Over the years I have been in clinical practice, I have been seeing so many patients who are suffering from chronic pain, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, digestion problems, mood disorders, and decline in memory. When we tested them, we found that majority of them had low levels of antioxidants and healthy fats, as well as high levels of toxicity in their labs. Food, as Hippocrates once said, should be used as medicine to keep your body healthy for many years. In this article, I will talk about the six most important foods to consume on a daily basis to improve your health.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 80,000 registered chemicals that are currently used in the United States. Some of these chemicals have been reported to cause damage to our brain, hormonal system, and even increase the risk for cancer. However, some of these toxins have
not been adequately tested for their effects on our health.
Whole foods are the best place to start when you want to improve your health. Studies show that several foods can influence our detoxification systems, leading to increased elimination of toxins. (Hodges & Minich, 2015)
Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, were found to be beneficial in promoting the function of detox enzymes of phase II (also called conjugation). The second phase in detox takes the toxin or drug and turns it water-soluble, so it can then be excreted from the body through the bile or urine. Cruciferous vegetables are so powerful and important for detoxification, that Dr. Royal Lee, a pioneer in nutritional medicine, created a product called Cruciferous Complete™ which contains Kale and brussels sprouts to assist with toxic elimination. Broccoli, for example, contains significant amounts of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin, which is metabolized to the biologically active sulforaphane, a potent inducer of phase II detoxification and elimination of toxins. (James, Devaraj, Bellur, Lakkanna, Vicini, & Boddupalli, 2012)
Berries, such as strawberry, bilberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, and mulberry, are packed with antioxidants, which is mother nature's way of providing you with protection. Antioxidants are very stable molecules that act as guards, helping to prevent cell and tissue damage that could lead to inflammation, diseases, and increased risk for cancer. In nutritional medicine, we use antioxidants to reduce inflammation and protect the cells.
Another research published in 2013, reported that berries have a protective effect on the brain cells. The study found that consumption of berries can improve communication between the neurons, brain plasticity, and has an anti-inflammatory action. (Subash, 2014)
According to an article published in the Current Medicinal Chemistry, berries contain a factor called ‘Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2 (NF-E2),’ which plays a role in activating the genes that are in charge of the body's phase II detoxification and antioxidant enzyme. (Su et al., 2013)
How to consume it? Add fresh berries to your food (such as granola or yogurt), as desert, or frozen berries to your smoothie.
Green tea is an important part of my diet. There are three common teas in use today: green, black, and oolong. The difference between them is in how the teas are processed. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and it is reported to contain the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. In traditional medicine, tea was used to benefit the heart, stimulate the mind, assist with digestion after meals, and urinate excess fluids. Studies show that daily consumption of green tea can reduce risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer or dementia. It is also found to be antibacterial, antiviral, and cholesterol-lowering effects. (Chacko, 2010)
In comparison to coffee, which has between 100 to 200mg of caffeine, green tea usually contains approximately 20-30 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain. L-theanine, as a supplement was found to promote calmer and deeper sleep without feeling groggy in the morning.
The catechins found in green tea promote the function of glutathione S-transferase promoter, which is known to eliminate toxic waste from the body.
How much to consume? Recommended two to three cups during the day. Do not drink green tea in the evening, due to itis caffeine content.
Beet & Beet Leaf
Beet root (Beta vulgaris var. rubra) contains bioactive agents (betaine and polyphenols) and was found to significantly increase the levels of enzymatic antioxidants glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase in the liver. These enzymes are to help break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells and prevent damage to tissues. Beets also contain zinc and copper, a required nutrient for the function of superoxide dismutase enzymes, which protect the liver cells from environmental toxins. (Váli et al., 2007)
You might have never thought about using the leaves of the beets, studies show that the leaves have a powerful detoxing effect. In Korea, the leaves of the beets are used as a wrap to wrap cooked rice or meat. According to a study published in 2009, consumption of the leaves of red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) can significantly increase levels of antioxidants (glutathione and β-carotene) and the activities of powerful antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase in both the blood in the liver. (Lee et al.,
How to consume? Add a small (inch by inch) slice of raw beets and (one or two) leaves to your smoothie every day. You can also cook beets with olive oil, salt, and
Curcumin is a natural compound extracted from rhizomes of Curcuma longa (turmeric). Curcumin is widely used as a household spice, as a natural food colorant, and have been used as an herbal medicine in many Asian countries for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, curcumin was used as an anti-inflammatory, as well as stomach and liver problems. (Aggarwal, Sundaram, Malani, & Ichikawa, 2007)
Curcumin was shown to protect the liver and increase the breakdown of toxins. It can also be used to support healthy levels of antioxidants in the liver (glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and glutathione) and prevent damage to the DNA. (Zhang et al, 2016)
Dosage: 500mg twice a day on empty stomach and slowly increase to 1,000mg twice a day.
