11 Vitamin-Packed Superfoods for People With Type 2 Diabetes

colorful abstract table setting with sweet potato and kale

What makes a food “super”? When it comes to type 2 diabetes, it’s not just about foods that pack lots of nutrients. For a diabetes-friendly diet, you also need foods that will help keep your blood sugar (glucose) levels in check. There is no one single best food for type 2 diabetes. Instead, the best diet for type 2 diabetes is one that is based on whole foods and is rich in fiber, protein, and a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates.

It’s true that people with type 2 diabetes need to watch their carb intake, but they don’t have to follow a fad low-carb diet. On the contrary, says Leah Kaufman, RD, CDCES, of Leah Kaufman Nutrition in New York City, the best diet for people with type 2 diabetes is “a well-balanced diet that has a healthy amount of carbs, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables per meal.”

While changing your diet won’t cure diabetes, it can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes complications, such as heart disease and neuropathy (nerve damage). Prioritizing a healthy eating plan is even more crucial now, as the novel coronavirus rages on in the United States and beyond. That’s because people with diabetes are among the groups at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping your blood glucose in check has never been more important, and food can play a big role in that effort. In fact, diet affects type 2 diabetes in several ways, including glucose regulation, heart health, weight maintenance, and mood.

How can you tell a good food from a bad one when it comes to managing diabetes? “Look for items that contain healthy fats and are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDCES, at Burgess Health Center in Onawa, Iowa. It’s also crucial to eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you’re getting a healthy mix of macronutrients, phytochemicals, and essential fatty acids.

Unsure where to start? Check out these 11 tips for adding more superfoods to your diabetes diet!

1. Swap Out Meat for Beans and Lentils for Less Fat and More Fiber

Beans

High in fiber and protein, beans are digested slowly in your body, making them great for managing blood glucose levels in a type 2 diabetes diet. Just ¼ cup of any type of beans will provide as much protein as 1 ounce (oz) of a meat protein equivalent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

No matter which type of bean you choose, you’ll also gain a significant amount of your daily fiber needs from a 1 cup serving. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, 1 cup of baked beans offers 10 grams (g) of fiber, while 1 cup of black beans has 15 g. Women need an average of 21 to 25 g of fiber per day, while men need between 30 and 38 g. According to an article published in the January-February 2017 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, only about 5 percent of the U.S. population meets that threshold, and yet a high-fiber diet is associated with a reduced risk of various diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesitystroke, heart disease, and even some cancers. (Just be sure to increase your intake of fiber slowly, and drink plenty of water, to reduce diarrhea, per the Mayo Clinic.)

Other legumes offer similar health benefits that are key in managing diabetes. In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers found that eating beans, chickpeas, and lentils was associated with improved blood glucose control, reduced blood pressure, and lower cholesterol and triglyceride (fat found in the blood) levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Those qualities are important because people with diabetes are at a higher risk for heart problems than the general population, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

What’s more, beans are good sources of magnesium and potassiumDiabetes is associated with magnesium deficiency, notes an article published in August 2015 in the World Journal of Diabetes, and potassium plays a role in further boosting heart health because it helps regulate blood pressure, notes the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

 

2. Eat Salmon for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

a salmon fillet with a sprig of rosemary

Many types of seafood are good for people with diabetes. According to the NIH, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health by helping lower the blood fats called triglycerides. Just be sure to avoid or limit your consumption of fish with high levels of mercury, such as tilefish, swordfish, marlin, and king mackerel, as outlined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eating fish twice a week, which is recommended by the American Heart Association, has other far-reaching benefits: A study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases found that fish may protect people with diabetes against kidney problems. Fish is considered a diabetes-friendly food as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Choose blackened or grilled fish over fried preparations.

 

3. Consider Tree Nuts for Other Sources of Healthy Fats

assorted nuts

Loaded with fiber and protein, nuts are filling and contain high levels of unsaturated fats, the kind that contribute to HDL, or “good” cholesterol, making them a boon to your heart health. But when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar, polyunsaturated fats in tree nuts — such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios — are especially beneficial. (As a side note, peanuts aren’t tree nuts; they’re legumes.)

In a review and meta-analysis published in July 2014 in BMJ Open, Canadian researchers looked at data from 12 clinical trials and found that eating two servings of tree nuts a day lowered and stabilized blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and unhealthy cholesterol levels (dyslipidemia), and stabilized metabolic syndrome.

“Plant-based healthy fats can improve lipid levels,” says Kaufman. She recommends adding foods rich in polyunsaturated fats to help reduce high cholesterol related to elevated blood glucose, but with a caveat. “Although healthy, these foods do have a higher amount of calories, so I would limit them to one serving per day,” Kaufman notes. The Cleveland Clinic defines one serving as 1 oz or 35 peanuts, 24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, or 18 cashews.

4. Grab a Handful of Fresh Blueberries for Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Blueberries

While all berries contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, blueberries may be one of the most beneficial for people who have, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes. “Antioxidants,” says Kaufman, “are a broad term used to describe a food that can help protect the body from damage. Antioxidants can be found in the vitamins of the actual food, or even the coloring.” In general, the deeper the color, the higher the antioxidant content.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that for every three servings of blueberries (as well as grapes and apples) eaten per week, people reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 26 percent compared with those who ate less than one serving per month. The authors based their conclusions on longitudinal studies of previous clinical trials conducted between 1984 and 2008, 1986 and 2008, and 1991 and 2009.

Fiber-rich berries also have the added benefit of satisfying your sweet tooth without any added sugars. Swapping out cookies for blueberries and other antioxidant-rich fruits will reduce blood sugar while keeping sugar cravings at bay. “Patients with diabetes should generally stay away from refined sugars and processed carbs to improve glucose control,” Kaufman says.

 

5. Have a Side of Broccoli to Increase Your Intake of Vitamins A and C

Broccoli

review of clinical studies published in the American Journal of Nutrition found that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may help reduce the risk of cancer.

Loaded with antioxidants, broccoli is a good source of vitamin A and is high in vitamin C, two nutrients essential for anyone, regardless of a diabetes diagnosis. According to the USDA, 1 cup of cooked, previously frozen broccoli (without added fat) supplies 93.8 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A, or about 10 percent of the daily value (DV), and 73.4 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, or about 82 percent of the DV.

Plus, with 5.52 g of fiber (22 percent of the DV), broccoli is filling — which makes it a good choice for people who are trying to lose weight and control type 2 diabetes.

6. Indulge Your Potato Craving With Fiber-Rich Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to foods for type 2 diabetes, not all potatoes are created equal. To keep your blood sugar levels in check, it’s best to reach for sweet potatoes, which are high in fiber (eat the skin for more fiber), as well as a host of other vitamins. According to the USDA, one boiled medium-size sweet potato (with no fat added during cooking) offers 3.75 g of fiber, or 15 percent of the DV.

“I typically recommend about one-half a plate of nonstarchy vegetables per meal and one-quarter a plate of fiber-rich starchy vegetables, such as sweet potato with skin on, to increase overall fiber intake,” says Kaufman, though it’s important to work with your healthcare team to figure out how much starchy vegetables is right for you. Other starchy vegetables you can eat in moderation include peas and corn.

Another important consideration is the cooking process. When boiled, sweet potatoes are a low glycemic index (GI) food, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar as much as regular potatoes, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Baking, roasting, and frying are the worst ways to prepare sweet potatoes for people with type 2 diabetes, they found.

 

7. Incorporate Spinach and Kale Into Pastas and Salads

Spinach and Kale

According to a previous review, eating 1 ½ cup of dark leafy greens, including spinach and kale, each day can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent. Though the reason is unclear, it may be that leafy greens have a protective effect because they contain antioxidants like vitamins A and C. A cup of fresh, cooked kale (without fat added) offers 879 mcg of vitamin A, or about 98 percent of the DV, and 52.9 mg of vitamin C, or about 58 percent of the DV, notes the USDA. Leafy greens are also low in calories and carbohydrates (the same serving of kale has 36 calories and only 7.3 g of carbs), which is ideal for folks with type 2 diabetes.

8. Savor Your Morning Bowl of Oatmeal for Blood Sugar Control

Oatmeal

Eating whole-grain oats may help you hit your target A1C and boost heart health. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in December 2015 in the journal Nutrients found that people with type 2 diabetes who ate oatmeal for breakfast had better postprandial glucose readings and lipid profiles than people who ate control breakfasts. Postprandial glucose readings measure glucose levels two hours after eating, and lipid profiles can help indicate heart health. It’s no mystery why oats are great in a diabetes diet — they’re another good source of fiber. The USDA notes that a ½ cup of cooked oats provides 4 g, or 15 percent of the DV, of fiber.

