Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Nutrition

9 Foods That Help Prevent and Fight Diseases

In this article:

  • What Foods Can Help Prevent and Fight Off Diseases?
  • What Nutrients Are Helpful in Fighting Off Diseases?
  • How Does Diet Affect the Well-Being of a Person?
  • What Foods Should Be Avoided to Keep the Body Healthy?
  • What Lifestyle Changes Can Help Fight Off Diseases?
  • Can Vaccines Help in Fighting Off Diseases?
  • Final Word

What you eat has major implications for your health. The nourishment you derive from food fuels your body for it to function properly, repair itself, and ward off diseases.

Ideally, you should consume a well-balanced diet that fulfills all your nutritional requirements without adding too much to your calorie intake.

Healthy eating is one of the best interventions for boosting your immunity and reducing the risk of chronic ailments such as diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and obesity, among many others.

What Foods Can Help Prevent and Fight Off Diseases?

Here is a list of specific foods that can help counter particular diseases:

1. Lemon for obesity

One flavonoid found in citrus fruits such as lemon called naringin has displayed strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This compound may assist in lipid (fat) metabolism. (1)

There are studies looking at its effect on metabolic syndrome, which involves high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, and overweight/obesity.

Additionally, citric acid, which is present in lemon juice, may stimulate saliva, (2) which is the starting point of digestion.

2. Turmeric for arthritis

Turmeric and its active component curcumin have long been used in a wide variety of anti-inflammatory interventions, one of which is for the pain of osteoarthritis.

A recent review of randomized controlled trials showed that turmeric was as effective as pain medication for arthritis pain. (3)

3. Beets for anemia

There are a couple of ways beets help with anemia. They are a great source of folate and iron, providing 20% and 4% of your daily value, respectively. Both folate and iron are nutrients that help build blood.

Iron deficiency anemia is a specific form of anemia wherein a lack of iron in the body makes it difficult for the blood to bind oxygen properly.

Beets contain nitrates that are known to expand the blood vessels and thereby increase blood flow throughout the body. The higher volume of blood will inadvertently carry more oxygen to the organs and tissue. (4)(5)

4. Yogurt for high blood pressure

Studies have shown that dairy and dairy fats, such as low-fat yogurt, are associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure. (6)

Why? The answer lies in the makeup of dairy fat. Up to 30% is monounsaturated fat, 4% is polyunsaturated fat, and 4% can be conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega-6 fat. (7)

All of these types of fats have separately been shown to be heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory fats.

5. Berries for diabetes

Berries are full of fiber and get their sweetness from natural sugars, both of which help lower the glycemic load on the body to prevent major blood sugar spikes.

Blueberries in particular, and specifically the anthocyanins in them, have been shown in clinical studies to improve insulin sensitivity and lower insulin resistance, which is a major component of type 2 diabetes. (8)

6. Green tea for high cholesterol

Green tea has been shown in a review of randomized trials to improve high cholesterol, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol. (9) The reason for this is a plant phenol called EGCG, a major component of green tea.

Separate clinical reviews have established that this compound has a wide range of anti-cardiovascular disease compounds, (10) including being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-atherosclerosis (plaque buildup), which can happen with high cholesterol.

7. Garlic for weak immunity

Garlic has previously been shown to reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms. It also helps the immune system in other ways.

Garlic extract can boost T-cells so your body will recognize the disease. Plus, it contains sulfur, which facilitates the absorption of another immunity booster – zinc – in the body. (11)

8. Bananas for diarrhea

Bananas are low in fiber, but the fiber they contain is insoluble, namely, pectin. This type of fiber helps bulk up stool and is prebiotic.

The potassium in bananas can help with potential dehydration due to liquid stool. Banana flakes are sometimes used clinically to help with diarrhea.

9. Walnut for brain health

Several studies have presented evidence that walnuts, which are a source of ALA, an omega-9 fatty acid, can improve cognitive impairment and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In people with Alzheimer’s disease, a brain protein called amylo-beta protein is affected, causing inflammation, and nuts such as walnuts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (12)

Other foods

Eggs and foods that are yellow and orange contain lutein, which helps fight diseases of the eye. Teas and spicy foods may help fight off colds. Ginger can help with nausea.

What Nutrients Are Helpful in Fighting Off Diseases?

There are many. Some examples are vitamin C, which helps the immune system and is a mild antioxidant.

Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and can help destroy free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage healthy cells through oxidative stress. This free radical-induced oxidative damage contributes to the onset of many diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (13)

Vitamin A can regulate gene expression, which could help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. (14)

Omega-3 fats, those found in salmon, nuts, and avocados, to name a few, can help fight inflammation, a risk factor for a host of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Zinc helps strengthen the immune system.

