What foods help fight disease and make for an overall healthier person?
March 26, 2006 7:22 PM   Subscribe

What types of food promote good health, and what are the supposed health benefits of consuming such foods/beverages?

For example, tomato products are known to contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against certain types of cancer. Red wine is known to have heart-friendly benefits as well as cancer-fighting properties.

What other foods/beverages are you aware of that promote greater health and vitality? What specific properties of these foods are responsible for the health benefits -- and in what quantities should such foods be consumed? Anything information related to these general questions is greatly appreciated.
posted by orangeshoe to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Uh...this could be a long thread. Certainly there's some list out there on the information superhighway? The internets? Books?
posted by jimmythefish at 7:30 PM on March 26, 2006

You might find something in these past threads (of mine):

The World's Healthiest Foods

Diet and behavior

Feeding Minds - the impact of food on mental health
posted by Gyan at 7:39 PM on March 26, 2006

Second the WHF website. Their World's Healthiest Foods List, A-Z might be a good place to start.
posted by invisible ink at 7:44 PM on March 26, 2006

Response by poster: I know there are lists that answer these questions generally, but I noticed I was unclear in my original posting. What I want to know is what foods promote health, what are the health benefits, and what are your personal experiences with those claims? Are they true or false, based on your own experience?
posted by orangeshoe at 7:57 PM on March 26, 2006

Response by poster: Like, for example, I generally feel like red wine accomplishes more health benefits than does, say, white wine. However, I am wondering whether this is psychosomatic -- if I am told something is healthy, I think I feel better after eating it because I think I should.
posted by orangeshoe at 7:58 PM on March 26, 2006

orangeshoe : "What I want to know is what foods promote health, what are the health benefits, and what are your personal experiences with those claims?"

Barring the third question, the others are answered in my first link. It would be hard for individuals to methodically evaluate claims of long-term benefit of specific foods.
posted by Gyan at 8:01 PM on March 26, 2006

Response by poster: Alright, now I am starting to feel as crazy as I objectively seem to you all. :)
posted by orangeshoe at 8:05 PM on March 26, 2006

A pretty good resource that backs up all its information with the relevant published and peer reviewed articles.

Personally, on most days, I take 4 cups of spinach and one cup of frozen blueberries, add enough water to make them into a slurry and stick them in a blender. The tastes, somehow, cancel each other out, so the result ends up tasting just like muddy water.

The reason I chose these two things is that they are the best know natural source of antioxidants that are commonly available.

I also take 2 tablespoons of this stuff on a daily basis.
posted by 517 at 8:30 PM on March 26, 2006

You could try Dr. Pratt's Superfoods. I'll sum it up.

Beans: low-fat, low-calorie protein, fiber; controls weight blood sugar
Blueberries: antioxidants; preserves maturing brain
Broccoli: cancer-fighting
Oats: fiber; lowers cholesteral and reduces heart disease
Oranges: vitamin C; reduces rate of heart disease and cancer
Pumpkin: vitamin A, phytonutrients; healthy eyes and skin
Wild salmon: omega-3 fatty acids, low-fat protein; lowers risk for cardiac-related death
Soy: complete proteins; reduce risk of heart disease
Spinach: vitamin B and beta-carotene; reduce stress, increase energy, prevent cataracts and macular degeneration
Tea -- green or black: no-calorie heart disease and cancer prevention
Skinless turkey breast: essential vitamins and minerals; leanest animal protein
Tomatoes: lycopene, supports immune system and prostate health
Walnuts: protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats
Yogurt: probiotics; boosts immune system

Pomegranate: aids digestion; inhibits cancer cells
Kiwi: vitamin C; thins blood
Apples: fiber, antioxidants
Cinnamon: lowers blood sugar levels, brings down bad cholesteral
Honey: B-complex vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes
Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil: anti-inflammatory; heart disease, colon cancer
Dark chocolate: antioxidants, heart-healthy compounds; lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow
posted by glibhamdreck at 8:36 PM on March 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Last two posters -- thanks a great deal for the info! I think I'm seeing the beginnings of a new health-freak-me.
posted by orangeshoe at 9:01 PM on March 26, 2006

Response by poster: ahhh...dark chocolate. good one.
posted by orangeshoe at 9:02 PM on March 26, 2006

How some high quality H2O? Good for you and zero calories.
posted by mmascolino at 9:05 PM on March 26, 2006

Andrew Weil's Eating Well for Optimum Health is a good introduction to nutrition. And glibhamdreck's list looks pretty good.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:54 PM on March 26, 2006

Brown rice. Very high insoluble fibre content, slow release carbs. Cures haemorrhoids if eaten every day, and prevents their recurrence. Much more delicious than white rice. Combine with brown or green lentils or beans to give you the full range of amino acids.
posted by flabdablet at 3:55 AM on March 27, 2006

This is quite a controversial subject. In general I agree with the things mentioned above, but there are always other views. A little alcohol is heart healthy, but also promotes breast cancer. Glibhamdreck mentions salmon. While this does contain heart healthy fats, it also contains much arachidonic acid (AA), which is inflammatory and can cause all kinds of diseases. Honey contains lots of sugar for very few vitamins.

There is one thing that everybody agrees on: fruits and vegetables are good for you. Green vegetables are most nutritious, they are good sources of protein, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin A (carotenoids) and other vitamins/minerals. Take at least nine servings of fruits and veggies a day. Check out nutritional values of different products on nutritiondata.com.

Your feeling that red wine is better than wine wine may be true: in general colorful fruits and vegetables are more nutritious (but this is not a rule). Therefore, it is recommended to eat different colors of fruits and vegetables each day.

I do not eat a perfect diet at all, but ever since I started eating much more fruits and vegetables (and beans) I feel much better. I now do not need specific superfoods for specific ailments, because I generally feel much better. I think superfoods are of no use if the rest of your diet consists of junk food or fast foods.
posted by davar at 5:25 AM on March 27, 2006

I have not seen Flax Oil mentioned (similar benefits to the fish oil 517 mentioned, but a world of difference in taste). If you were to just add one thing to your diet I would recommend it be flax or fish oil (this is, of course, contingent on your current diet...) Both my wife and I have worked in various facets of the Health Food Industrytm for years. So if you have particular questions as you progress in your knowledge, feel free to email me.
posted by iurodivii at 6:51 AM on March 27, 2006

There is one thing that everybody agrees on: fruits and vegetables are good for you.

just to be complicated, macrobiotic folks think tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant are not good for you (they're "nightshade" vegetables) and ancient chinese medicine says onion, garlic, shallots & a couple others in that family are "the five impurities". Then there are various theories, like the ayurvedic system (or that blood type guy), that different bodies need different nutrition, and you have get assessed to find out what's good for you individually. So it's not that easy to find consensus on this. I think really listening to your own physical response is a good bet, but of course it's tough to tell when you're just reacting psychosomatically, as someone said above :).
posted by mdn at 6:59 AM on March 27, 2006

iurodivii: I have not seen Flax Oil mentioned. Flax oil can cause prostate cancer. I would recommend ground flax seed (same benefits as the oil, and lots more healthy things such as lignans) in limited quantities.

mdn: you are right, there really is no consensus about anything. You remind me of Health food Junkies:

After watching these food wars for a while, I began to fantasize about writing a cookbook for eating theorists. Each food would come complete with a citation from one system or authority claiming it to be the most divine edible ever created; a second reference, from an opposing view, would damn it as the worst pestilence one human being ever fed to another.

Finding examples wouldn't be difficult. I could pit the rules of various food theories against each other: Spicy food is bad; cayenne peppers are health-promoting. Fasting on oranges is healthy; citrus fruits are too acidic. Milk is good only for young cows (and pasteurized milk is even worse); boiled milk is the food of the gods. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, are essentially rotten; fermented foods aid digestion. Sweets are bad; honey is nature's most perfect food. Fruits are the ideal food; fruit causes candida. Vinegar is a poison; apple cider vinegar cures most illnesses. Proteins should not be combined with starches; aduki beans and brown rice should always be cooked together.
-- Steven Bratman

posted by davar at 7:26 AM on March 27, 2006

As a nutritionist, the best advice I can give you is moderation. No one food will extend your life to 140 yrs. where as no one food will make you drop dead tomorrow. It's really all a combination of eating good foods in moderation, exercise, and like it or not....genetics.

Having said that, your question leads me to believe you are more or less conscious of the basics and looking to fine tune your diet with specific vitamins and minerals. Here are a few:

*Dark green veggies are known cancer fighters and are usually full of Vitamin A, Potassium, and Fiber (Broccoli and Spinach are great examples of these).

*Sweet Potatoes actually have an obscene amount of Vitamin A as do carrots.

*Bell peppers have nearly twice as much Vitamin C as Oranges and contain less sugar over all.

Hope that helps.
posted by Smarson at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

If I can, I would like to add a question to this discussion:

By adding flavoring to tea, like chai or passion fruit, does the tea (particularly green tea) lose any of its potential health benefits or antioxidants?
posted by blueplasticfish at 12:54 PM on March 27, 2006

Flax oil can cause prostate cancer.

Backup, please?
posted by desuetude at 8:49 PM on March 27, 2006

Dietary intake of n–3 and n–6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer: Conclusions: Increased dietary intakes of ALA may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer. In contrast, EPA and DHA intakes may reduce the risk of total and advanced prostate cancer.
ALA is the omega 3 fatty acid in flax oil. EPA and DHA are the omega-3 fatty acids in fish (and algues).
posted by davar at 1:24 AM on March 28, 2006

Increased dietary intakes of ALA may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

This is not the same thing as causation.
posted by desuetude at 6:26 AM on March 28, 2006

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