Can Certain Foods Really Save Your Life?
'Super foods' can help prevent disease, prolong life, and more.
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Quinoa, broccoli, beans, and almonds hardly sound like life-savers. But according to scientific research and a few recent books, these and certain other foods are just that. Almost daily, new studies reveal more about the powerful substances found in particular foods, and how they can improve our health and/or prevent disease.
It's true, experts say -- what you put in your mouth really can affect how long you live, whether you get certain diseases, and how your body ages.
"Absolutely, there are foods that when added to the diet can make a significant health difference," says David Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.
He offers a few examples: "If you have arthritis, eat ginger, peppers, and yogurt; for headaches or migraines, try blueberries, mushrooms, or rosemary; insomnia sufferers, try cherries, Romaine lettuce, and walnuts; and if you are overweight, eggs, oats, and pears can help you slim down."
Joy Bauer, MS, RD, Today Show registered dietitian and author of Joy Bauer's Food Cures, agrees. "You can treat common health concerns, look younger, live longer, boost mood, and manage diabetes and more by choosing the right foods," she says.
It seems that eating a variety of healthy foods -- particularly fresh produce and whole grains -- gives your body substances that help battle the "free radicals" that can damage cells. These foods may thus help boost immunity, and reduce inflammation at the cellular level. And that's not all.
"There is not one or even a small number of nutrients -- there are thousands of health-promoting, beneficial compounds such as phytonutrients, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, that head off diseases that can shorten your life," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids.
But, experts add, it's important to remember that diet alone is not the answer: "A healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity, not smoking [and] controlling stress, along with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and adequate amounts of low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish, and healthy fats," Ward says.
14 Foods that Could Help Save Your Life
That said, here are 14 foods that deserve a place in your diet, along with their specific nutritional attributes, according to Joy Bauer's Food Cures and 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life: