Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle can feel overwhelming. I get it – so much of today’s health culture is centered around niche diets that limit so many of the foods that we love and seem impossible to sustain. And if you agree, your instincts are correct: research indicates that fad diets are not maintainable in the long-term for the average person. But luckily, they do not need to be because getting healthier can be as simple as adding great-tasting, nutrient-dense foods to your régime.
In my book Eat to Beat Disease, I detail delicious foods that should be consumed more frequently rather than focusing on foods to avoid. Here are some of my top foods to eat more regularly.
1. Fish Roe
Research indicates that there are positive health outcomes related to eating some seafood. For example, a large meta-analysis conducted by the Changshu No. 2 People’s Hospital in china illustrated that consuming fish, ranging in frequency from less than once a month to three to four times per week was associated with a decreased risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). While fish high up in the food chain such as swordfish, bluefish, and tuna are delicious, they often contain high levels of mercury, so I recommend eating them only on occasion.
However, other forms of seafood boast just as many benefits and are not consumed nearly as often in western cultures as the aforementioned fish. Fish roe (eggs) are a great example. Bottarga (roe of the gray mullet), caviar (sturgeon), and fish roe (salmon) are ranked highest on my list of seafood containing the highest levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that I detail in Eat to Beat Disease. These healthy fats are essential for overall health and boast wonderful antiangiogenic properties.
2. Purple potatoes
These beautiful tubers were cherished by the ancient Inca for their nutritive benefit. Purple potatoes are so impressive, that I list them under the category of “Jaw-droppers” in my book. They contain high levels of the beneficial bioactive compound anthocyanin, which has antiangiogenic activity and antioxidant effects.
Purple potatoes also boast powerful cancer-fighting properties as the natural dye in the potatoes kills deadly stem cells that spark cancer growth. Some research indicates that purple potatoes are more effective in destroying cancer stem cells than anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs such as Sulindac. The anti-cancer effects of purple potatoes are maintained regardless of how the root vegetable is prepared, but I typically eat mine roasted or boiled and sliced into a salad for good measure.
While walnuts may be more common than some of the other foods on this list, most people do not recognize the nutrient power that they encompass. Did you know that walnuts can activate the immune system? Scientists from the University of Rome in Italy discovered that a bioactive in walnuts called ellagic acid blocks production of an immune-cloaking protein targeted by inhibitor drugs, like Keytruda, in certain cancers. Scientists have discovered that ellagic acid is capable of neutralizing breast cancer stem cells.
Further, the consumption of walnuts is associated with a reduced risk for developing colon cancer and also improves the chances of survival in patients already diagnosed with colon cancer. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 PUFAs as well as dietary fiber. Eating the tasty tree nut has also been associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Finally, as if walnuts’ resume was not impressive enough, they have also shown to increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome while decreasing the number of harmful bacteria.
Foraged in the forests of France, Italy, and Spain, these potent fungi are considered delicacies in many cultures. Truffles contain an immune booster called anandamide that also functions as a neurotransmitter. This compound activates the same reward centers in the brain that are stimulated by cannabis and produce a sense of euphoria, which, if you have ever enjoyed truffle pasta, should come at almost no surprise.
Truffles also contain bioactives that protect DNA and improve muscle function as well as energy metabolism. Since truffles are one of the most expensive foods in the world, it is understandable that they may not be on your list of everyday grocery items. However, I recommend eating them whenever you have the opportunity to reap their remarkable health benefits.
This simultaneously tangy, savory, and sour cabbage dish may not be a food that you currently have in your fridge, but I highly recommend eating it on a regular basis. Sauerkraut is extraordinarily microbe-rich with a single serving containing up to 5 trillion bacteria.
The primary bacteria found in this fermented food is Lactobacillus Plantarum – a microbe often included in commercial probiotics. It has been associated with several health-promoting effects such as producing an anti-inflammatory response in intestinal stem cells. Sauerkraut is also a great source of dietary fiber, which feeds the gut microbiome, lowers cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels, and more.
These are just a few of my recommended foods to consume on a regular basis. Check out my book Eat to Beat Disease for a fully encompassing list of over 200 health-boosting foods that can ultimately help you beat dozens of avoidable diseases.