For the healthiest options of oatmeal, choose steel-cut or old-fashioned oats with no added salt, sugar, or preservatives. For a creamier texture, cook them in low-fat milk. Add toppings like berries, seeds, and nuts for a flavorful, filling breakfast.

 

9. Slice Open a Tomato for Heart-Healthy Lycopene

Tomatoes

Nothing beats biting into a ripe, juicy tomato — and luckily, folks with diabetes don’t have to give them up. In fact, tomatoes are ideal for a diabetes diet. “Foods such as blueberries and tomatoes with rich coloring can be higher in antioxidants and should be consumed regularly by those with diabetes,” says Kaufman.

This superfood may help lower blood pressure and LDL(“bad”) cholesterol, which may lessen the risk for heart disease. A report published in the British Journal of Nutrition from a 10-year study suggested that that lycopene, a key nutrient in tomatoes, may help reduce the risk of heart disease by 26 percent. Keep in mind that your body will be able to absorb more lycopene from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones.

10. Go Greek With Your Yogurt for More Protein and Other Nutrients

Greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds and kiwi

Creamy and delicious, yogurt is a rich source of calcium, protein, and magnesium. It can also deliver valuable probiotics, which, according to a study published in April 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, can help reduce the risk of weight gain and obesity, as well as cardiovascular disease.

Opt for Greek yogurt; it’s slightly higher in protein than regular yogurt, which helps keep you fuller longer. According to the USDA, 1 cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt offers 23 g of protein, while the same serving of nonfat plain yogurt contains 14 g of protein.

Read nutrition labels carefully and avoid any Greek yogurt products that have added sugars. Your best bet is to select plain, fat-free versions and add some sweetness with berries.

 

11. Get Your Monounsaturated Fats With Heart-Healthy Avocados

Avocados for Healthy Fats

Known for their heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados top the charts in terms of health benefits. According to a review published in the journal Critical Reviews of Food, Science, and Nutrition, avocados can help lower cholesterol, promote normal blood pressure, and reduce inflammation, thanks to their high fiber content, potassium, and lutein. One serving of avocado (a third of a medium-sized avocado, or 50 g) has 80 calories, 6 g of healthy fats, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, according to California Avocados.

100 Superfoods for Diabetes

Meet this Free Android app, created by the Team of Doctors from Beat Diabetes

 

Do you know that each food has a Glycemic Index score based on how fast the blood sugar levels are increased after consuming it?

It varies from 0 to 100, and those foods with scores below 55 are considered the Best Foods for Diabetes

Download this free app now and get the complete list of Hundreds of Super Foods, with the Glycemic Index scores below 55

It will also warn you about 20 Dangerous foods like Watermelon, Pineapple, Papaya, and Mango, which have very high scores and raise your sugar levels

Click the button below to install this app free from Google Play Store

How to get rid of a Toothache at Night

A toothache is a painful annoyance, especially at night. Getting a toothache at night can make falling asleep or staying asleep very difficult.

However, there are a number of remedies that may help people find relief and get to sleep, including taking pain relievers or applying a cold compress or even cloves to the tooth.

In this article, learn more about nine home remedies for relieving a toothache at night.

9 ways to treat a toothache at night

Treating a toothache at night may be more difficult, as there is not much to distract a person from the pain.

However, people can try the following methods to relieve pain:

1. Oral pain medication

a man taking medication because that is how to get rid of toothache at night
Oral pain medication may help treat a toothache at night.

Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) is a quick, simple way for many people to effectively reduce mild-to-moderate toothaches.

Always stay within the recommended dosage on the packaging.

If the toothache is severe, it is best to see a dentist and speak to them about stronger pain relievers.

2. Cold compress

Using a cold compress may help ease the pain of a toothache.

Applying a bag of ice wrapped in a towel to the affected side of the face or jaw helps constrict the blood vessels in the area, which can reduce pain to allow a person to fall asleep.

Applying a cold compress to the area for 15–20 minutes every few hours in the evening may also help prevent pain when going to bed.

3. Elevation

Pooling blood in the head may cause additional pain and inflammation. For some people, elevating the head with an extra pillow or two may relieve the pain enough for them to fall asleep.

4. Medicated ointments

Some medicated ointments may also help reduce toothache pain. OTC numbing gels and ointments that contain ingredients such as benzocaine may numb the area.

