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© 2014 Alessandro Montedoro
© 2014 Phasar Edizioni, Firenze
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this eBook may be reproduced, duplicated, given away, transmitted or resold in any form without written prior permission from the Author.
Cover picture: Alessandro Montedoro
Cover: Gabriele Simili (Phasar, Firenze)
My name is Alessandro, I am a chef, not a healer. I can't make miracles, but for the past few years I have stopped using medicine, or at least I've tried avoiding it as much as possible. How? Easy, I solved all my problems by eating! I guarantee that it works for me; it works so well that I've decided to share my discoveries with you.
We all know that certain foods are healthier than others, that oranges are rich in vitamin C, that fish is high in Omega 3, and so on. Often however, we are unable to create a truly curative dish, and it is this issue that I have tried to specialize in.
Creating new and competitive recipes is part of my job; every day I develop dozens of new menus for my restaurants, for banquets or weddings. Attempting to combine the right ingredients in a way that enhances them is always a new challenge. I cook primarily for myself. I love going wild and using ingredients from all over the world to create new dishes; delicious, special, healthy, and why not, sometimes curative.
I have not studied medicine or gastronomy, merely a passion for food has led me this far, but I assure you everything I have written and the recipes I created in the various countries I have worked in throughout the years are real, and have helped cure myself and many other people.
I am simply a chef, as I already said, who has traveled the world and has been fascinated by traditional remedies used to cure any type of disease.
In all the countries in which I have worked, Japan, Africa, China, South America, Europe, there is always a remedy to treat anything from a minor to serious illness. Whether they truly work or not, they are remedies that have been passed over generations, from a distant time in which medicine was composed only of food products.
Precisely in China, where I am now, I was inspired to create curative dishes.
I was always surrounded by Chinese friends and colleagues who had a remedy for everything; every sickness of the body from back pain to flu, and it was treated with herbal tea or with some particular food.
After about a year of work in China, I was tired of listening to these ridiculous stories so I started doing some research to prove to my colleagues that they were wrong.
The more I tried, however, the more I realized that I was wrong, and I had always been the fool who cured even a trifling headache by taking chemical substances.
After months of research and with the consultation of a doctor, a friend of mine, Guido De Mari, I was able to create certain food combinations that helped fight both the mild and the more serious discomforts of everyday life.
I also created many recipes and dishes that I have proposed in my restaurant “Barolo” at the Ritz Carlton in Beijing, which received significant attention from locals, but especially from expats.
It was surprising to have customers write to me asking for new combinations of food to treat their pathologies; curing themselves without needing medicine was both fun and fascinating for them. Obviously, there are no treatments for serious illnesses, but the satisfaction was so great that I decided to deepen my studies; I dedicated myself entirely to research the healing properties of food and writing a book with their respective recipes. After two years of research through books, Internet, and particularly on location, I was able to find all the necessary materials to create recipes that can cure many sicknesses. You, as a reader, can also create new dishes and combinations that can be adapted to your personal tastes.
There is no limit to culinary imagination, so go ahead and use the recipes and dishes I provide to you, but please create your own, using the proper ingredients to treat your own specific ailment.
Think about it, 90% of diseases are cured by eating, right?
For any problem we have, we ingest a substance that somehow produces a reaction in our body that is consequently beneficial to us.
Remember, most pharmaceuticals we commonly use consist of active ingredients that, at least originally, are derived from herbs or medicinal plants.
In recent years, the use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals to cure even the slightest ailment has increased, but we must not forget that food has always been both nourishment and a cure.
Herbs, teas, beverages, vegetables, and other foods have been used to invigorate, purify, and calm the body. In many populations they are still used as primary remedies.
The healing properties of food are so numerous that one must only know what to choose; often scientific research is based on the healing properties of a certain food.
With this being said, I do not intend that food is capable of fully replacing medicine, but I would strongly like to point out that every mild discomfort may be mitigated through the simple intake of specific foods. These substances, in most cases are also present in most common medicines, but in much larger quantities.
In this book I intend to show how we can improve both small and large pathologies, simply by changing our eating habits and especially by being consistent in consuming specific foods.
