Food & You: The Body-Mind Connection


There's no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body's balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body's ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.

While some body-mind effects are due to naturally occurring nutrient content in food, much is due to hidden additives. Below, are four common culprits. If you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your quality of living, talk with Dr. Bossio about the role these or other foods may play in your health.

Foods that Impact Body-Mind Wellbeing

Caffeine: The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality, which affects energy, concentration, and memory. Caffeine can aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety.

Food Dye: Those brightly colored, processed and packaged foods come with a rainbow of health risks. Listed on ingredient labels as "Blue 2," or "Citrus Red," food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They're also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world.

Sugars: Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much dietary sugar can result in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. Sugars that can act as poison include High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, artificial and "natural" sweeteners.

MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG "generally safe," some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity.

Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically is an important first step in understanding your personal body-mind food connection. It may be helpful to keep a mind-body food journal to provide a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.


Image Attribution: Eldar Nurkovic/

Awesome Avocado

There are so many reasons - and so many ways - to love avocado. A culinary superfood, avocados provide up to 20 nutrients including vitamins K, C and E, as well as folate, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. In fact, they actually have more potassium than bananas.

Unlike most fruits, avocado is low in carbohydrates and high in a healthy fat called oleic acid. Like olive oil, oleic acid has been linked to health benefits such as reducing inflammation, protecting cells against cancer, and reducing cholesterol. This amazing fruit also improves digestive health and helps your body absorb other nutrients.
There are limitless ways to add avocado to snacks or meals: Use avocado as a healthy spread on toast; blend it into scrambled eggs; add it to dips, salsa, or soup; slice for a salad topping.

Avocado is optimally ripe when the fruit is mildly soft to touch. Its flesh should be creamy and green-gold in color. If you don't use the whole fruit at one time, keep leftover avocado fresh by leaving the pit in the unused portion and allow it to sit, uncovered, on a counter for a few hours before placing it in the fridge (still uncovered) for up to two days. When you want to use the other half, simply peel off the brown crust to reveal a soft and deliciously ripe avocado beneath.

Image Attribution: Natalia Zakharova/


Rose Hips for Wellness

rose hips

There's nothing like a rose to stimulate feelings of wellbeing. And nothing quite like rose hip - the actual fruit of a rose - to enhance health and promote wellness.

Of all the roses, the beautiful Wild Dog Rose is the type most often cultivated for their hips. Once the flower has bloomed, and all the petals have fallen off, the hip is picked and used in a range of herbal preparations. Rose hips contain a variety of antioxidants (especially Vitamin C), Vitamin A, carotenoids, and other plant compounds that are recognized for their role in preventing degenerative disease, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Many natural health practitioners use rose hip to treat wounds and inflammation. Rose hip oil is commonly used in cosmetics as it has the ability to revitalize skin cells. It has been used to treat scars, acne and burns. In Germany, rose hip powder (capsule) has been used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Herbalists have long used rose hip tea to ease constipation and as a supplement to treat a cold.

Rose hip pulp can be incorporated into sauces or made into a jelly. Standardized extracts are also available in capsules. Always check with Dr. Bossio or your wellness practitioner before using any herbal remedy.

Image Attribution: Anna21/


Amla: Indian Gooseberry (Emblica officinalis)


Indian Gooseberry is an unusual, translucent fruit found in shades of yellow, green, red, or black. Berries may be perfectly round or oval and elongated and contain abundant, tiny edible seeds. The flavor ranges from tart and sweet to moderately sour.
Gooseberry is abundant in vitamin-C, and contains B-vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and beta carotene. A powerful antioxidant, Amla helps prevent and repair damage caused to cells by free radicals. Two other compounds in Amla, flavones and anthocyanins are noted for their beneficial health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.