However, benzocaine is not suitable for use by young children.

5. Salt water rinse

A simple salt water rinse is a common home remedy for a toothache.

Salt water is a natural antibacterial agentTrusted Source, so it may reduce inflammation. This, in turn, helps protect damaged teeth from infection.

Rinsing with salt water may also help remove any food particles or debris stuck in the teeth or gums.

6. Hydrogen peroxide rinse

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that generally occurs as a result of poor oral hygiene. It can cause issues such as soreness, bleeding gums, and teeth that come loose in their sockets.

The author of a 2016 studyTrusted Source found that rinsing with hydrogen peroxide mouthwash helped reduce plaque and symptoms of periodontitis.

People should always dilute food-grade hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water. Swish the solution in the mouth, but do not swallow it.

This remedy is not suitable for children, as there is a risk they may accidentally swallow the mixture.

7. Peppermint tea

Swishing peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint tea bags may also help temporarily relieve pain from a toothache.

Researchers note that peppermint contains antibacterial and antioxidant compounds. Menthol, an active ingredient in peppermint, may also have a mild numbing effect on sensitive areas.

8. Clove

Eugenol, which is one of the main compounds in cloves, can reduce tooth pain. The results of a 2015 clinical trialTrusted Source indicated that people who applied eugenol to their gums and socket after having a tooth extracted had less pain and inflammation during healing.

Eugenol acts as an analgesic, which means that it numbs the area. To use clove for a toothache, soak ground cloves in water to make a paste. Then, apply the paste to the tooth, or put it in an empty tea bag and place it in the mouth.

Alternatively, gently chewing or sucking on a single clove and then allowing it to sit near the painful tooth may help relieve pain.

This is not a suitable remedy for children, as they may swallow too much clove. Single cloves can be spiky and painful if a person swallows them.

9. Garlic

garlic cloves
The antibacterial effect of garlic may help kill bacteria in the mouth.

Garlic is a common household ingredient that some people use to relieve toothache pain.

Allicin, which is the main compound in garlic, has a strong antibacterial effectTrusted Source that may help kill the bacteria in the mouth that lead to cavities and tooth pain.

Simply chewing a clove of garlic and allowing it to sit near the tooth may help relieve pain. That said, the taste of raw garlic can be too strong for some people, so this may not be the right solution for everyone.

Causes

Tooth decay is a very common cause of a toothache. Tooth decay may lead to cavities if a person does not receive treatment.

Cavities occur when acids and bacteria break through the enamel and eat away at the delicate tissues inside the tooth. This can expose the nerve, causing mild-to-severe pain.

Sinus infections may also cause toothache in some people. This symptom occurs as the infection drains from the head. Symptoms such as pain and pressure from the infection may hurt more at night.

Other potential causes for a toothache include:

Why do some toothaches hurt more at night?

Toothaches can be painful in the day, but they may seem to get worse at night.

One reason that this may occur is because when a person is lying down, blood rushes to the head. This extra blood in the area may increase the pain and pressure that people feel from a toothache.

Another reason why many aches feel worse at night is because there are fewer distractions. With little else to focus on but the toothache, a person may find it difficult to fall asleep.

When to see a dentist

dentist analysing a cracked tooth
A dentist may recommend antibiotics if there are any signs of infection within the mouth.

People with a toothache at night should see a dentist as soon as possible. Any home remedies are only for temporary relief.

If the toothache also comes with other signs of an infection, a person may need antibiotics to clear out the infection.

When a cracked or decaying tooth is causing the pain, a person should see their dentist. They will be able to find a permanent solution.

Ignoring the signs of tooth decay, such as an aching tooth, may lead to more serious issues, including abscesses, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Why You’re Snoring and How To Put It To Rest

Do you snore so loud it sounds like you’re sawing logs throughout the night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s estimated snoring affects around 90 million people.

While some snorers may never realize how loud they are until someone points it out, the snores of a sleeping partner or even even yourself can be loud enough to startle you awake.

But why are you snoring? It turns out there are several possible causes, some more serious than others. We spoke with Harneet Walia, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorder to look at some of the main causes of snoring and how they can be treated.

The causes of snoring

Snoring occurs when there’s a narrowing in the upper airway of the nose and the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. “There’s an enhanced resistance in the airway,” says Dr. Walia, “and the airway is more collapsible.”

Air flow can be blocked by several different factors and some can be more easily treated than others.