Please note that I am not talking about diets, which I leave to everyone’s common sense. I am trying to explain that by simply eating certain fruits or some good chocolate we can have resounding improvements on all sorts of illnesses.
I want to clarify that I am not a healer or a doctor. Far be it from me to tell you that food can cure serious diseases such as cancer or AIDS, but certain foods combined with adequate treatment can definitely help.
Indeed, I am convinced that the most common sicknesses such as fevers, headaches, poor blood circulation, high blood pressure, allergies, anxiety, stress, constipation, urinary irritation, prostatitis, and many more can be completely cured with the right nourishment.
Consistency is the base for everything. Healing through food definitely requires greater effort and in most cases a longer time. But isn’t it better to wait a few days and treat a urinary tract inflammation or prostatitis by drinking a decoction of celery (400 g in 1 liter of water), instead of taking antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication? Of course if it turns out to be a serious case we can seek help from a doctor. I personally always try a natural remedy before going to see a doctor or pharmacist and it usually works.
Consistency is the key: in the same way that healing through food takes time – it also takes time to cause harm. We do not catch gastritis or ulcers by drinking ten coffees in one specific day, but these diseases might come after five years of caffeine abuse.
Eating a dish with lots of calories or a hamburger with fries and Coca-Cola occasionally certainly does not kill anybody, but believe it or not, it also works as training for our body.
For example, if our diet is based solely on fruits, vegetables, white rice, and natural water, it would be considered a “perfect” diet, which is really healthy, but we would have to follow it for a lifetime! If on any day, maybe after a few months on this “perfect” diet, we decide to eat fried food or even meat, we will most likely confuse our body because we will be no longer accustomed to digesting these heavier substances.
Normally, therefore, it is necessary to eat everything, taking care to not overdo it with foods that are commonly labeled “junk”, but without eliminating them completely, unless there are obvious medical or allergic restrictions.
We are what we eat
Even before birth, nutrition plays a key role in our body. In fact, the wrong diet during pregnancy can cause physical disorders in the future child. The first few months of infancy are really important, if not essential. A correct and healthy diet helps with growth and development of the child, and strengthens the immune system. For example, it is proven that homemade baby food helps prevent allergies in the future. Even as an adult, nutrition has an important role in everyday life. Once again, I want to point out that I’m not talking about a weight-loss diet; a person that is physically flawless is not necessarily healthy. On the contrary, however, it is possible that an obese person might have a weaker immune system and therefore be likely to get sick. The reason is simple, an improper diet causes the individual to gain weight and consequently the excess mass forces the body to increase blood pressure, or to have too much sugar in the blood, or perhaps an overly accelerated heart rate.
In short, a healthy diet is what we all should seek, on one hand trying not to be overly nervous about a few kilograms of excess fat, on the other hand not to be too optimistic in underestimating a condition such as obesity.
According to the traditional view, nourishment is considered as the prime material that brings energy to the body, but for the past few years this concept has been surpassed; currently nourishment is synonymous of the raw material that is needed for growth and upkeep of the individual, and it is important to remember that every stage of life has different nutritional requirements.
Nowadays, despite the abundance of calories, there is a constantly increasing demand for food supplements and vitamins.
What causes people to behave this way?
The answer is simple: we are affected by well-being pathologies and therefore must seek remedy for the most common nutritional mistakes.
Essential vitamins such as A, C, and E are increasingly harder to find in food, because they are vitamins that are easily lost when the food is not fresh.
Take vitamin C for example. While it’s abundantly present in nature, only oranges that are removed from the tree and eaten within a few days, if not hours are truly rich in this vitamin. Today, with globalization and the desire to eat foods out of season, which come from all over the world, we are accustomed to eat oranges from California. These are unripe oranges that have been removed from the tree early and matured on the long journey that takes weeks before arriving to our tables. We have also got used to eat frozen food as well as those preserved in syrup, where the presence of vitamins is almost absent. Not to mention all of those products with food coloring and artificial flavoring to approximate their original flavor; if we were to read the labels of certain foods carefully we would actually realize what we are eating; there are orange flavored candies in which there isn’t a single drop of orange juice or potato chips in which no actual potatoes were used!
So, if after many years of eating this way, we complain about gastritis, ulcers or high blood pressure, the fault is only ours!
Curing ourselves with chemical products deceives us into believing that any symptom can be cured whenever we want, but medicine can have undesirable side effects on our organism.
Reading the instructions of a common pharmaceutical, we realize that it is possible to cure many different ailments with the same pharmaceutical. If I take medicine against headaches, I will probably end up curing also toothaches, menstrual and back pains.
All of this is absolutely absurd.
Improving our Appearance by Eating?
I am convinced!
Our appearance certainly depends on what we eat, and following certain simple dietary rules can be a true blessing for our beauty and health.
Food, when accurately chosen, keeps us healthy and beautiful, and protects the body from free radicals.
But which foods are best suited to help our body to stay healthy and young? Surely all those rich in antioxidants, such as citrus fruits, kiwi, avocado, grapes, papaya, apple, onion, zucchini, garlic, spinach and many more.
For example, to strengthen veins and capillaries we choose fresh blueberries. Pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and sesame seeds all contain large amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, vitamin E, and a set of substances that stimulate the production of the coenzyme Q10, known in the world of cosmetics as the “beauty enzyme”.
Carefully picking the right foods is essential, but sometimes we must also pay attention to our body, and in many cases learn to understand the messages it sends us. For example, how many times have we attributed our nervousness to external causes, such as an argument or problems at work, when in fact it may only be caused by a heavy meal that has not been properly digested?
Another example is to obstinately eat foods that cause illnesses, such as heartburn, slow digestion, headaches, and fatigue, just because we have heard that it can benefit us.
Eating an apple is certainly healthy, but if we are unable to digest it or if it causes acidity, it is best to change fruit, right?
So let us try to pay attention to the messages our body sends us, not drawing conclusions too hastily, but basing ourselves on our personal experiences, trying to remember which foods bring well-being and those that cause sicknesses.
Nutraceutics is the study of foods that have a beneficial effect on human health. The word nutraceutical is simply the fusion of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”. Indeed, almost all foods have a property that can benefit our body and in most cases can be used as an actual treatment. This science is really recent and therefore is still being studied, but I don’t think that attempting some culinary experiments to solve some minor physical problems can cause irreversible damage.
For example, if you decide to treat a slight urinary tract inflammation with currant juice, I don’t see what serious consequences could occur in those who decide to treat it with food rather than with medicines. If it doesn’t work then one can seek a doctor’s help, but what if it does work? I leave you with the benefit of the doubt!
As I already said every food has some positive properties, for instance apples are rich in vitamins, minerals, and are generally “good”.
But what does “good” means? This statement certainly does not provide enough information to establish what these beneficial properties are. Is true when we say that they are rich in vitamins and minerals, because almost all fruits are! Another example would be to say that all fish is rich in Omega 3, as it protects the artery walls. This is not really the case; as every fish has really different amounts of Omega 3 – just bear in mind that the difference between tuna and sole is almost 50%.
Nutraceutics help us interpret all foods in an appropriate manner, helping us evaluate the contents and the right amounts to use for the different types of diseases.
Let us explain this last concept with a simple example.
If we need vitamin A, it is sufficient to choose between butter and carrots. Though, 100g of either would provide our body with the necessary daily dose of vitamin A, but with one big difference: carrots have 35 calories per 100 grams and are full of many other vitamins and minerals, but the equivalent amount of butter has 750 calories and is really fat.
Another example could be that of vitamin C: many foods are rich in vitamin C, but the most famous of all is definitely the orange. However, guava fruits have eight times more vitamin C than oranges.
In essence, this new science indicates us the adequate portions of food or a combination which may mitigate or completely cure a physical problem.
In essence, this new science studies the curative capabilities of certain combinations of food.
Knowing how to choose is important
This is a superfluous chapter, if you think about it. Normally, soft drinks full of food coloring and sugars, frozen foods, freeze-dried foods, and much else should not be a part of our daily diet, but should be an urge that we satisfy every once in a while.
