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BETTER HEALTH: Disease-Fighting Foods

BETTER HEALTH: Disease-Fighting Foods
Registered Dietitian Victoria Cox (GP)

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Nutrition is a powerful tool in the fight for a vibrant, disease-free life. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern, along with sufficient physical activity, can help us to prevent the development of a wide array of diseases.

This is the assertion of Registered Dietitian Victoria Cox, who also advised that while many food groups offer a multitude of potential disease-fighting health benefits, like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, there are some foods in particular that show promising results in helping to prevent specific health conditions.

She named green leafy vegetables, turmeric, flaxseeds, sweet peppers and acai and other berries as five top disease fighting foods.

“Green Leafy Vegetables are effective at helping to prevent age-related macular degeneration which is one of the leading causes of visual impairments and acquired blindness, but much evidence supports that diet can actually help to prevent or delay progression of this disease. Two carotenoids, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, help to protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes.

“Our bodies do not make these carotenoids; therefore, we must rely on our diet as a means of acquiring them and keeping good eye health. Luckily, green leafy vegetables are a great source of both lutein and zeaxanthin,” Cox said, adding that the Inclusion of kale, spinach and collard greens, should ensure maximum eye-health benefits.

The dietician also said the main active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, makes the yellow spice a strong anti-inflammatory food and may therefore help to prevent some of the many issues in the body that result from chronic inflammation.

“Turmeric helps with managing arthritis and its associated pain. Increasing research is showing promising results on the ability of curcumin to significantly decrease joint inflammation, treating the symptoms of arthritis. In some cases, the powerful turmeric extract was found to be more effective at this than traditional anti-inflammatory drugs,” she revealed.

She said it was important to note that this research was based on taking supplements containing the active ingredient, curcumin, rather than simply cooking with increased amounts of turmeric.

“While there is currently no cure for age-related diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, research suggests that the antioxidants and polyphenols in berries may lower the risk of developing these neurodegenerative diseases. These compounds work by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, promoting brain health. The highest levels are found in acai berries; however, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are also great sources, playing important roles in a healthy diet,” the diet expert shared.

She also said that flaxseed or linseed play an important role in reducing the risk of developing heart disease as they contain about 42 per cent fat, composed largely of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, such as the famed omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

“While they may not be as potent as fish oils when it comes to providing omega-3, they are an important source of this healthy fat for vegetarians/vegans, or individuals who simply do not eat fish. Furthermore, flaxseeds are a great source of fibre as they contain soluble fibre.

“This type of fibre helps to prevent heart disease by lowering our blood cholesterol levels. A group of compounds known as phytosterols are also founds in flaxseeds, and they also help with lowering cholesterol. Overall, flaxseeds are a smart addition to anyone’s diet, and can be easily added to smoothies, oatmeal, cereals etc,” Cox advised.

She also revealed that just one ounce of red sweet pepper contains twice as much vitamin C as citrus.

“These vegetables are also a great source of beta-carotene, which helps to keep our eyes and skin healthy. So, next time you’re brainstorming on how to get your vitamin C, throw some sweet pepper into your salad, or dice it up and add it while cooking some scrambled eggs,” Cox said.

The dietician cautioned that no one of these foods alone act as a “cure-all” or absolute guarantee for a disease-free life.

“We must remember that healthy eating, incorporating the five mentioned foods and many more, is only one component of living a long and healthy life. Stress management, exercise, and other positive lifestyle habits all work together to move us closer to this goal! A healthy diet alone cannot ensure disease prevention. It is simply an important strategy that we can take within our own hands to do what we can to live our healthiest lives possible,” she said.

This article is brought to you by Better Health Magazine.