Long soft palate or uvula

A long soft palate (roof of the mouth) or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat, partially blocking the airway. When one breathes, these structures vibrate and bump against one another and a snoring sound is produced

Obstructed nasal airways

People who have partially blocked nasal passages have to make an extra effort to transfer air through them. This can pull together or collapse the soft and dangling tissue, resulting in snoring. Some people snore only during allergy seasons or when they have a sinus infection. Defects of the nose, such as a deviated septum (the wall that separates one nostril from the other) or nasal polyps (inflammatory growths) can also cause obstruction.

Sleep position

“Sleeping on the back is more likely to be associated with snoring,” Dr. Walia says. Sleeping in that position can cause the tongue to relax towards the back of the throat, resulting in a partially obstructed airway. A 2009 study of 2,077 sleep disorder patients conducted in Israel found that snoring was caused by sleep position in 54% of patients.

Poor muscle tone in throat and tongue

Throat and tongue muscles can be too relaxed, which allows them to collapse and fall back into the lower airway. Other factors, like consuming too much alcohol before bed or a lack of sleep, can result in throat relaxation, too, causing snoring.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

One of the more concerning reasons for snoring is obstructive sleep apnea. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include daytime sleepiness or tiredness, gasping for air or choking episodes at night and witnessed pauses in breathing while sleeping.

The primary condition of obstructive sleep apnea is, according to Dr. Walia, when someone has repetitive episodes of either stopping breathing or decreased breathing in their sleep.

“These episodes happen regularly during sleep. The disease defining metric for measuring obstructive sleep apnea is called the Apnea-Hypopnea Index, or sometimes the Respiratory Disturbance Index, which tells how bad a patient’s apnea is,” she says.

According to Dr. Walia, the threshold for being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea is five episodes an hour and, if other conditions like hypertension, mood disorders or cardiac issues are present, should lead to treatment even if the patient’s Apnea-Hypopnea Index is at or above that level.

That’s because obstructive sleep apnea can be associated with serious heart damage. “There is a very strong association between sleep apnea and cardiac arrhythmia. Research also shows episodes of upper airway collapse in sleep apnea may trigger arrhythmia events,” says Reena Mehra, MD, Director of Sleep Disorders Research in the Sleep Center of the Neurologic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

Other ways that obstructive sleep apnea can increase risk of arrhythmia and heart failure include:

  • Repeated episodes of oxygen lowering (what doctors call hypoxia)
  • Changes in carbon dioxide levels
  • Direct effects on the heart due to pressure changes within the chest
  • Increased levels of markers of inflammation

“Obstructive sleep apnea is still an under-recognized and under-treated disorder,” says Dr. Walia, “and a very common symptom of it is particularly loud snoring. However, absence of snoring does not rule out sleep apnea.”

According to Dr. Walia, the daytime consequences of obstructive sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, impaired concentration, drowsy driving and even poor memory.

Ways to curb snoring

If obstructive sleep apnea isn’t suspected of being the cause of your snoring, “lifestyle changes should always be the first line of treatment,” Dr. Walia says. These include:

  • Dropping extra pounds. For overweight or obese people, snoring may be caused by extra weight around the throat, which leads to the collapse of the upper airway. Because of this, weight loss may decrease the frequency of snoring.
  • Banishing the brew before bed. Alcohol may cause relaxation of the airway muscles while you sleep, so avoid it for several hours before bedtime.
  • Changing your sleep position. Sleeping on your back can cause your airway to close. If you snore, try sleeping on your side to open your airway.
  • Quitting smoking. Doing so may improve nasal congestion and thereby reduce snoring.

Over-the-counter remedies

A trip to the drugstore will show no shortage of over-the-counter solutions for snoring, but they are not always backed by research, cautions Dr. Walia. However, some treatments may help under a doctor’s guidance:

  • Intranasal decongestants. These may be useful if your snoring is caused by nasal congestion — especially the common cold. For chronic nasal congestion, intranasal steroid sprays may be used.
  • Nasal strips. These strips, designed to open the airway, can ease snoring in some patients, says Dr. Walia.

Treatments for serious snorers

About half of those with loud snoring have obstructive sleep apnea. For obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor might order a sleep study in the lab, called a polysomnogram, or a home sleep apnea test.