Raw materials must also be selected with care. In most small grocery stores, butchers, and fruit vendors, you can trust the owner and the origin of food, because if the owner sold some rotten ingredient, he would risk losing his small clientele. However these places are rapidly disappearing. Today, large supermarkets have wiped out small traders for obvious reasons: the price and the convenience of finding everything we need in one spot, it only takes 10 steps to pass from the food section to the clothing or electronic's one.
All of the above really help a desperate customer who may only have a few minutes for shopping and therefore needs a welcoming and eclectic place such as a huge supermarket. Large supermarkets waste less time, which has now become more precious than even our own health. It does not matter if the product is not always “fresh”, ultimately the clients will return, and if they are not satisfied and decide not to return, the supermarket will surely not run out of business.
That is not to say that certain supermarkets do not have quality products, in fact there are plenty that do, but you have to know how to choose and to restrain from falling into the temptation of buying “ready-made” items.
If you wish to have the pleasure of cooking and creating a classic dish using your imagination and according to your own desires to excite your taste buds, you must buy raw materials, but you must still be careful to what you buy.
For starters, avoid pre-cooked and pre-wrapped food or pre-sliced fish; a whole fish is always better. Remember that most supermarkets have fishmongers and butchers that are always open, if you desire a particular cut, just ask!
It is also important to discern between the freshness of the products, paying close attention to expiration dates and origin.
For fruits and vegetables, avoid buying pre-cut and pre-packaged items. Fruit salads, for example, are a simple and profitable way to get rid of bruised or “old” fruit. The same applies to soups.
Absolutely no “microwavable” products; I ask this as a personal favor. My opinion is that a “microwave” should not be used even to heat water for tea, given that herbs-infusions or tea should be prepared at certain temperatures, and not all herbs or flowers needs 100 degrees infusion.
Beware of products on sale! Has anyone ever stopped you in the street to give you something for free? It has never happened to me so why should I expect to find items for half price at a supermarket? Perhaps because they are going bad? I may be slightly too suspicious, but this is my work, and in all the years of “shopping” for hotels and restaurants, whenever I heard the words “on sale” it was always the same story: a product of ambiguous origins which is about to expire.
The situation for branded or sub-branded products is a more delicate issue. It is true that branded products always have a clear and explicit origin, but I have often found, by carefully reading labels, that sub-branded products have exactly the same ingredients. Sometimes, new sub-branded products are obligated to lower their price just to compete with products that are already famous.
In conclusion, use your head while shopping. Dedicate some time to purchase ingredients that you'll transform into food, which is fuel for our body. Try to devote more time in choosing the right foods, checking their origin, and their expiration date. Spend more time in the kitchen – a room that we have to preserve well over time. Also, let us not try to save space by adding an appliance such as the “microwave”.
Some say that food, which cannot be eaten raw, should not be eaten at all. Perhaps this is an extreme viewpoint, but cooking food incorrectly does decrease the amount of vitamins and minerals we eventually absorb.
Cooking meat quickly decreases the biological value of proteins, especially when boiled, as the prolonged cooking process crumbles the vitamins and dissolves all the minerals.
If we decide to roast meat instead, carcinogens are produced on the external part of it. The same is true for grilled meat, vegetables, bread, and everything else; if grilled for too long, the burnt surface will contain carcinogenic substances, such as benzopyrene. Additionally, over cooking meat causes a longer and more difficult digestion. Meat should be cooked with the heart (center) at a maximum temperature of 60 degrees. This excludes the meat that is considered dangerous, such as chicken or pork, which requires a more thorough cooking.
The same principle holds true for fish, which should never be overcooked or burnt. Its meat, being more delicate, needs to be perfectly cooked. If we happen to undercook our fish we should make sure that it is fresh. The amount of minerals and vitamins in meat and raw fish diminishes up to fifty percent throughout the cooking process. That is not to say that we should only eat raw food, but we must cook everything properly, allowing the nutrients to remain intact.
The same for vegetables – whether roasted, grilled, or boiled. Because they are water soluble, this property causes the majority of minerals and vitamins B and C to be lost.
