do much more than making you lose weight? The ketogenic diet is deprived of carbohydrate which is the main source of energy. An alternative source, the ketone is provided to the body for energy. The ketones are supplied by fat and protein which are in higher amounts. “Consuming ketogenic diets can alleviate cancer symptoms as they do not produce lactic acid after metabolism. The best thing about the keto diet is that a cancer cell cannot use the ketone bodies for energy synthesis. This will make the cancer cells to starve to death. Without lactic acid, the pH outside the cell will remain normal (6.8-7.3) which is again unfavorable for the development of cancer cells. By various studies, the ketogenic diet has been proved to increase the efficiency of radio-chemo-therapy in animal models which shows it may be beneficial when applied even to humans,” says Rohini S, Nutritionist and Product Developer, Nutriparadise Foods.

The ketogenic diet can help you fight cancer but not can everybody follow it. A person with stomach cancer cannot go on the keto diet with high-fat content but high protein can help him with high protein may be beneficial for him. If a person ailing from cancer also has kidney disease high protein diet can prove to be fatal as it burdens the kidney. Diabetic individuals without kidney complications can follow the keto diet as it has very low carbohydrate and is helpful in maintaining blood glucose level. Scientific studies have shown that brain can effectively use ketone bodies to produce energy. Which means individuals with a brain tumor or glioma can follow this diet to keep tumor growth in check. Increase in the blood ketone bodies can actually potentiate the effect radiation therapy by sensitizing cancer cells and also has a protective effect on normal cells against the toxicity and side effects. Clinical studies conducted on patients with brain cancer have shown that individuals who consumed more amount of carbohydrates and glucose in their diets had shorter survival compared to the ones who followed the ketogenic diet. In 2011 Shmidt conducted a study on patients with different types of cancers. They were put on a low-calorie ketogenic diet with only 528kcal per day. He found that patients could receive the treatment well and could tolerate the side effects well. Another study was conducted by Champ in 2014 on brain tumor patients. They followed a diet with 36g of carbs per day with the ketogenic diet of 21kcal per kg body weight per day. He found that patients were safe from the side effects of the therapy and tolerated the treatment well.

Foods that can help

  • Avocados, tomatoes, capsicum
  • Lemon
  • Mango and watermelon
  • Soy, cheese, cottage cheese
  • Dark chocolate, coconut oil, coconut milk
  • Oilseeds (chia, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds)
  • Tender coconut water
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Mushrooms

This story appeared in the March 2018 issue of Smartlife here:




9 thoughts on “Food as Medicine

  1. Here is a look at the 4 basic ketogenic diets: The Standard Ketogenic : This is the most common form of ketogenic diet where you can consume 20-50 grams of carbohydrate daily, high fat intake and moderate protein intake. Targeted Ketogenic : This is actually targeted for your workouts so consume 25-50 grams of carb and 30minutes to 1hour of exercise. Cyclical Ketogenic : This diet plan allows you to intake low carbohydrate and ketogenic diet or quite some time and this is followed by having high-carbohydrate diet for a couple of days. High-Protein Ketogenic : This is all about adding adequate protein and mostly essential for athletes and sports persons. The Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD): Most common and recommended version of the diet:20-50 grams of net carbs per day, moderate protein intake and high fat intake. Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): “Targeted” for energy around your workouts: 25-50 grams of net carbs or less around 30 minutes to an hour before exercise Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): Similar to intermittent fasting “Down Day Up Day” or the 5/2 cycle, CKD involves eating a low-carb, ketogenic diet for several days followed by a couple days of eating high-carb. customer essay

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