How Does Diet Affect the Well-Being of a Person?

Diet plays a large role in the well-being of a person. There are certain diseases in which diet is a risk factor, such as diabetes. Having too little food or not having the proper quality of food can result in malnourishment.

When the body has everything it needs, it can function at its best. A high-quality diet gives the body the building blocks to make what it needs.

What Foods Should Be Avoided to Keep the Body Healthy?

Using food in moderation and eating a variety of it is one of the best ways to keep the body healthy.

It is especially important to moderate refined carbohydrates, sugars, salt, saturated fats, and alcohol, as excessive intake can raise your risk for diseases such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, liver disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease, as emerging research is suggesting. (15)

What Lifestyle Changes Can Help Fight Off Diseases?

A healthy lifestyle is one of the best things you can do to fight a variety of diseases. Quitting smoking, managing stress, moderating alcohol consumption, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are all ways in which you can reduce your risk of disease and help your body be at its best.

Can Vaccines Help in Fighting Off Diseases?

As per the CDC, the purpose of vaccines, such as the ones you get as a child (for example, the rubella vaccine (MMR)), is to imitate an infection and help the body learn to recognize the invader and fight it off. The vaccines are typically in very weak or completely deactivated forms of the disease-causing agent.

In the case of a flu shot, the purpose is to protect against serious illness from the most likely strain. Vaccines are generally targeted at illnesses that could be very severe or deadly if the body does not have adequate protection.

There is no cancer vaccine yet, and in general, there are no vaccines against diet-related diseases, except supplemental insulin for diabetics.

Final Word

A healthy diet is the building block of a healthy body and a strong immune system. Moderating fats, sugars, and salts can help prevent inflammation and give the body the best chance at fighting illnesses.

It is important to know that while the foods listed above can help reduce the risk of or improve a certain disease, eating them does not necessarily prevent it. There is always a risk. But by living healthy, you give yourself the best chance of getting better fast!

References

  1. Alam MA, Subhan N, Rahman MM, Uddin SJ, Reza HM, Sarker SD. Effect of citrus flavonoids, naringin and naringenin, on metabolic syndrome and their mechanisms of action. Adv Nutr. 2014;5(4):404-417. Published 2014 Jul 14. doi:10.3945/an.113.005603.
  2. Yang ZM, Chen LH, Lin J, Zhang M, Yang XR, Chen WW. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 2015;35(2):188-192.
  3. Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 2016;19(8):717-729. doi:10.1089/jmf.2016.3705.
  4. Jones AM, Vanhatalo A, Bailey SJ. Influence of dietary nitrate supplementation on exercise tolerance and performance. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2013;75:27-40. doi:10.1159/000345815
  5. Machha A, Schechter AN. Dietary nitrite and nitrate: a review of potential mechanisms of cardiovascular benefits. Eur J Nutr. 2011;50(5):293-303. doi:10.1007/s00394-011-0192-5
  6. Lee M, Lee H, Kim J. Dairy food consumption is associated with a lower risk of the metabolic syndrome and its components: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2018;120(4):373-384. doi:10.1017/S0007114518001460.
  7. Sokoła-Wysoczańska E, Wysoczański T, Wagner J, et al. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Potential Therapeutic Role in Cardiovascular System Disorders-A Review. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1561. Published 2018 Oct 21. doi:10.3390/nu10101561.
  8. Stull AJ. Blueberries’ Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance. Antioxidants (Basel). 2016;5(4):44. Published 2016 Nov 29. doi:10.3390/antiox5040044.
  9. Xu R, Yang K, Li S, Dai M, Chen G. Effect of green tea consumption on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr J. 2020;19(1):48. Published 2020 May 20. doi:10.1186/s12937-020-00557-5.
  10. Eng QY, Thanikachalam PV, Ramamurthy S. Molecular understanding of Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. J Ethnopharmacol. 2018;210:296-310. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.035.
  11. Ansary J, Forbes-Hernández TY, Gil E, et al. Potential Health Benefit of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(7):619. Published 2020 Jul 15. doi:10.3390/antiox9070619.
  12. Chauhan A, Chauhan V. Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):550. Published 2020 Feb 20. doi:10.3390/nu12020550.
  13. Matough FA, Budin SB, Hamid ZA, Alwahaibi N, Mohamed J. The role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in diabetic complications. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2012;12(1):5-18. doi:10.12816/0003082.
  14. Doldo E, Costanza G, Agostinelli S, et al. Vitamin A, cancer treatment and prevention: the new role of cellular retinol binding proteins. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:624627. doi:10.1155/2015/624627.
  15. Barnard ND, Bush AI, Ceccarelli A, et al. Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Aging. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458014003480. Published May 14, 2014.