When we think of food for health we conjure up visions of delicious dishes in our minds.

We think of wholesome food as protein, calories, fats and vitamins to nourish our bodies.

The other day, I was invited to join a group of Hindu elders to share ideas about health among Indian women and men.

As I entered the hall, there was the joyous sound of people standing around the central table happily serving food, joking and laughing together and forgetting their worries and loneliness for an hour.

One of the members said meeting regularly like this was essential for the elders as a lot of them were quite lonely at home.

This loneliness and isolation can lead to depression, lack of motivation, lack of exercise and, eventually, heart disease or diabetes.

Frequent social gathering is just as essential for older folk as for youngsters and, in fact, more so.

And, in many cultures, food is the essential focal point in bringing people together.

Just looking at the variety of dishes of all colours and textures, from chapatis, vegetable curries, lentils, pickles and poppadoms to yoghurt and sweet dishes brought a surge to my happy, healthy molecules.

There could, equally well, have been Western dishes and wine.

Sharing foods from different cultures could bring about a natural social health, I thought.

In fact, the Celebrating Diversity campaign at Brighton and Hove Council is doing exactly that.

There is a function this evening at the King Alfred Centre, with food, music and dance from different cultures for anyone who wishes to try out a fun evening of health and happiness (Tickets £10).

We got talking about the health benefits of various herbs and spices in Indian and European cooking.

Indian cooking is based on the science of Ayurvedic medicine and the herbs and spices used have medicinal properties.

For example, mustard and turmeric have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-arthritic properties.

They also work as natural antibiotics.

Traditionally, turmeric powder is used as a home remedy for sore throats, coughs, colds and wheezing.

Try a quarter teaspoon boiled with hot milk and a touch of salt you can add a touch of brandy if you wish.

Ginger and asafoetida are also anti-arthritis and anti-diabetes agents.

Cumin, mint, oregano and coriander are all excellent digestive agents and detoxify the body.

Ayurveda says that a meal made up of all five tastes sweet, sour, salty, pungent and astringent brings life to our mind, body and spirit.

Above all, food eaten with negative emotions can cause illness but good food eaten in good company with laughter and happiness enhances our well-being in mind body and spirit, both individually and socially.