By Susan Biali, M.D.
This is a list of my top ten fundamental foods (in no particular order) that anyone can use, in virtually any situation, to improve a their health through their diet. Whether you want to prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, have more energy, or even potentially slow the aging process, take a good look at this list. They’re all foods that are readily available and easy to prepare, and even just eating them a little more often can make a difference.
#1 Olive Oil
This cornerstone of the famous Mediterranean Diet is rich in monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can improve and prevent all kinds of conditions. Olive oil lovers have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. It may help sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, and some believe it’s the reason the Mediterranean diet lowers blood pressure and risk of breast cancer. Use it for salads, marinades, frying, or even as a dip for bread.
# 2 Fish
Fish are low in calories and high in protein, and everyone knows they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These amazing fats, highest in cold-water fish like salmon, can lower stroke risk, decrease fat levels in the blood, and improve your body’s response to insulin. They’re also a powerful anti-inflammatory. And don’t forget the brain benefits: improvement of depression; decreased risk of bipolar illness (“manic depression”); and better mental performance. You can even lower your risk of Alzheimer’s by eating fish once a week.
Lycopene, the antioxidant found in tomatoes, appears to protect us from a long list of cancers. Eating a diet rich in tomato products, be it tomato sauce, soup, or even pizza, reduces the risk of heart disease. One study in type II diabetics showed that drinking tomato juice can inhibit the artery-blocking clumping of platelets.
Eating nuts five times a week cuts the risk of dying from heart disease in half. In fact, eating nuts daily can earn you two to three more years of life, period. Regular nut consumption also decreases risk of stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and macular degeneration.
#5 Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain phytochemicals with significant anti-cancer properties. Broccoli consumption reduces your risk of heart disease, may prevent cataracts, and might even help eliminate H. Pylori infection.
This powerhouse food contains special sulfur compounds, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and selenium. Regular garlic consumption can lower blood pressure, improve blood lipids, and decrease platelet Its antibacterial and antiviral properties make it a popular cold remedy, and it also may fight H. Pylori, the bacteria that cause ulcers. One study even reported that applying ajoene, a garlic compound, to skin cancer lesions significantly shrunk the tumors.
#7 Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits have tons of phytochemicals and vitamin C. Herperidin, a flavonone antioxidant found in orange pulp, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol in animals. One large-scale review reported that citrus fruits significantly reduce the risk of esophageal, oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) and stomach cancers. Apparently, eating one citrus fruit serving a day can reduce your risk of stroke by 19%. But don’t forget: grapefruits can interfere with certain medications.
Oats, containing lots of unique water-soluble fiber, can lower cholesterol and may help prevent heart disease. Antioxidant oat phenols actually prevent attachment of immune cells to arterial walls, which is the first step in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Oats may help boost your immune system in general, and have a stabilizing effect on blood glucose. Rich in selenium and phytonutrients, they may also protect against various cancers.
There’s definitely something to the famous apple-a-day saying. Apples have both insoluble and soluble fiber that can significantly lower cholesterol, and eating apples regularly can protect you against heart disease. Apple pectin can also help get toxins such as heavy metals out of your body. Choose to eat the fruit rather than the juice to reap the greatest benefits, as the peel is packed with antioxidant phenols.
When it comes to overall antioxidant power, Blueberries come out on top of all other fruits and vegetables. They contain almost 40% more anthocyanidins than red wine. A blueberry-rich diet has been shown to improve the learning capacity and motor skills in animal models, as well as protecting the brain from oxidative stress. And good news for the ladies: blueberries contain the same urinary tract-protective compounds found in cranberries. Blueberries aren’t just a summer-only food – throw frozen blueberries into your baking, pancakes, oatmeal, shakes, you name it.
So there you have it. Of course, there are lots of other fabulous, healthy foods out there that I haven’t included; this list is just a sampling of my favourites. If you’d like more information on superstar foods, “The World’s Healthiest Foods” website (www.whfoods.com) is one example of a good quality, comprehensive resource.