In Ayurvedic Medicine, both dried and fresh Gooseberry fruits are used alone or in combination with other plants to support health and treat a variety of medical conditions. Some of the many health benefits or effects include:

  • Fortifies the liver and helps flush toxins from the body
  • Balances stomach acid
  • Helps regulate blood sugar
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Healing ulcers
  • Supports heart health
  • Manages fever, coughs, bronchitis or asthma

Gooseberry is of interest to researchers and health practitioners for its role in managing diabetes, prevention and treatment of certain cancers and heart disease, and its protective effect on brain health. In fact, several researchers revealed that various extracts and herbal formulations of Amla have potential therapeutic benefits and the results are similar to standard drugs. It's important to consult with Dr. Bossio to determine the right amount of an Amla supplement.
Look for Indian Gooseberry in international grocery stores and enjoy the fruit as part of a healthy diet.

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Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)


Hawthorn, also known as Maybush, is a thorny shrub found on hillsides and in sunlit woodsey areas throughout the world. Over centuries, all parts of the plant have been used to prepare foods, beverages, and medicines. In folk medicine, Hawthorn was used for the treatment of diarrhea, insomnia, and asthma. In China, it has been used to treat digestive problems, high cholesterol, poor circulation, and shortness of breath. During the early 1800s, doctors in North America used Hawthorn to treat heart conditions, circulatory, and respiratory disorders.

Hawthorn has a rich supply of flavonoids (antioxidants that protect cells from damage) and anti-inflammatory properties, which are important to heart health. It plays a role in helping dilate blood vessels, improves blood flow to the heart, and lowers blood pressure. In Europe, Hawthorn is regarded as a safe and effective treatment for early-stage heart disease. It is used to promote the health of the circulatory system and to treat angina, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. In studies, patients with heart failure who took Hawthorn showed improvement in clinical symptoms and sense of wellbeing.

Hawthorn is available as tea, capsule, tincture, and standardized extract found in prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, standardized herbal medicine, or dietary supplements. Before taking Hawthorn, especially if you suspect or have a heart or lung condition, consult with Dr. Bossio.

Image Attribution: morisfoto/

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum or Tulsi)

holy basil

Holy basil (or Tulsi), with its astringent taste and powerful aroma, is not the sweet basil you use to season marinara sauce. And it is very different from the basil used in Thai cuisine. Cultivated in the Southeast Asian tropics, holy basil has long been considered sacred in India where it is still used in worship services. For centuries, holy basil has been used in Ayurvedic therapies to treat a wide range of ailments including respiratory conditions, skin conditions, inflammation, microbial conditions, infertility, and psychological distress.

Modern scientific research is now demonstrating its beneficial effects. Evidence suggests that Tulsi offers protective benefits against physical, environmental/chemical, metabolic, and psychological stress.

Researchers are interested in the active ingredients that can be derived from the flowers, stems, leaves, seeds, and roots and used for medicinal purposes. The active ingredients in Tulsi have been found to have "adaptogenic effects," which means Tulsi helps the body better manage the physiological response to stress. Studies also show it helps reduce inflammation and keep blood glucose levels in balance. There also is evidence to support using holy basil as an antimicrobial agent in hand sanitizer and mouthwash.

There are several methods of application for holy basil: Dried powder, a capsule containing the concentrated herb extract, tea, or tincture. Dr. Bossio may advise using a specific amount and a specific type of application based on individual health concerns or for preventive care. Because it is known to interact with other medications, consult with Dr. Bossio before taking a Tulsi supplement. Unless under a physician's care, do not give holy basil to an infant.

Image Attribution: Kerdkanno/

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)


For millennia, physicians and herbalists have found medicinal uses for all parts of the elder tree, including its wood, leaves, flowers, and berries. The branches of this native European plant were believed to cast off evil spirits. Leaves were used in ointments to heal wounds. Flowers and berries were used to make wine; infusions were a common treatment for colds and rheumatic conditions. Today, herbalists and holistic physicians commonly recommend elderberry for its immunity-boosting properties.

Elderberries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids that act as antioxidants and exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that elder extracts may inhibit the replication of viruses.