After diagnosis, these treatments along with lifestyle changes can help reduce snoring and improve your sleep, says Dr. Walia:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is the most commonly used therapeutic treatment for sleep apnea. You’ll wear a face or nasal mask overnight, which forces air through your airway to keep it open.
  • Oral appliances. These mouthpieces increase the size of the upper airway during sleep, advance the jaw and the tongue forward, and can help reduce snoring. They may be safer than surgery and effective in certain patients if used correctly. They can be used in isolated snoring as well, Dr. Walia says.
  • Surgery. The surgery involves removing excessive soft tissue from the throat to widen the upper airway, which can reduce snoring in some cases. You and your doctor should weigh the risks and benefits before surgery — and try other treatments first.
  • Implants. An implantable device can be used in the treatment of sleep apnea in select patients.

5 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Fridge

clear glass jar with yellow liquid inside

One secret to preparing healthy meals is having the right ingredients on hand. Here are five basics our dietitians believe no fridge should be without:

1. Low-fat Greek yogurt

Plain, non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt is a good source of probiotics and protein.

“It has twice the protein of regular yogurt, with none of the added sugar in flavored yogurts,” says Ms. Taylor. “Greek yogurt is definitely a staple in my home.”

Top yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit (and cinnamon) for breakfast or snacks.

“Or use 2% reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt to add instant tang, like sour cream or cream cheese would, to any meal,” says Ms. Sullivan.

Both dietitians suggest using Greek yogurt:

  • As a base for creamy dressings, dips and sauces
  • To replace mayonnaise in egg or tuna salad
  • As a substitute for sour cream on chili and tacos
  • To add protein to baked goods (like oatmeal banana pancakes)
  • To add protein to oatmeal

2. Fresh veggies

“I keep a variety of fresh veggies in my fridge at all times: broccoli, bell peppers, carrots and other basics, plus fun veggies like sugar snap peas or asparagus,” says Ms. Taylor.

Think produce is expensive? “It should make up one-third of your diet, so it should take up one-third of your grocery budget,” she says.

For faster prep, buy veggies prewashed and precut (or do this yourself on weekends). Add veggies to your favorite recipes, dip them in hummus, saute them or roast them.

For Ms. Zumpano, it’s all about the leafy greens: They’re packed with vitamins (A, B2, B6, C, E and K, and folate) and minerals (calcium, copper, fiber, magnesium, potassium and zinc).

“I keep a large container of organic spinach, arugula, mixed baby greens or spring mix in my fridge at all times to add to soups, salads, rice, pasta, smoothies and protein shakes,” she says.

Love salads, but hate the prep? Buy salad kits in the produce section. “They allow you to make restaurant-quality salads in minutes,” says Hillary Sullivan, RDN, LD. Complete with crunchy toppings and dressing, just add a lean protein to your salad kit to make a meal.

“But beware of the high-calorie dressings,” she cautions. “I recommend using half the packaged dressing and half balsamic vinegar.”

3. Berries

“Berries are low in sugar, compared to other fruits, and quite versatile,” says Ms. Zumpano. They’re rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals (specifically vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber).

She adds berries to cooked grains and dry whole-grain cereal, yogurt, smoothies and protein shakes.

Ms. Kirkpatrick is partial to blueberries. “I always have them on hand. You can take a handful for a quick snack, and blueberries are an easy add-on for oatmeal and salads,” she says.

4. Eggs

“Eggs really are the perfect food — especially local eggs that come from chickens you know,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD.

Conveniently packaged, eggs are rich in nutrients, low in calories and packed with high-quality protein.

“In moderation, eggs are an affordable, easy protein source for breakfast (in veggie omelets), snacks, salads and dinner (in stir-fries),” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE.

Although you can eat unlimited egg whites, egg yolks are high in cholesterol.

“If you have, or are at risk for, heart disease, limit yourself to two to four egg yolks per week, depending on your risk factors,” advises Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

“For general health, limit yourself to six or seven egg yolks per week (about one a day).”

She recommends keeping half a dozen hard-boiled eggs on hand for snacks or salads. They’ll keep in your fridge for one week.

5. Other lean proteins

Cooked chicken breast. Grilled turkey burgers. Beans. Quinoa. “These ready-to-eat lean proteins make prepping dinner quick and easy at the end of a long day,” says Ms. Sullivan.

Ms. Kirkpatrick would add tempeh to that list. She uses it in a variety of meals and snacks.

“I love tempeh for two reasons,” she says. “First, because it’s made from soybeans, it provides wonderful isoflavones that help fight disease. Second, it’s fermented, which helps provide more good bacteria for my gut.”

