Heart disease is known as the number one killer in the U.S. (and the world). Every year, about 715, 000 Americans suffer from a heart attack and about 600,000 of those people die from the disease. Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease, are increasing in a world where people are often sedentary, do not always incorporate fruits and veggies into their diet, consume too much alcohol, and/or smoke. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading causes of death after heart disease include stroke, lower respiratory infections, and then Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), respectively, for over a decade! And last summer, the American Medical Association even recognized obesity as a disease.
The thing is, most of these diseases can be preventable! With the right lifestyle choices, many people can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, every year from medical bills and medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical measures to fight cardiovascular disease alone costs around $312.6 billion per year for just Americans. That’s a lot of hard-earned cash thrown away.
Diet plays a huge factor in your risk for diseases, including cancer. Check out these 10 disease-fighting foods to incorporate in your daily meals to start feeling great and become the superhero you are:
Cauliflower, along with its cousins broccoli, kale, collards, and brussels sprouts, contain indoles – nitrogen compounds that can help prevent tumors. This cruciferous vegetable is known to help prevent the risk for many cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer.
Cauliflowers are versatile. Eat it raw, sautee it, boil it, steam it, or roast it. Mash it and replace potatoes for a less starchy, less carb-y side dish like in this CauliMash. Blend it into this Raw Cauliflower Creme Soup or shape it into these Spicy Cauliflower Potato Burger. You can even make a Cauliflower Crust Pizza! One thing’s for sure, cauliflower is king when it comes to incorporating it into recipes.
Carrots contain lots of carotenoids, an antioxidant that may protect against cancer, cataracts, and/or heart disease. Other fruits and vegetables that are packed with carotenoids include sweet potato, kale, pumpkin, spinach, and cantaloupe. Carotenoids help give these guys their bright, vibrant orange and green colors. These antioxidant ninjas fight off the bad guys – free radicals – and ensure they don’t hurt any cell membranes or DNA.
Carrots make lovely snacks eaten raw with some dip or try a carrot-themed Japanese night with Raw Carrot Sushi and Carrot Miso Soup. Make this Indian dessert, a carrot and date pudding with coconut and cardamom. Let your ideas run wild and you will fall in love with this crunchy vegetable. Soon, you’ll be like Bugs Bunny: “What’s up, Doc?”
Tomatoes contain a phytonutrient known as lycopene which is a cancer-fighter on its own. Other sources of this antioxidant fighter include fruits and vegetables like carrots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Try adding sun-dried tomatoes to dishes like tofu scrambles and this Quinoa with Secret Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.
According to Jennifer Novakovich, a fellow OGP contributor, “Evidence is accumulating on lycopene’s protective effects on many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, with amazing anti-inflammatory actions.” Now, that’s more reason for you to eat this disease-fighting food!
Flax and chia seeds are a great plant-based alternative for getting some omega-3s into your diet. According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, omega-3s can stop the growth of breast cancer tumors by 30 percent! It may also help “reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes,” according to WedMD.
For such small seeds, these little wonders are packed with nutritional benefits. Try sprinkling some on top of your morning cereal or oatmeal, add a tablespoon in a smoothie like in this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie, or cook some amazing Cinnamon Rolls! Learn about all the health benefits of flax seeds here.
Berries, whether you prefer strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries (the list can go on for awhile), are rich in anthocyanidins, an antioxidant that kicks butt when it comes to cancer-fighting and diseases.
Try eating berries raw, adding them into smoothies, or make a berry-licious dessert like this Raw Cherry Berry Chocolate Cheesecake. For a light snack, try this Seed and Goji Berry Granola. Made with two cancer-fighting foods, this granola is a winner!
6. Beans & Legumes
All beans and legumes contain cancer-fighting potential. Studies show that those who consume beans & legumes on a regular basis have a decreased risk for diseases such as pancreatic cancer, due to the food’s abundance in folate.
Not only are beans and legumes high in protein, they are easy on your digestive tract and wallet. Try this asian-fusion recipe, Hoisin Vegan Black Bean Burger with Spicy Sesame Sauce. Or this Winter Potato, White Bean, and Kale Soup to warm up from the chilly weather outside. Not interested in these recipes? Check out these bean-filled recipes here.
Garlic, a staple ingredient in many recipes, is shown to reduce risk in breast, stomach, and esophagus cancers. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, garlic can also fight against stomach and colorectal cancers.
To increase the fighting potential of garlic, mince garlic for about 10 minutes before you use it within a recipe. Add garlic to sautées, steam vegetables in a garlic sauce, or roast them like in this Roasted Garlic, Miso, and Greens Soup.
The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is definitely true. This antioxidant fruit also contains quercetin, a photochemical that can help prevent lung, prostate, and heart disease, among others.
This miracle fruit is a great raw snack, make a mouth-watering Maple Drunk Vegan Apple Pie, and cook deliciously in Apple-Almond Butter Pancakes. Yum! For more apple-inspired recipes, check out these 20 Warm and Fuzzy Apple Recipes.
9. Green & Black Teas
Teas have been used in medicine since ancient times. It’s a herbal elixir of antioxidants and goes great with Chinese food. Green and black teas both contain catechins, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, with green tea having almost three times the amount of this cancer-fighter than black tea, according to American Institute for Cancer Research.
Try sipping green tea with your next meal, or enjoy it nontraditionally. How about eating Green Tea and Mango Sandwiches? Or try these rocking’ Vegan Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes. Not sure where to begin or what green tea to buy? Check out this article by Kristina Pepelko, our very own OGP Green Monster, on the Health Benefits of Green Tea and her top picks.
Along with being tasty, grapes contain a cancer-fighting phytochemcial known as resveratrol. This phytochemical possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to reduce the risk of diseases.
Grapes, of course, can be eaten raw, but try enjoying them roasted like in this Thyme-Roasted Grapes recipe.
Remember, you are the only one that can decide how and what you eat. Diet plays a crucial role in preventing diseases and these 10 disease-fighting foods are only a small list to the many wonder foods out there. Is there a disease-fighting food that you think should have made the list? Let us know with a comment below!
Image Source: Mike McCune/Flickr