Elderberry syrup is made from an extract of elder fruits. Lozenges are often prepared with zinc and other herbs. Both are commonly used to help tame colds, coughs, and relieve flu symptoms. Syrups and lozenges are available on the market, but always check with Dr. Bossio to be sure it is a quality product and you are taking an appropriate dose.

Important caution: Unripe berries are not safe to eat nor are the other parts of the elder plant. Since elderberry stimulates the immune system, it is not recommended for people with autoimmune conditions.

Image Attribution: Adam88x/

Tumeric (Curcuma longa)


Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root portion of the Curcuma longa plant, and has been used medicinally throughout the world. It is what gives mustard its yellow color, and is one of the star ingredients in curry. Turmeric has many cancer-fighting properties, making it a great addition to anyone concerned about skin cancer. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties that help with conditions like IBS and Rheumatoid Arthritis. It also has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and is especially effective for breast, prostate, lung, colon, and prostate cancer. This super food also helps lower the risk of leukemia, improves liver function, boosts the cardiovascular system, helps lower cholesterol, and may offer protection against Alzheimer's Disease. Everyone can benefit from having more Turmeric in their diet. Try adding it to egg salad and deviled eggs for a brilliant yellow color, use it to flavor rice and soups, add it to salad dressings, or season steamed veggies with it. Be careful, its potent yellow color can stain!


  • "Turmeric" World's Healthiest Foods.
  • Aggarwal B. Paper presented at the U.S. Defense Department's 'Era of Hope' Breast Cancer Research Program meeting in Philadelphia, PA, October 5, 2005,. reported in "Turmeric slows breast cancer spread in mice."
  • Balasubramanian K. Molecular Orbital Basis for Yellow Curry Spice Curcumin's Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease. J. Agric. Food Chem., 54 (10), 3512 -3520, 2006. 10.1021/jf0603533 S0021-8561(06)00353-0, Web Release Date: April 20, 2006. 2006.

Image Attribution: LotusHead/

Nature's Potent Healer: Neem (Azadirachta indicas)


The neem tree is a tropical evergreen native to India and Asia. For thousands of years, neem has been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Owing to its wide range of medicinal properties, it has attracted worldwide attention from allopathic, homeopathic, and integrative physicians and health researchers.

More than 140 compounds have been isolated from different parts of neem. All parts of the tree--bark, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, and roots can be used for the treatment of a variety of conditions. Medicinal applications of neem range from fever and inflammation to skin diseases and dental care. The leaf and bark, and their derivatives, have properties that demonstrate anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic healing effects.

Neem remedies and neem-based products are appealing because they do not contain harsh chemicals and have varied uses for general health and well-being. Neem extracts are frequently found in shampoo, toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, insect repellent, lotions and creams, and pet shampoo.

Some of the common medicinal forms of neem are:

Extracts. High vitamin E content makes extracts effective in treating skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and skin allergies. They also have been found effective in eliminating bacterial and fungal infections. The leaf is the primary source for extracts.

Bark. The bark has potent antibacterial properties. It can be made into a fast-absorbing oil to treat recurrent skin conditions, skin infections, and wounds.

Twigs. For centuries in India, chewing young, soft branches has been useful for preventing cavities and gum disease. In the United States, neem toothpaste and other dental products are used in holistic dental care.

Seeds. Crushing the seeds of the fruit produces a potent oil that is predominantly used in insecticide and pesticide products. It is a safer alternative to products containing the chemical DEET. It is also a very good flea and tick repellant for animals. For people, the oil can be added to shampoos to soothe a dry, itchy scalp.

Where to find neem products:
Neem Tree Farms
Discover Neem
Pure Formulas Neem Toothpaste


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Chlorella: Unlocking the Secrets of a Superfood


Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater microalgae that has flourished for nearly two billion years. Photosynthesizing its energy from the sun, chlorella is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is a natural source of vegetarian protein—about 60 percent—a very high level for a plant. Due to this high protein concentration and chlorella’s naturally rapid growth rate, after World War II, chlorella was investigated as a possible food source.
Chlorella is rich in amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—including B-vitamins, vitamins A and D, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. This unique combination of nutrients within chlorella is a primary reason why scientists around the world are actively researching* medicinal uses for this aquatic-based superfood.
Chlorella’s potential benefits for health and vitality include:

  • detoxification from heavy metals, including mercury;
  • supporting optimal immune system function;
  • antioxidant properties;
  • anti-inflammatory properties;
  • healthy cholesterol metabolism; and
  • support for digestive health.