So put these items on your grocery list, and keep your fridge well-stocked with them. You’ll find yourself enjoying healthy, amazing meals all week long

9 Ways to Prevent Disease (and To Live Your Healthiest Life)

smoothie, smartphone and shoe for exercise

Health is wealth. This common saying holds a lot of weight because it has truth behind it.

But what exactly is disease prevention and how can you prevent diseases from happening? Integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD, offers nine ways to prevent diseases and how to take care of yourself so you can live your healthiest, best life.

1. Make healthy food choices

“For good health and disease prevention, avoid ultra-processed foods and eat homemade meals prepared with basic ingredients,” says Dr. Todorov.

A study published in 2019 concluded that consumption of more than 4 servings of ultra-processed food was associated with a 62% increased hazard for all-cause mortality. For each additional serving, all-caused mortality increased to 18%. These foods can cause chronic inflammation, a normal bodily process gone awry that can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Ultra-processed food include:

  • Chips
  • White bread
  • Donuts
  • Cookies
  • Granola or protein bars
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Coffee creamers
  • Soda
  • Milkshakes

“It’s crucial to read food labels carefully,” warns Dr. Todorov. “Most foods that come in a package have more than five ingredients or have ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Many foods labeled as diet, healthy, sugar free or fat free can be bad for you.”

What do all healthy diets have in common? They consist of fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and steel-cut oats, nuts and seeds and healthy oils like extra-virgin olive oil.

“A great example of a healthy eating pattern is the Mediterranean diet,” says Dr. Todorov. “Talk to your doctor or dietitian to help create a meal plan that works for you.”

2. Get your cholesterol checked

When checking your cholesterol, your test results will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per decilitre. It’s crucial to get your cholesterol checked because your doctor will be able to advise you on how to maintain healthy levels, which in turn lowers your chances of getting heart disease and stroke.

3. Watch your blood pressure

Do you have high blood pressure? Even if you don’t think so, keep reading. Based on data published from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 45% of adults in the United States have hypertension defined as systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure or are taking medication for hypertension.

Normal blood pressure is defined as blood pressure <120/80 mmHg. Having hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.

Even small weight loss can help manage or prevent high blood pressure in many overweight people, according to the American Heart Association.

“Start off slow and find an activity you enjoy,” says Dr. Todorov. “That can make a big difference in both your blood pressure and health.”

4. Get up and get moving

Throw away any common misconceptions about exercising like that it has to be in a gym or a structured environment. Frequency (how often), intensity (how hard) and time (how long) are what matter the most.

“Start where you are and gradually increase your physical activity,” says Dr. Todorov. “My motto is some exercise is good but more is better.”

Taking 10,000 steps a day is a popular goal because research has shown that when combined with other healthy behaviors, it can lead to a decrease in chronic illness like diabetes, metabolic syndromes and heart disease. Exercise does not need to be done in consecutive minutes. You can walk for 30 to 60 minutes once a day or you can do activities two to three times a day in 10 to 20 minute increments.

“There are so many different options for exercise available to us today,” says Dr. Todorov. “Take advantage of free gym and app trials, YouTube videos, resources from your local library and virtual gym classes. Walking in the park adds the benefit of spending time in nature.”

5. Watch your body mass

“Dare to be different from the average American, who is more likely to be obese than adults in any other developed nation,” says Dr. Todorov.

To see if you are at a good weight for your height, calculate your body mass index (BMI).

The BMI scale:

  • Under 18.5: Underweight
  • 18-24.9: Normal
  • >25-29.9: Overweight
  • >30: Obese

If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems and certain cancers. If you are overweight or obese, you doctor or nutritionist will be able to help you get on the right path towards your ideal body mass.

6. Manage blood sugar levels

For good preventive health, cut back on soda, candy and sugary desserts, which can cause blood sugar to rise. If you have diabetes, this can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time.

Aside from understanding what makes your blood sugar levels hike up, the American Heart Association recommends eating smart, managing your weight, quitting smoking and moving more as measures to manage your blood sugar.

“In addition, having your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol in a normal range decreases your risk for heart disease,” explains Dr. Todorov. “This lowers your risk of being diagnosed with cancer.”

7. Quit smoking

If you smoke, there is probably no other single choice you can make to help your health more than quitting.

