It never ceases to amaze me that people will pop over-the-counter medications for every possible ache, pain, mood or ailment, but never think to look at what they are eating as possibly the source of their ailments, or that food could be a source of empowerment.

Despite what the pharmaceutical companies lead us to believe, we can find “cures” for most minor maladies right in our own garden, provided by Mother Nature. She has given us all that we need for a healthy, well-balanced diet and the tools that we need to get through our day, our week, and our lifetime healthy and happy.

While most every food has its benefits, here are just five of the most worth mentioning:

1. Chicken – Grandma had it right when she made us chicken soup for our colds. The white meat found in chicken contains the essential vitamins B12, B6, and B3. Chicken can assist in lowering your risk of stroke and also boost your mood. Chicken is low in fat (especially with the skin removed) and high in protein. Besides all the nutritional benefits, chicken is so versatile; it can be cooked in so many ways using a variety of tools such as the outdoor grill or an indoor rotisserie. And the B vitamins provide a host of benefits such as:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Fighting off anemia
  • Maintaining healthy blood cells
  • Warding off heart disease
  • Increasing energy
  • Converting carbohydrates into energy

2. Broccoli and Salads – Broccoli and salads, especially salads made with leaf spinach, have many benefits. Broccoli contains vitamins A, C, and E while spinach provides folate, which helps to maintain and produce newer healthier cells for the body. Vitamins such as A, C, and E help to boost the immune system; this could mean less time off sick and shorter duration of ailments such as the common cold.

3. Bananas – For a sweet treat any time during the day, reach for a banana. The benefits of a banana are numerous. You can choose to eat a banana as it is, or you can add it to yogurt, a smoothie, or a bowl of quinoa. (Pronounced keenwa)  Either way, you will gain the benefit of a quick energy boost that sustains you for several hours along with the mood-altering benefit of the B6 vitamin that bananas are rich in. In addition, you can even mash up really ripe ones and use them as a sweetener in baked goods, such a muffins, in place of the sugar.

4. Dark Chocolate – The good news is that good quality, dark chocolate has many benefits to help make you feel great. The cocoa in chocolate has heart-healthy benefits such as lowering your cholesterol and reducing heart disease. That’s not all; dark chocolate can lift your mood significantly with its tryptophan and magnesium. Grabbing a piece of high quality dark chocolate will not only help your heart, it will also help your mind.

5. Gluten-Free Whole Grains and Seeds – Gluten-free whole grains* and seeds have been found to contain selenium which has been shown to significantly reduce depression. A good gluten-free whole grain bread with your favorite spread or even an all-natural peanut butter provides fiber, selenium, and protein. The nice thing about gluten-free whole grains is that you can mix and match them to make bread.

*Like Buckwheat, Quinoa, Gluten-Free Oats, Amaranth, Sorghum, Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Teff, and Indian Rice Grass (aka-Montina)