Let food be thy medicine

Family affair: Former investment banker Denise O'Callaghan started her gluten-free bakery after her dad was diagnosed coeliac.

PREVENTION is, of course, better than cure and now, more than ever, people are finding that the first line of defence against disease starts with your dinner plate.

“Good food is good medicine”, says nutritional therapist Elsa Jones ahead of the country’s first Nutritional Therapy Awareness Week, which runs from September 14 to 20.

And she’s not alone.

Increasingly, ordinary people are looking into their cupboards to help solve health issues as diverse as low energy, headaches and digestive ailments.

“So many health issues can benefit from nutritional therapy including weight problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, acne and infertility, to name but a few. I see evidence of this every day through my consultancy work,” Jones says.

A series of events and talks designed to drive home the message that good nutrition can make a huge difference to your health will be taking place at a range of venues from September 14 (see http://ntaw.ntoi.ie).

The Nutritional Therapy Awareness Week is just the latest manifestation of a trend that has been evident for some time.

Every week, there’s a new diet or a new superfood that aims to help people take control of their health. Just last week, for instance, former Miss World Rosanna Davison’s new book hit the shelves.

In ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’, the model-turned-nutritionist tells people how to do just that. You can transform your appearance by watching what you put in your mouth, she believes,.

Davison explains how she coped with her own gluten- and dairy-intolerance and recalls how eating the wrong food — in this case dairy — led to a breakout of acne.

“Not a good look for a model,” she says.

She also suggests ways of getting rid of bloating, one one of the most common problems faced by Irish women. But you don’t have to be a qualified dietician to turn to good food to cure an ailment or, in some cases, a very serious illness.

Earlier this year, Bernadette Bohan, a Dublin mother-of-three, said she firmly believed that her diet of raw food helped her to beat cancer.

After being diagnosed with cancer for a second time in 2000, she started to research the links between food and health and has since come to see food as medicine. 

More than a decade ago, she started juicing fruit and veg and introducing raw food to her diet. She is now cancer-free and the picture of health.

Naturopathic nutritionist Debbie Shaw also says that you can positively influence your health with the food choices you make.

The right foods nourish and heal the body, she says. Her entertaining blog, The Dodgy Knee Diaries (https://thedodgy kneediaries.wordpress.com), recounts how she has tried to ease her own arthritis with the right diet.

Introducing anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, kelp, green tea and fermented foods, into your daily cooking routine can help get the ball rolling, she says. 

For example, she says ginger offers a powerhouse of nutritional benefits: anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-nausea, anti-cancer. It is also great for boosting circulation.

“I use the root daily to make fresh grated-ginger, lemon and honey tea. I also add fresh grated turmeric root if I have it. It’s delicious,” she says.

Speaking of Delicious, Denise’s Delicious Gluten-Free Bakery in Cork came about when Denise O’Callaghan’s father was diagnosed coeliac.

“My interest in baking took an unexpected turn when Dad was diagnosed with coeliac disease and needed to adapt to a gluten-free diet. 

"As my father made his journey into the new and unknown world of gluten-free, I decided he could do with a supportive companion,” the former investment banker says.

She founded the country’s first gluten-free artisan bakery in 2008 and has now launched her first book of gluten-free recipes, Delicious, which is published by Mercier Press (€24.99).

“It’s exciting for me to be able to share my baking secrets and tips, family stories, recipes handed down through generations and anecdotes charting my own experience of ‘free-from baking’. Now everyone can have their gluten-free cake and eat it!” she said.

Her message is one that has taken hold in the field of nutrition: whatever your ailment, there’s a diet to help.


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