Even milk, if boiled, causes the calcium-phosphate complex used in growth, to mutate into a form that is almost impossible to assimilate. The same goes for carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and flour. Their prolonged baking causes them to transform into carcinogenic substances. So be careful when eating the scorched part of some fantastic lasagna or oven-cooked pasta.
In essence, cooking partially deteriorates and dissolves the vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, we must try to eat more raw vegetables, but if you decide to cook them it is best to make soup out of them as it allows us to ingest the water in which all the vitamins and minerals linger.
If we decide to boil vegetables, we must ensure it is a fast process that takes place at a high temperature.
For meat and fish, try to keep their heart at a temperature of 60 degrees. To better illustrate this concept, the inside of a steak or fish should be moist, not dry.
Obviously, unless there are medical contraindications, these mistakes are a part of our lives, and as I always say: a poor diet for one or two days during the Christmas holidays or on special occasions, will not cause problems in the future but a consistent unbalanced diet, surely will.
Coca-Cola or low sodium water?
What a silly question, the answer is simple, right?
So why do we always choose Coca-Cola then?
Certainly a canned drink every once in a while is not so bad for you, but drinking exclusively fizzy drinks and alcoholic beverages will not help you live a long life – sickness-free.
Natural water, just like vitamins and minerals, is not considered a source of energy, as it does not contain calories. However, it is fundamental in all the internal chemical reactions that take place in our organism. Without food we can survive for a long time: up to 30 days, but only a few without water. Therefore water must be consumed every day, in amounts that vary between individuals, seasons, physical activity, and the types of food we eat.
But how much of it do we need to drink?
An adult of medium weight needs about 2.5 to 3 liters of water per day, which is the expelled daily amount. This way, the level of water remains constantly balanced. We must drink water also when we do not feel the need; the feeling of thirst is not always reliable. We must learn to drink throughout the day. Should we drink during our meals or only between them?
The amount of water necessary during meals depends of the type of food.
When food reaches the stomach, digestion immediately begins thanks to digestive juices found in the stomach – if the food is really dry then digestion will be much slower. So it is really important to drink the right amount of water during a meal to accelerate and facilitate digestion.
We need to be careful to not overdo it; indeed, drinking too much water during a meal can overly dilute saliva, thus skipping pre-digestion.
You should chew carefully and decrease the time between sips. It is best to drink before or after meals that are particularly rich in starch.
What does drinking the right amount of water actually do?
Well, it helps keep our skin hydrated, particularly during the summer months.
It helps prevent cramps, constipation, fatigue, headaches, and in more serious cases even fainting.
Remember, drinking the right amount of water every day also helps control body weight. In many cases, water retention is only caused by not drinking the right amount of water per day. Drinking therefore helps cleanse the body of toxins; facilitates weight loss, and strengthens tissues.
For those suffering from kidney stones, for instance, drinking water is vital.
We should drink at least 2 liters of water per day in small sips to stimulate kidney function and facilitate restoring a balanced level of water and saline. It also increases the amount of urine, which dilutes salts and makes the development of kidney stones more difficult to happen. Water helps relieve prostate inflammation.
Only by drinking the right amount of water can cure certain cases of prostatitis, as it rinses the inflammation once it is expelled through urine.
The Discovery of hot water
In China most minor bodily ailments are treated simply with hot water. I discovered in person the true benefits of a drink considered bizarre by us Westerners!
A famous saying is: “never refuse a glass of water to anyone”.
Well, in China you just have to add “hot”.
In all places, both public and private, people drink water “hot”, never cold. A few years ago, when I arrived in China, I was surprised and obviously refused to drink warm water; at the time I could not think of something worse than drinking a glass of hot water – if anything I would rather have it ice cold.
But that’s not where the story ended; as time passed by, when I occasionally had stomach pains, or maybe I had a cold or even when I was just tired, I was always offered hot water. I was surrounded by people who valued this beverage as something capable of curing the most common sicknesses.
At that point I decided to dig deeper into the subject. Not only was I stunned to learn the many benefits of drinking hot water – I have also treasured the knowledge and continue to drink it to this day.
In China as well as in Japan, it is believed that water rinses away diseases and that drinking hot water prevents them. Indeed, according to Chinese folk medicine, consuming any substance that is below body temperature forces the body, especially the stomach, to waste a lot of energy in bringing its temperature back to normal.