Avocados contain a variety of healthy nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K1, folate, vitamin B-6, niacin, pantothenic acid, as well as bioactive phytochemicals, such ascarotenoids, terpenoids, and D-mannoheptulose, which have been reported to help fight cancer. (Dreher & Davenport, 2013) Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which enhance the bioavailability (absorption) of nutrients and phytochemicals. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming high amounts of monosaturated fatty acids were found to decrease LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) by 14% and reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases. (Kris-Etherton, 1999)
Avocado also contains glutathione, an essential factor in protecting against toxicity and disease. (Pastore, Federici, Bertini, & Piemonte, 2003)
How much to consume? At least one avocado a day.
Aggarwal, B. B., Sundaram, C., Malani, N., & Ichikawa, H. (2007). Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Advances In Experimental Medicine And Biology, 5951-75. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-0-387-46401-5_1#citeas
Dreher, M. L., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 53(7), 738–750. http://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.556759. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/
Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal Of Nutrition And Metabolism, 2015760689. doi:10.1155/2015/760689 Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/280060096_Modulation_of_Metabolic_Detoxification_Pathways_Using_Foods_and_Food-Derived_Components_A_Scientific_Review_with_Clinical_Application
James D, Devaraj S, Bellur P, Lakkanna S, Vicini J, Boddupalli S. (2012) broccoli sulforaphanes and disease: induction of phase II antioxidant and detoxification enzymes by enhanced-glucoraphanin broccoli. Novel concepts of Nutr Rev, 70(11), 654-65. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23110644
Kavitha K, Thiyagarajan P, Rathna Nandhini J, Mishra R, Nagini S (2013) Chemopreventive effects of diverse dietary phytochemicals against DMBA-induced hamster buccal pouch carcinogenesis via the induction of Nrf2-mediated cytoprotective antioxidant, detoxification, and DNA repair enzymes. Biochimie, 95(8), 1629-39. Retrieved from https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.uws.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/20382588/
Lee, J. H., Son, C. W., Kim, M. Y., Kim, M. H., Kim, H. R., Kwak, E. S., … Kim, M. R. (2009). Red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) leaf supplementation improves antioxidant status in C57BL/6J mice fed high fat high cholesterol diet. Nutrition Research and Practice, 3(2), 114–121. http://doi.org/10.4162/nrp.2009.3.2.114
Pastore, A., Federici, G., Bertini, E., & Piemonte, F. (2003). Analysis of glutathione: implication in redox and detoxification. Clinica Chimica Acta, 333(1), 19-39. doi:10.1016/s0009-8981(03)00200-6. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12809732
Sharma RA, Ireson CR, Verschoyle RD, Hill KA, Williams ML, Leuratti C, Manson MM, Marnett LJ, Steward WP, Gescher A. (2009) Effects of Dietary Curcumin on Glutathione S-Transferase and Malondialdehyde-DNA Adducts in Rat Liver and Colon Mucosa. Clin Cancer Res, May 7(5), 1452-8. Retrieved from http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/7/5/1452.long
Su ZY, Shu L, Khor TO, Lee JH, Fuentes F, Kong AN. (2013) A perspective on dietary phytochemicals and cancer chemoprevention: oxidative stress, nrf2, and epigenomics. Top Curr Chem, 329, 133-62. Retrieved from https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.uws.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/22836898/
Váli, L., Stefanovits-Bányai, É, Szentmihályi, K., Fébel, H., Sárdi, É, Lugasi, A., . . . Blázovics, A. (2007). Liver-protecting effects of table beet (Beta vulgaris var. rubra) during ischemia-reperfusion. Nutrition, 23(2), 172-178. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2006.11.004 Retrieved from http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(06)00394-7/fulltext
Subash, S., Essa, M. M., Al-Adawi, S., Memon, M. A., Manivasagam, T., & Akbar, M. (2014). Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regeneration Research, 9(16), 1557–1566. http://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.139483
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