A recent HealthNet article asks: “Can the Right Diet Cure Your Illness?”
It starts by stating what is probably the obvious: “Food supplies the calories and macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates your body needs for energy. It’s also a source of vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. On the other hand…fruits and vegetables…(are also) a source of phytonutrients that may play a role in preventing disease.”
The article explains that phytonutrients are “chemicals found in plants that have no nutritional value. Instead, they have certain properties that may reduce inflammation in your body, block the growth of bacteria, alter the function of some enzymes or protect cells against damage. There are thousands of different types of phytonutrients in existence, concentrated in different plant species. Phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their rich array of colors. For example, tomatoes are red because of phytonutrients called lycopenes. Carrots are orange because of the beta-carotene they contain and red cabbage and blueberries are purple because they’re a rich source of phytonutrients called anthocyanins.”
The article continues to discuss three highlights:
- Phytonutrients Impact On Health: “For example, EGCG, a phytonutrient in green tea, is a strong antioxidant that protects cells against damage from free radicals, formed from the chemical reactions all cells undergo. Free radicals have been linked with health problems like cancer and heart disease…Even if EGCG proves to be effective for preventing or treating disease, it’s not clear how much you need to consume through food to get the benefits. There’s also the issue of absorption. What you eat when you sip green tea may affect how much you absorb. For example, adding milk to green tea appears to block the action of some of the EGCG and other phytonutrients in green tea. This is not to say that the phytonutrients in green tea and in sources like fruits, vegetables and herbs don’t have benefits for preventing or treating certain diseases. There’s preliminary evidence that some do….”
- Food for Preventing Disease: “Where diet may play the greatest role is in the prevention of disease and for reducing symptoms and slowing down the progression of certain health problems. For example, diets high in fiber may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and, possibly certain types of cancer like colon cancer and breast cancer. A fiber-rich diet also improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people.
Gout is another disease impacted by diet. People who eat a diet rich in purines are more likely to have a gout flare-up. Certain types of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like salmon because they reduce inflammation. Some herbs like turmeric and ginger also have anti-inflammatory activity.
Substituting saturated fat with healthier types of fat from sources like fatty fish, olive oil and nuts may lower the risk for heart disease, while a diet low in processed carbohydrates benefits people with type 2 diabetes. So there’s no doubt that certain types of diets have an impact on disease – the question is whether a certain diet or particular foods can CURE illness.”
- Bottom Line: “There’s no doubt that diet has an impact on many diseases, but whether a particular type of diet or food can cure diseases like cancer is unclear…diet is best for preventing disease and for maintaining overall health…One that limits processed foods. Stick as close to nature as possible by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein like fish and healthy fats from non-animal sources like nuts and olive oil…skip the soft drinks and sip sugar-free green tea instead. Be liberal with herbs and spices like turmeric, garlic and rosemary. Spices are a good source of antioxidants and inflammation-reducing phytonutrients.
When you choose vegetables and fruits, pick as many colors as possible – purple, red, yellow, orange and green. Cut back on added sugar. It’s just empty calories. Eat like this, and you’ll likely lower your risk for a number of health problems and feel better too.”
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