According to Chinese medicine, the stomach is the vehicle from which you can reach all other parts of the body, so keeping your stomach in excellent condition definitely helps maintain your body in good shape. This principle is especially applicable to digestion. For example, drinking an ice cold beverage during meals tends to solidify food. This results in a slower digestion and a stagnation of the ingested substances, which through the production of gas, causes a state of discomfort.
On the contrary, drinking hot water helps digestion and consequentially prevents many diseases. Additionally, this miraculous beverage helps blood circulation and does not slow it down much during digestion and can prevent heart attacks.
Hot water equals to energy, and this is also true in chemistry.
Trying it out costs nothing, especially during indigestion or menstruation. Try drinking plenty of hot water; after all, it is a really cheap remedy.
Is eating a pleasure?
Tibetan monks say that that we must concentrate on what we are doing to better appreciate the experiences we are having.
Eating, other than being essential to our survival, can also be a journey.
We should learn to spend a few extra minutes eating so we can appreciate flavors, colors, and smells.
How often in our society, which constantly pushes us to dedicate less time to ourselves, do we eat something “on the run” to get back to work more quickly? Or worse, with the advent of technology, we often eat in front of the TV or computer.
Well, this is wrong, or at least it is not healthy.
Just by handling fruits and vegetables we are exposed to active ingredients that have excellent nutritional and therapeutic qualities. The smell of apples, for example, is thought to have relaxing properties that are able to reduce blood pressure; all this just by smelling!
It is essential for products be in season, in order to better enjoy their most natural fragrance, color, and shape.
The color of food also has an important role. Besides having a different effect on each of us, they indicate the presence of precious substances that are able to protect our body from diseases and can help improve our quality of life.
Red: Lycopene produces a bright red color, typical of tomatoes and watermelon, but also in the pretty pink grapefruit. Lycopene has powerful anti-tumor properties. To aid absorption, it is necessary to mix it with certain fats and cook food rich in lycopene briefly, allowing it to maintain most of its beneficial properties. A plate of spaghetti with lightly cooked fresh tomato sauce is ideal.
Orange: Beta-carotene gives the beautiful orange color to carrots, pumpkins, melons, and apricots. Beta-carotene strengthens the immune system, protects the skin, facilitates tanning, and has natural anti-cancer properties. It should be mixed with certain fats to be absorbed more easily by the body: a carrot salad seasoned with extra virgin olive oil or a good fruit salad with apricots and dried fruits, such as almonds and hazelnuts, are great ways to take advantage of the maximum benefits of beta-carotene.
Green: The green color of vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, chard, kale and chicory, is due to a high concentration of chlorophyll, useful for purifying blood, and from beta-carotene, which we just mentioned. Broccoli is rich in anti-carcinogens, and can be eaten cooked, raw, finely cut and served with vinaigrette, or added in a salad.
Purple: Anthocyanin give the violet color to blueberries, eggplant, red onions, and grapes. Anthocyanin or anthocyanin are a class of hydro-soluble pigments belonging to the family of flavonoids that are really useful in treating pathologies such as rosacea, varicose veins, and swelling of the lower limbs. Indeed they stimulate peripheral circulation and strengthen capillaries.
We should always bear in mind that varying our diet is important. A varied diet will allow our body to ingest more nutrients and ease the absorption of other beneficial substances found in food. Moreover, recent studies have shown that having a varied diet improves our mood, self-esteem, and helps the brain to better perceive taste, color and form of food.
The importance of seeds and peels
We have grown up with the idea that seedless oranges taste better and are easier to eat than oranges that are full of seeds!
Well, I have to say that I myself used to believe this. Actually eating a slice of an orange with seeds, together with its peel, is in no way appetizing. But is this true? What if we only have gotten used to the convenience? What if oranges with seeds are actually better?
All fruits are now genetically modified to make our life easier or more exciting; we cross apples with pears, tangerines with oranges, and agricultural fields are hybridized in order to produce sterile fruit without annoying seeds.
But are we sure we are making the right choice when buying seedless fruit?