It is widely accepted that the structure of the cell wall in chlorella allows it to bind with heavy metals, essentially keeping the phytonutrient healthy, and it’s the primary reason chlorella has survived for millennia, even in polluted aquatic environments. This rare ability to bind to toxins has given rise to preclinical studies on the role chlorella may play in detoxification for optimal health in humans, as our internal environment is primarily aquatic.
There are many types of chlorella on the market, in pill and powder form. The cellular properties of chlorella must be broken down for human digestion, known as “broken cell-wall chlorella.” Therefore, chlorella must be developed under careful quality control conditions. Additionally, Daily Values for this nutrient have not been established. It is imperative to consult with Dr. Bossio before selecting a chlorella supplement.
*(chemical assays, animal and limited human studies)

Image Attribution: Kesu01/

Crimini Mushrooms

Ancient Romans referred to them as "food for the gods." Ancient Egyptians thought they could grant immortality. While those claims may be a stretch, crimini mushrooms (the common button type) are packed with unique phytonutrients that have been shown to contribute to boosting immune function, regulating inflammation, preventing arthritis, and protecting against cardiovascular problems. Not bad for a fungus.

If that weren't enough, new evidence suggests that crimini mushrooms can provide a boost of vitamins D1 and D2, which are instrumental in maintaining a healthy immune system. In fact, crimini mushrooms have proven to be more beneficial to the immune system than their more exotic mushroom counterparts.

Crimini mushrooms also provide an excellent source of selenium, zinc, and manganese--critical antioxidant nutrients--and vitamins B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B5, B6, and B12, which contribute to better cardiovascular health.

When buying, storing, or preparing crimini mushrooms, follow these tips to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.

1. Buy organic. Due to modern agricultural practices, it is important to purchase or cultivate organic mushrooms in order to lessen your risk of ingesting contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and other unwanted substances.

2. Store them properly. How you store your mushrooms is vital to preserving their nutrient content, especially where vitamin D is concerned. To prevent discoloration and hardening, wrap mushrooms in a damp cloth and place them in a loosely closed paper bag, or spread them out in a glass dish and cover them with a moist cloth. Store them in the refrigerator at about 38°F (3°C). Whichever storage method you use, you'll want to try to restrict surface-to-surface contact among the mushrooms in order to keep them fresh longer. If you need to stack them, be sure to separate each layer with a damp paper towel.

3. Sauté and enjoy. The mushrooms should be wiped clean, sliced, and sautéed lightly, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, in order to ensure a golden-brown exterior and moist, succulent interior. Take care not to overcook mushrooms as this will make their nutrient count plummet.


  • Pesti, G., ed. Mushrooms: Cultivation, Antioxidant Properties and Health Benefits. New York: Nova Publishers, 2014.
  • World's Healthiest Foods. "Mushrooms, Crimini." Accessed December 2014.

Image Attribution: maxriesgo/

Sunflower Sprouts

sunflower sprouts

Native American cultures have known about the many uses and benefits of sunflower for centuries.  Sunflower can be used as food, an oil source, and even as a dye pigment. As a food and health source, sunflower tops the list of sprouts as a protein source. They contain minerals, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fiber and phytosterols. Their vitamin E content has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory effects, reduce the risk of colon cancer, help control some symptoms of menopause and help cut down on diabetic complications. Sunflower sprouts are also a good source of magnesium and may help reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, prevent migraine headaches and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Iron and chlorophyll also can be found in sprouted sunflower seeds, the latter of which will help detoxify your blood and liver. Sprouting sunflower seeds will transform nutrient content by as much as 300 - 1,200 percent. When sprouting sunflower seeds at home, soak the seeds for 2 days before planting in soil. Once in the soil, allow your seeds to sprout. They are ready to harvest in about 3 days.


