Top 9 Therapeutic Foods

Are you a list-person? I totally am.  I don’t make them neatly in a day planner though -I’ve tried that it just doesn’t stick. I need something that isn’t pretty to scribble down my notes. If it is a fresh new day planner, I’ll be all concerned with writing neatly in the lines. Then, I’ve basically just added another item to my to-do list.

So, I scribble my lists on whatever is handy in the moment. Sometimes, I’ll save the scrap of paper with my messy list and cross off my items as I go, which is definitely satisfying. But most of all, I like making lists because they help me organize my thoughts, re-group, and focus on the priorities. I also like presenting ideas in list-format. I think our brains like to see things in organized groups. So, today, I present to you my Top 9 Therapeutic Foods –in list format :). They are functional foods in the truest sense; they go to work in your body.

These foods aren’t fads, they won’t go out of style; they are things that have been eaten for many generations and deserve a spot in your diet.

Top 9 Therapeutic Foods


Berries are rich in phytonutrients, which are natural compounds found in plants that are powerful defenders of health. Phytonutrients stimulate
enzymes that help the body get rid of toxins, boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, promote healthy estrogen metabolism, and stimulate the death of cancer cells. Blue/Purple/Black berries contain resveratrol, which helps to promote healthy aging by reducing inflammation and blood sugar, and supporting the cardiovascular system. Add berries to your yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, or simply eat as a snack.



Probably my favorite food. There was a small-scaled clinical study that found that the polyphenols in oats may help reduce inflammation after exercise in women over 50. Oats contain fiber, which is a prebiotic (food for your good bacteria –the “probiotics”). It is important to keep our good bacteria flourishing because they support immunity, help us extract nutrients from food, and much more. Overall, oats contain B vitamins, which are needed for energy metabolism. They also contain iron and magnesium, which are important for bone health. Oatmeal is always a good way to get in oats but if you aren’t into oatmeal, try making an easy batch of granola, or baking a berry crumble.

Cruciferous vegetables:broccoli-300x199

Examples include: broccoli, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur-compounds that support our body’s ability to detox. We are faced with many environmental toxins on a daily basis, some of which can build up over the years to cause oxidative damage (the precursor to most disease including cardiovascular diseases). So, it is important to support their body’s natural detoxification pathways with key nutrients such as those found in cruciferous vegetables.

yogurt-small-300x199Plain Yogurt:

A good source of calcium and vitamin D; two nutrients that are critical for bone health. We naturally lose bone as we age but you can prevent additional bone loss by making sure you consume adequate calcium and vitamin D from food. Otherwise, you’re body will grab calcium from your bones to use for everyday functioning –not good! The best yogurt to choose is plain, whole-milk yogurt that is made from milk that comes from grass-fed cows and/or is organic.


Traditionally, humans ate many different parts of the animals but today; we mostly stick to the muscle meats. That means that we are missing out on some really supportive ingredients such as collagen (which is synonymous with Gelatin). Gelatin is rich in amino acids, particularly glycine, which supports skin, hair, nail and joint health. It also plays a role in gut healing protocols. It is found in the connective tissues of animals and can be used as a thickener in many recipes or simply combined with water and a little fruit juice to be eaten as a gelatin snack. My favorite source for gelatin is Great Lakes Gelatin.  You can also find gelatin in it’s original source in the bones of animals. Bone broth is increasing in popularity lately and it is definitely something to consider making regularly. The bonus of getting your gelatin from bone broth is that you’ll also get loads of minerals, hyaluronic acid and glucosamine (basically the jackpot for joint and gut health).


This is a really powerful herb that has been studied for immune modulation, anti-inflammatory, liver detox, and event antidepressant qualities, but the primary reason I recommend this is because it has been proven to have comparable efficacy of over a dozen different drugs –most notably, anti-inflammatory and pain medications! I’ve worked with a top pain MD in the Boston area and she actually “prescribes” turmeric often for pain management! The compound in turmeric that has been studied the most, and which is responsible for the majority of the benefits, is called curcumin.  It can be found in supplement form but with its slightly peppery flavor, turmeric is easily added to dishes like stir-fries, Indian recipes, soups & stews, and even snuck into a smoothie.

Coconut Oil:coconut-oil-small-300x199

Has a unique profile in its saturated fat content –specifically medium chain triglycerides. These fats are easily digested and have been studied for cognition, lipid balance, immune support and metabolism. This one is on my list because it helps support a slowing metabolism and a healthy mind.

himalayan-pink-sea-salt-small-300x199Himalayan Pink Sea Salt:

Contains over 80 ionized minerals encrusted in the earth more than 200 million years ago. I recommend choosing low-sodium, whole foods and finishing recipe with this high quality salt. It will cut the sodium in your foods dramatically by adding it at the end, and also support electrolye balance, hydration, pH, detoxification (the minerals), and may also contribute to bone health, cardiovascular wellbeing, and even support healthy hair and skin.


Beyond being a lean source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids are neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory and have a mild blood thinning effect which is a positive for those with cardiovascular disease. Eating fish twice a week is a smart idea for your health. Go for variety! And if you are interested in sustainability, check out Sustainable Seafood Watch, a program by the Monteray Bay Aquarium, that will help you make a sustainable choice.

Honorable mentions: avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, leafy greens. 

What foods do you think ought to have made this list? 

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  1. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine on February 3, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Nut and POTATOES!

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on February 4, 2015 at 1:04 am

      Nuts and potatoes for sure…especially purple potatoes and sweet potatoes! Those babies are rich in phytonutrients.

  2. Bonnie Mac on February 3, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Ayla! Just stumbled upon your blog and I’ll definitely be following you! 🙂 My question is about fish – I hear this all the time and I really like fish, but I worry about mercury and pollution in fish. I live outside DC and the idea of eating fish out of the Potomac or Chesapeake scares me – the toxicity reports are terrible! I’d love your thoughts and advice on this matter. 🙂


    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on February 4, 2015 at 1:08 am

      Thanks for visiting, glad to have you here 🙂 Mercury in fish is a valid concern. One simple strategy is to eat smaller fish more frequently than larger fish. The larger the fish (think tuna and swordfish) the higher the mercury content. In my opinion, the benefits of fish outweigh the risk. I think this topic deserves it’s own blog post! Will work on that 😉

  3. Bonnie Mac on February 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks, Ayla! 🙂

  4. Nour Zibdeh on February 4, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Great list Ayla… I’ll probably add garlic, ginger, and onions. Also read the comment about fish, I always suggest Seafood Watch Website. They list best sources of fish and I they have by location too.

    • Ayla Withee, MS, RDN, LDN on February 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Yes, Nour! Garlic, ginger and onions are definitely top foods -anti-inflammatory and have compounds needed for liver detox.

  5. Maria on February 13, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Great article! These foods are on my regular shopping list. Like you, I love oats, I eat them almost daily and am always finding new ways to incorporate them into the food I make. Love your blog!

  6. Gloria Miranda on May 5, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Perfect list! These foods are good for the health especially the cruciferous vegetables. Thank you for sharing this Ayla! Keep sharing!

  7. Alicia on May 25, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Do you have a specific brand of turmeric supplements that you recommend?

  8. Alicia on May 25, 2017 at 1:05 am

    Do you have a specific brand of turmeric supplements that you could recommend?

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