Thanks to fad diets, everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a healthy diet – and has a mental list of which foods will never touch their lips again. We’ve all been there: Low-Carb, No-Carb, Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, Gluten-Free, Foods That Match Your Eye Color – you name it. But these diet trends simply cherry-pick a few nutritional facts, served up alongside lots of disinformation.
The simple truth is that a healthful, nutritionally favorable diet means consuming a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and herbs. Fun fact: each and every plant food has its own distinct nutritional profile. More importantly: there are over 100,000 biologically active chemicals found in plants, agents that offer anticancer, antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgesic, and wound healing effects.
So how do you get those active chemicals to up our chances of living a long and healthy life? Let’s break it down:
1. Eat “the rainbow,” using a variety of natural plant foods.
Ensure that you consume a wide range of phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants that offer a range of health benefits, from helping you lose excess weight and preventing disease, to slowing brain degeneration. The red in tomatoes comes from lycopene, the orange in carrots and sweet potatoes from alpha- and beta-carotene, the blues and reds of berries from anthocyanins, and the green in spinach and kale from lutein and chlorophylls. A variety of colors means a variety of health-promoting nutrients.
2. The next time you load up at the grocery store, be sure your cart has these Superfoods.
Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds, known collectively to Nutritarians as G-Bombs. The planet’s best foods should be a part of everyone’s diet every day. Why? According to Dr. Fuhrman, these six magical foods benefit the immune system, can make you slim and healthy, and keep you that way while protecting you from cancer. Here’s just a taste of the power they possess and a simple recipe to help you reap some of their amazing benefits:
- Greens, cruciferous vegetables in particular provide unique phytochemicals (ITCs) with a variety of cancer-fighting effects. Greater consumption of these vegetables is linked to reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease and a longer life.1-3
- Beans and other legumes are rich in fiber and resistant starch, which help keep blood glucose, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol down, promote weight loss, promote colon health, and nourish the microbiome.4-7
- Onions and garlic are linked to a reduction in the risk of several cancers, and their distinctive sulfur-containing phytochemicals have a number of actions that benefit the cardiovascular system.8-11
- Mushroom phytochemicals are unique in their promotion of immune system function and their abiity to inhibit of estrogen production; mushroom consumption is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.12-15
- Berry phytochemicals have anti-cancer and blood pressure-lowering effects, and are linked to a reduced risk of heart attack. Blueberries in particular have also shown promise for improving brain health, in studies on memory and cognitive function.16-22
- Seeds and nuts: Eating nuts regularly is associated with longevity, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and a healthy body weight. Different seeds have different nutritional benefits; flax and chia, for example, are rich in omega-3 ALA and lignans, anti-estrogenic phytochemicals linked to a reduction in breast and prostate cancer risk.23-27
3. Focus on the nutrient-density of your diet.
A standard weight loss “diet” is one that focuses on controlling portion size and cutting down on junk food. The absolute best diet is one that concentrates on the amount of nutrients that food can provide and their phytonutrient power to protect against cancer. Natural foods with a high nutrient-density contain a significant amount of vitamins, minerals and other healthful substances with respect to their calories. This way of eating, called a Nutritarian Diet, has surged in popularity just as interest in the health benefits of various ingredients – kale, turmeric, berries – has spiked. Superfoods describe not only G-Bombs, but many others, too. For the list of some of Dr. Fuhrman’s must-eat foods, download his infographic 10 Best and 10 Worst Foods. Or for a deeper dive into the foods that benefit health and longevity, read Dr. Fuhrman’s magazine to learn his choices for the planet’s 100 Best Foods.
4. Break the junk food habit.
Processed junk foods are incredibly harmful to our health. They lead to obesity and illness, and cause detrimental chemical changes in the brain, affecting our emotional well being and drive cravings for more junk food. Eating junk food is a learned habit. These foods need to be eliminated entirely from your diet.
Kick start your transformation by cleaning out your refrigerator and pantry so you won’t be tempted with unhealthy foods. Here’s some easy ways to start:
- Sauté with water or low-sodium vegetable broth instead of oil
- Switch from cow’s milk to unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk
- Switch from sugar-sweetened breakfast cereal to steel cut oats topped with flax or chia seeds and berries
- Add tofu into a veggie scramble instead of eggs
- Say no to cheese
- Finish your meals with fresh fruit rather than sugary desserts
5. Don’t snack on healthy foods, either.
Learn to eat only at mealtimes, and only when you are hungry. If you are hungry between meals, it means you didn’t eat enough during the meal, so adjust your portions accordingly. Refraining from snacking might be hard to do at first, but it will become second nature after a while. It is especially important not to eat after dinner before bedtime.
Originally printed on DrFuhrman.com. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Fuhrman.
Dr. Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in nutritional medicine. He is President of the Nutritional Research Foundation and the author of 6 NY Times bestselling books, including The End of Heart Disease. Visit him at DrFuhrman.com.
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