Sunflower seeds. The World's Healthiest Foods.

Image Attribution: Yastremska/

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)


According to Greek myth, fennel was associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine. Interestingly, the ancient Greeks reverred the fennel stalk as a vehicle for passing knowledge from the gods to men at Olympus.

Closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander, and often associated with Italian and French cooking, fennel is a crunchy and slightly sweet herb that is in season and readily available from autumn through early spring.

Fennel is packed with phytonutrients that provide strong antioxidant activity. Anethole, a phytonutrient compound found in fennel, has been proven in animal studies to reduce inflammation and even help prevent cancer. In addition, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C, which contributes to a healthy immune system and can help protect against pain and joint deterioration from conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Fennel bulb is also a good source of fiber and potassium, and may help reduce bad cholesterol and protect from stroke and heart attack.

When shopping for fennel, look for whitish or pale green bulbs that are clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting, with relatively straight and closely superimposed stalks. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. Pass on fennel with signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the fennel is past maturity. Fresh fennel should be used as soon as possible, but can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for about four days. Some creative ways of using fennel, the stalks in particular, is to add them to soups, stocks and stews. The leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.


Photo credit. "Fennel flower heads" by user:Fir0002 - Own work. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons -

Fennel. The World's Healthiest Foods.

Pitchford, Paul. 1996. Healing with whole foods: oriental traditions and modern nutrition. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books.

Image Attribution: Fir0002/



Cabbage has a long history of use as food and medicine, dating back to ancient Celtic, Greek and Roman societies. With a deep rooted history, this gem is featured among food cultures of northern Europe, especially in German, Polish and Russian cuisine. Steaming is the best way to cook cabbage to retain the maximum nutritional value. When steamed, the fiber-related components in cabbage help stimulate excretion of bile acids in your digestive tract, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, research has shown that not all cabbages are created equal. To get the broadest health benefits from cabbage, include red, green and Savoy cabbages in your diet. While cabbage in general is an excellent source of sinigrin, a compound that has shown unique properties that help guard against bladder, colon and prostate cancers, Savoy cabbage has the highest sinigrin content. Although, a recent study suggests that long-cooked cabbage may lose its cancer-preventive benefits, so it is important to keep steaming time to a minimum or eat this cabbage raw. Red cabbage also has additional nutritional benefits including a concentration of more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. The phytonutrients in red cabbage are excellent dietary antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and offer protection from a number of human diseases. Cabbage juice has long been established by health research as an aid for healing peptic (stomach) ulcers, but recent studies suggest that the benefits of cabbage may extend to the entire digestive tract.

When choosing cabbage heads, go for those that are firm and dense with shiny, crisp, colorful leaves free of cracks, bruises, and blemishes. Avoid buying pre-cut cabbage, either halved or shredded, since once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its valuable vitamin C content. To wash, remove the thick fibrous outer leaves, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut the cabbage into pieces, then wash under running water. If you notice any signs of worms or insects, which sometimes appears in cabbage, soak the head in salt water or vinegar water for 15 to 20 minutes first. To preserve vitamin C content, cut and wash the cabbage right before cooking or eating it. Keeping cabbage cold will also help keep it fresh and retain its vitamin C content. Put the whole head in a container in the crisper of your refrigerator. Red and green cabbage will keep this way for about two weeks while Savoy cabbage will keep for about one week.


Photo Credit. Free Digital Photos.

Cabbage. The World's Healthiest Foods.

Image Attribution: SOMMAI/



One of the world's oldest spices, cilantro, dates back to 5,000 BC and is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. This famous herb was used in both ancient Greek and Roman cultures, mentioned in the Old Testament and used by early physicians, including Hippocrates, for its medicinal properties. The leaves of the plant have long been popular in culinary traditions of Latin American, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Medicinally, cilantro has been used in parts of Europe as a defense from diabetes, in India for its anti-inflammatory properties and recently studied in the U.S. for its cholesterol-lowering effects. In fact, recent research suggests that coriander may help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as free radical production.

