Text and Photos By Henrylito D. Tacio
“On each bank of the stream all kinds of trees will grow to provide food. Their leaves will never wither, and they will never stop bearing fruit…The trees will provide food, and their leaves will be used for healing people.” – Ezekiel 47:12
Bible scholars have been studying the food of the Bible for centuries, but only recently have modern nutritionists realized that what was good for the people thousands of years ago is just as good – and probably better! – for everyone today. Bible cuisine is naturally healthful.
Few, if any, of today’s nutritionists can find fault with it. In fact, nearly all the foods help maintain good health, and many of them contain substances and chemicals that actually combat disease. In recent years, medical scientists have identified dozens of foods that may help prevent cancer, heart disease and other illnesses – foods that ancient people took for granted.
Let’s start with fish. Lakeside villages were the setting for most of Jesus’ ministry, and he performed several miracles at the Sea of Galilee. Many fishermen dwell in the area whose livelihood prospered on the great variety of fish – including carp, sardines, mullet and tilapia.
It is a common knowledge now that fish is low in cholesterol and that it contains polyunsaturated fats. Since there was no way of preserving fish in the olden times (except by salting), most people in Bible times ate their fish fresh – a wonderfully rich source of protein, potassium, vitamins and minerals with only a moderate amount of sodium.
Recent studies have shown that fish thins the blood, protects arteries from damage, inhibits blood clots (anti-thrombotic), lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of heart attack and stroke, fights inflammation, and relives migraine headaches.
If you’re suffering from endometriosis, a condition in which tissue more or less perfectly resembling the mucous membrane of the uterus occurs abnormally in various locations in the pelvic cavity, eat more fish. One of the reasons for cramping among women – especially at the time of period – is that their body produces too much prostaglandin, a hormone in the uterine lining. Fish, it is said, contains omega-3 fatty acids, which suppress prostaglandin production. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids include herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna.
With fish around, can barley be far behind? The Holy Bible is filled with references to barley, which is among the earliest known and most nourishing grains ever to be cultivated. Today, over half of the barley harvested is used for animal feed and 10% is turned into malt. But in the past, the so-called Feast of Unleavened Bread (matzoh) was, some Bible scholars claim, an ancient barley harvest festival that became the celebration of the Passover, a Jewish celebration.
Unknowingly, barley has long been considered a healthful high-fiber grain. It is tremendously effective at shutting down the liver’s production of the bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol that does so much damage to our arteries – and that can cause strokes and heart attacks.
Next in the list is the glorious garlic. It’s one of the world’s oldest healing foods. During the time of Moses, garlic was already being used as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent, as a relief of flatulence, a diuretic, a sedative, a poultice and as a cure for internal parasites.
If cholesterol is your problem, take garlic. Researchers have long known that large quantities of raw garlic can reduce harmful blood fats. Unfortunately, raw garlic can also reduce your circle of friends. Worse yet, garlic that’s been “deodorized” by heat treatment loses its cholesterol-lowering effect. But now, there’s an odor-modified liquid garlic extract from Japan called Kyolic that seems to lower blood fats.
When Dr. Benjamin Lau of Loma Linda University in California, gave people with moderately high blood cholesterol one gram a day of the liquid garlic extract (equivalent to about four capsules or one teaspoon), their cholesterol levels fell an average of 44 points in six months.
Cold is no match for garlic, too, as it has an antibiotic effect, according to Dr. Elson Haas, director of the Marin Clinic of Preventive Medicine and Health Education in San Rafael, California. “Garlic actually kills germs and clear up your cold symptoms more rapidly,” he says. He recommends two to three oil-free garlic capsules three times a day.
When you have ear pain, eat a clove or two of garlic a day, advises Dr. Julian Whitaker, founder and president of Whitaker Wellness Center in Newport Beach, California. “Garlic has natural antiviral and antibiotic qualities that kill many of the germs that cause earaches,” he explains.
Like its cousin garlic, onion is noted as a cure-all. And the high regard in which folk healers hold it dates back just as long, perhaps 6,000 years or more. At least 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, onions were treasured both as food and for their therapeutic value, particularly for the treatment of kidney and bladder problems. The staunch belief in onions as god folk medicine continued down through the Middle Ages all the way to the present day.
Today, onions have been used externally as an antiseptic and a pain reliever, and taken internally as a tonic to sooth intestinal gas pains and to alleviate the symptoms of hypertension, high blood sugar and elevated cholesterol.
Honey, too, is highly regarded – particularly in the ancient times. In Matthew 3:4, the author tells of John the Baptist having locusts and wild honey as his food. First Samuel 14:25 recorded: “They all came into a wooded area and found honey everywhere. The woods were full of honey.”
Honey as we know now can kill bacteria and disinfect wounds and sores. Countless travelers have found that honey works when nothing else does to end the distress of traveler’s diarrhea.
The natural sugar called fructose enhances your body’s ability to burn off alcohol. If you’re having a hangover, Dr. Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, recommends spreading honey on a piece of toast or some crackers. “Honey is a very concentrated source of fructose and eating a little the morning after is one way to help your body flush out whatever alcohol remains,” he says.
Tea with honey is a traditional sore throat remedy. You can boost its therapeutic benefits with this spicy twist offered by Dr. Cynthia M. Watson, a family practitioner in private practice in Santa Monica, California: Stir into your tea one tablespoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon, then add ground red pepper to taste. “The pepper probably has a mild anesthetic effect,” she says. “It also stimulates the immune system.”
Meanwhile, grapes were the first plants Noah planted after the Flood. Grapes were eaten fresh, or dried and eaten as raisins, just as they are today. In the Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, the Reader’s Digest publication chronicled: “Then, in late August, the annual grape harvest began. It was a time of joy for all, for it signaled the end of the hot summer weather. Some of the grapes were eaten fresh from the vines, some were dried into raisins that would last throughout the winter, but most were used to make rich, potent wine.”
One reason this delicious fruit was so important in the diet thousands of years ago was because of its high content of boron, a mineral that we now know helps ward off osteoporosis. In addition, grapes fight tooth decay, stop viruses in their tracks, and are rich in other ingredients that many researchers believe can head off cancer.
Again, if bad cholesterol is your main problem, try switching to olive oil. The olive was certainly one of the most valuable and versatile trees of Biblical times. It’s mentioned frequently throughout the Holy Scriptures. Many, many passages contain references to olives, olive trees, olive yards and olive oils. Probably the most famous reference to olive oil and its healing powers is in the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the Samaritan cares for a beaten and robbed traveler, treating his wounds with oil and wine.
Going back to bad cholesterol. Olive oil, if you care to know, is high in another type of fat: monounsaturated. Previously thought to have no real effect on cholesterol levels, monounsaturated may actually lower cholesterol.
Studies by cholesterol researcher Scott M. Grundy, Ph.D, found that a diet high in monounsaturated fat lowered total cholesterol levels even more than a strict low-fat diet. What’s more, his studies showed that monos selectively lowered the (bad) LDLs while leaving (good) HDLs intact. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein.
As such, people are advised to strive for a low-fat diet, then “supplement” it with two or three tablespoons of olive oil (or an equivalent amount of other mono-rich food) each day. Just make sure you’re replacing other fats with monos and not simply adding to them.
Olive oil, too, can help ease inflammation caused by ingrown toenail. “Rub olive oil on the side of the toenail,” instructs Dr. Phyllis Ragley, a podiatrist in Lawrence, Kansas, and president of the American of Podiatric Sports medicine. “It keeps the skin soft, so there is less pressure and discomfort. Also, the skin can more easily accommodate the nail.”