By Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio
“Let food be your medicine.”
“The key to disease prevention is host resistance.”
Many people run to the drugstore for painkillers, antihistamines, laxatives, and antacids, but often you need to look no farther than the shelves of your grocery store for foods that can fight off disease.
Oatmeal contains beta glucan, a fiber that interferes with the absorption of cholesterol. Oatmeal (slow cooked, not the one minute kind) is also an excellent source of low glycemic carbohydrates. Wheat fiber (insoluble) can prevent colon cancer by adding bulk to the stool, thus increasing intestinal transit speed. Wheat bran also lowers estrogen levels, thus reducing a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
Cranberries and blueberries block an infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the cells of he urinary tract, thus preventing common urinary tract infections.
Capsiacin, the chemical that gives hot peppers their heat, can short circuit cancer development by preventing nitrosamines (preservatives frequently added to packaged meats) from attaching to and damaging DNA. Capsiacin may also clear the blood of clots for a short period of time.
A cup of tea may be one of your best defenses against heart disease, cancer, and stroke. The polyphenols in tea act as powerful antioxidants, which may explain why Japanese women who drink at least 5 cups of tea per day are half as likely to suffer a stroke compared to women who drank less. Chemicals in tea called catechins block malignant changes in oral, stomach, lung, pancreas, and colon cells. Antioxidant flavonoidsin tea keep arteries clear by preventing damaging LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and clogging blood vessels.
In a Loma Linda University study, vegetarians who ate nuts 5 times a week cut their risk of heart attack by fifty percent. Nuts are high in unsaturated fats which can lower cholesterol, and are high in magnesium and copper. These two minerals affect blood vessels, making them less prone to plaque attack. Almonds are high in the amino acid arginine, which is the precursor of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels and inhibits the buildup of cells on blood vessel walls – an important defense against heart disease.
Good news for chocolate lovers! The type of fat in chocolate (stearic) may actually curb high cholesterol. One and a half ounces of chocolate have the same amount of polyphenols as a 5 ounce glass of red wine. The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidant phenolics it contains.
Moderate intakes of alcohol (1 or 2 drinks) can shave your risk of heart disease by 30 or 50 percent, regardless of diet or smoking habits. Alcohol raises HDL levels that cleanse blood vessels of cholesterol. Red wine retards blood clot formation, probably because of a chemical in grape skins called resveratrol. Phenolics in red wine and dark beers may prevent LDL cholesterol from sticking to arterial walls. If you choose not to drink alcohol, the same protective chemicals are found in red grapes and grape juice.
Soybeans contain isoflavones, which are actually weak estrogens. These compounds can ease menopausal symptoms, reduce the risk of uterine, colon, and breast cancers, and help prevent bone loss. Eating soy protein reliably lowers elevated LDL cholesterol levels. For more detailed information about soybeans, read Soybeans and Health in the Nutrition section.
Populations eating large amounts of garlic have lower rates of stomach cancer, boosted immunity, and lower blood pressure. Garlic’s sulfur compounds block the conversion of chemicals into carcinogens. A clove a day can lower cholesterol by nine percent. Deodorized capsules are available from most health food stores.
Ginger acts as an anticoagulant by blocking thromboxane, a chemical that induces platelet aggregation. Ginger works as an anti-nausea agent, and can also help people who suffer from arthritis, because it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
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