Many of this herb's healing properties can be attributed to the dense content of phytonutrients in its volatile oil. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry also suggests that cilantro contains an antibacterial compound that may be a safe, natural defense against Salmonella. This particular compound, called dodecenal, is found in both the seeds and fresh leaves of cilantro, making cilantro an excellent addition to most any meal for flavor and protection. There are many ways to integrate this aromatic and beneficial herb to your diet and in doing so, here are some tips to help you choose, prepare and store it. Fresh cilantro leaves should have a vibrant deep green color, firm, crisp and free from yellow or brown spots. Highly perishable, fresh coriander should be wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towel, placed in a container and stored in the refrigerator. You may want to consider freezing cilantro in ice cube trays using water or stock to use when preparing soups and stews. Fresh cilantro is fragile, so it is best to clean it by swishing it around with your hands in a bowl of cold water, dislodging any dirt on it. Empty the water and repeat this process until there is no dirt left in the water.


Photo credit. Free Digital Photos. /Herbs_and_Spices_g68-Raw_Coriander_Leaves_p82336.html.

Cilantro & Coriander Seeds. The World's Healthiest Foods.

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The beet, a root vegetable, is thought to have grown wild in prehistoric North Africa, as well as along Asian and European seashores, and was primarily used as animal feed. It wasn't until the time of the ancient Romans that beets were cultivated for human consumption. And modern science has proven that beets are not only acceptable for human consumption, but  extremely beneficial to human health. Beets provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. They privide a unique and rich source of phytonutrients called betalains, which research has shown supports the detoxification processes of the body. Beets are a very good source of manganese, vitamin C, betanin, isobetanin and vulgaxanthin, making them an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory as well. Research suggests that beets may also provide cardiovascular, anti-cancer and fiber-related benefits. A high sugar content food, raw beets are crunchy in texture but turn soft and buttery when cooked. To reap the full benefits of these wonderful roots you'll want to retain the betalains, which diminish with increased cooking time. To do this, limit steaming of beets to 15 minutes or less, and roasting to less than one hour. And the greens attached to the beet roots are full of nutrients as well, and can be easily prepared like spinach or Swiss chard for a colorful and tasty salad.


Beets. The World's Healthiest Foods.

Image Attribution: Rosemary Ratcliff/

Cleavers (Gallium aparine)


Native to Europe but naturalized to the U.S., cleavers has historically been used to treat nodular growths on and under the skin, and even as a treatment for epilepsy. These burr-like plants are excellent as part of a tonic, primarily for detoxification and the lymphatic system because they help stimulate movement of lymph into the bloodstream. Cleavers is an effective treatment for chronic toxicity-related inflammatory conditions including acne, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and acute inflammation of the lymph nodes. Plus it stimulates the kidneys, improving toxicity drainage, mildly stimulates the liver and when paired with other immune stimulating herbs, helps treat infectious conditions. Cleavers is also beneficial for the health of the blood vessels and can be used to treat bruises, varicose veins and hemorrhoids. This herb is in the same family as coffee but contains less caffeine. Often, the fruits are dried and roasted to be used as a coffee substitute. In addition, you can eat the leaves and stems of the plant as a leaf vegetable if gathered before the fruits appear. Because of the little hooks that are on the plant, it is recommended that you steam or otherwise cook the plant before consuming. Despite the fact that cleavers is generally regarded as safe, you should check with Dr. Bossio if you are interested in using this herb.


Photo credit. "20140618Galium aparine" by AnRo0002 - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons.

Galium aparine.

Cleavers (Galium aparine). Natural Standard.

Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.


Bioflavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that can be found in plants, most abundantly in vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown bioflavonoids support strong cell growth and deliver an anti-carcinogenic effect. More study is needed, but current research suggests that bioflavonoids may help promote cardiovascular health, as well as potentially offer protection from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Relatively high intake of flavonoid-rich foods and beverages has also been suggested to improve the processes that take place within the blood vessels (vascular endothelial), in the short-term at least.  It is possible, but not yet proven, that these short-term improvements may help in the long-term by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. When it comes to reducing the risk of cancer, consumption of flavonoid-rich foods may be helpful - but again, more study is needed. Bioflavonoids contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and metal-chelating properties, making bioflavonoid-rich foods a prime candidate for studies aimed at learning more about processes and function of the brain. Overall, whether it's because of the bioflavonoids, other nutrients, or a combination of all of their nutritious goodies, maintaining a rich diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruits and legumes will undoubtedly help your body protect itself against disease. Additionally, you can supply your body with bioflavonoids from tea, red wine and soy.


Photo Credit.

Flavonoids. Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University.

The Bioavailability of Different Forms of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University.

Fit Day.

Image Attribution: Photokanok/

Tour of the Mints (Metha spp.)

A historic plant with origins dating back to ancient Greek mythology, and medicinal applications dating back to medieval monks, mint comes in hundreds of varieties. Some mint varieties, including peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint, among others, are most often used for culinary purposes. Others, such as field mint, are more often valued for their therapeutic and medicinal qualities and used to treat ailments including headache, indigestion, heartburn, insomnia and gas. Still, some mint varieties are best used simply for their aroma or appearance. Corsican mint is one of the best known mint varieties and is most often used to make mint jelly to accompany a meal of lamb chops, but it also has medicinal properties.

Corsican mint has calming, anti-spasmodic effects that helps reduce anxiety, stress and headaches. It can also be used as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Its aroma, like that of most mints, will help calm the mind and relax the senses. Additionally, this mint has the ability to stimulate appetite and reduce gas. Topically, essential oil of Corsican mint can even help relieve pain and ease tension in muscles. Peppermint, another commonly used mint variety, has been found to help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and nasal symptoms of colds related to allergies, and even to limit some bacterial and fungal growth. Nutritionally, peppermint is also a good source of manganese, copper and vitamin C. 

There are many ways to enjoy mint. Try a cup of fresh mint tea, add some to a fruit salad, or add chopped mint leaves to soups that feature tomatoes. Fresh mints carry a superior flavor to dried mint and are better suited for culinary purposes. To store fresh mint leaves, carefully wrap them in a damp paper towel and place the pack inside a loosely closed plastic bag. If refrigerated this way, the leaves should keep for several days. Mints are fast-growing, aromatic herbs, which grow well in container gardens with moist, well-draining soil, set in full to partial sun. Many will also grow well indoors, making it possible to utilize mint year-round. For more tips on how to grow mint in your garden, check out


Photo credit.

Mint Plant Varieties: Types of Mint for the Garden. Gardening Know How.

Herb Fact Sheet: Mint. The Herb Society.

Peppermint. The World's Healthiest Foods.

Image Attribution:  foto76/



Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes extracted from pineapple. When taken on an empty stomach, these enzymes can help reduce inflammation, swelling and improve breathing. Although bromelain is commonly thought of as a digestive enzyme for proteins, studies show that it can help treat symptoms of sinusitis -- or sinus inflammation -- which can be brought on by seasonal allergies. It has been suggested that bromelain also helps reduce other symptoms of sinusitis such as cough and nasal mucus. Traditionally, pineapple has been used for centuries in Central and South America to reduce inflammation as well as indigestion. To work as a digestive aid, bromelain is taken before or after meals. In Europe, bromelain is used to treat sinus and nasal swelling following ear, nose and throat surgery or trauma. Bromelain is taken orally and is available as a tablet or capsule, but be sure to check with Dr. Deb Bossio before taking bromelain as it may interact with other supplements, herbs or medications.


Photo Credit -

Bromelain (Ananas comosus, Ananas sativus). Natural Standard Professional Monograph. 2013.

Bromelain. University of Maryland Medical Center.

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