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The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle approach to healthy eating that includes a balanced variety of foods.

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Eat For Your Life

The Benefits of Health-Building, Disease-Busting Foods

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." 

This famous adage is attributed to 4th Century Greek physician Hippocrates, who was one of the first people to link food closely to health. Although, for Hippocrates, food was not to be confused with actual medicine. 

Maybe that distinction, that food is food and medicine is medicine, is still true, but today's science about the impact of food on our mental and physical health informs us somewhat differently. Research has shown that specific foods, essential nutrients, and certain dietary patterns will boost our level of health and decrease our risk of chronic disease. 

One finding I particularly support is that diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other plant foods, and low in simple carbohydrates – such as the Mediterranean diet – are linked to a reduced risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and lower rates of chronic disease.

Recent findings also show that the Mediterranean diet may reduce the accumulation of belly fat specifically, according to Consumer Reports. Fat stored in the abdomen is more harmful to health than fat stored in the hips or thighs, raising the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

That’s why, after clients lose weight through my 26-day detox and phased diet plan, I advocate for the Mediterranean diet. It's a life-long, healthy way of maintaining weight loss and improving longevity.

What's more, certain foods, spices and drinks have been identified as powerful health builders and disease busters. Here are some of the most promising.

  • Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are a rich source of numerous phytochemicals that research suggests have a variety of positive effects on human health, including reducing chronic inflammation and cancer risk.
  • Broccoli: Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a number of phytonutrients that have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which has benefits for cardiovascular health, healthy blood sugar and cancer prevention.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon has been found to have blood sugar-balancing attributes, even with just ½ teaspoon a day.
  • Cranberries: Research suggests that cranberries may prevent urinary tract infections, possibly because they prevent bacteria from adhering to cells inside the bladder. Opt for pure cranberry juice, rather than juices with added other juices and sweeteners.
  • Pomegranates: The seeds of the pomegranate are packed with antioxidants and are high in vitamin C and potassium. Plus, the seeds are a great source of fiber.
  • Fish: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have anti-inflammatory properties. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish each week, such as salmon or black cod, to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Garlic: According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is probable evidence that garlic and other members of the allium family (onions, leeks, shallots, scallions) reduce the risk of developing common cancers.
  • Ginger and turmeric: These spices are known to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. Ginger also can help ease nausea and vomiting.
  • Green tea: The phytochemical EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea has been shown to have some anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects and may have heart health benefits.
  • Nuts: Studies have shown nuts to be helpful for cardiovascular function and healthy blood sugar and weight levels.

Word of advice: you don't have to make these dietary changes all at once. Just pick one or two from this list to add to your diet (and consider eliminating one of the 'worst' foods at the same time) and see how much better you feel. 

Danee Barnett, of Danee Barnett Weight Loss & Wellness Center (daneebarnett.com) is an acupuncturist and a cancer survivor with advanced training in treating chronic diseases and nutritional counseling. 

The Mediterranean diet is a life-long, healthy way of maintaining weight loss and improving longevity.

  • A healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease.
  • The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle approach to healthy eating that includes a balanced variety of foods.
  • Berries and pomegranate are loaded with antioxidants that decrease inflammation in the body.
  • Green tea is soothing and healing.
  • Fresh, local strawberries: it doesn't get any better than that! (photo by Prion Photography).
  • Salmon and broccoli are powerful disease-fighting foods.