The CDC found that smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, different types of cancer, stroke and more. Not only that, but smoking increases your risk of dying from cancer.

“Smokers lose at least 10 years of life expectancy compared with people who never smoked,” says Dr. Todorov. “People who quit by age 40 reduce their risk of smoking-related death by 90%.”

8. Get restful sleep

Sleep restores us and has a huge effect on how we feel. If you have trouble sleeping, try to establish a sleep routine. A good sleep routine includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and avoiding eating heavy meals and alcohol. It’s important to stop screen time from your devices 2 hours before bedtime, too.

To wind down before bed, Dr. Todorov recommends:

  • Listen to calming music.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation.
  • Reflect on the positive moments of the day.
  • Read a book.
  • Have a cup of chamomile tea.
  • Practice 10 minutes of yoga.

“Research shows that daily exercise improves sleep in patients with insomnia, too,” says Dr. Todorov. “Try to avoid vigorous exercise 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.”

9. Don’t miss health screenings and vaccinations

It’s no exaggeration: health screenings can save your life. They are designed to catch cancers and serious problems early for more successful treatment.

“There are screening recommendations for adults and women specifically, and varied screenings depending on your family history,” says Dr. Todorov. “Some screening recommendations have changed, so talk to your doctor.”

Making healthy lifestyle changes overnight isn’t realistic, but taking the necessary steps to ensure you’re staying on top of your health will put you ahead and help you be the healthiest you can be.

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4 Fantastic Foods You Can Eat in Bigger Portions

When the food on your plate or in your bowl doesn’t match a proper, healthy serving size, you may have “portion distortion.”

But food lovers, rejoice: Portion distortion goes both ways. Registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, explains that there are some foods people tend to overeat, but there are certain foods people eat in too-small portions, too.

The four foods below come with plentiful health benefits — and you can probably eat more of them than you think.

  1. Berries: Berries contain an amazing amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals — all in a tiny, power-packed package. These sweet or tart treats come with an extra benefit: You can snack on them by the handful. Berries often come in pint-sized containers. Because a proper portion is one cup, you can eat half a container at a time. Enjoy, and eat up.
  2. Green leafy vegetables: If you want to improve the ratios on your dinner plate, add more vegetables, which people tend to under-eat, and smaller portions of proteins such as meat, which people tend to overdo. Whether you’re munching on asparagus for its antioxidants, fiber and folate or digging into a plate of Brussels sprouts for their cancer-fighting properties, a good rule of thumb is ½ cup of cooked or one cup of raw vegetables. But if you want more than that, you can. Americans eat way too few leafy greens to begin with.
  3. Walnuts: Walnuts are the only nut that contains Omega 3 fatty acids. A good snack portion of walnuts is ¼ cup, which contains 11 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat may help improve lipids in the blood and lower the risk of heart disease. In addition to containing this beneficial fat, walnuts are a good source of fiber and vitamin B6.
  4. Starchy vegetables: Starchy vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They include white potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and a variety of winter squashes, green peas and corn. When eaten in moderation, they provide a rich source of vitamin B-6 and potassium. Generally, ½ cup is a good — and filling — serving size for starchy vegetables. A baked potato is the exception; keep your portion to about the size of a computer mouse.

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What foods are high in protein?

Eating a protein-rich diet can help people lose weight because it can help them avoid overeating. A high protein diet can help build lean muscle when combined with exercise. Lean muscle helps to burn more calories throughout the day, which can also help with weight loss.

The following are some of the best high protein foods that a person can consume to help them lose weight.

High protein foods for weight loss

black beans
Black beans are an affordable source of plant protein.

High protein foods for weight loss include:

1. Black beans

Black beans are often an inexpensive source of protein. Black beans can be prepared in a variety of ways, making them a very versatile ingredient when preparing meals.

2. Lima beans

Some Lima beans offer about 21 grams (g) of protein per 100 g serving.

3. Corn

Yellow corn has about 15.6 g of protein per cup. Additionally, corn also contains a good amount of fiber and minerals, including calcium.

4. Salmon

Salmon is considered a fatty fish, meaning it is full of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein and can help a person feel more satisfied at meals. Salmon may not be as budget-friendly as some other protein options.

5. Potatoes

Potatoes have a reputation as a starchy carb but are good sources of nutrients, including protein. One medium potato with the skin on contains just over 4 g of protein. People should use caution when preparing a potato as the extras that people often put on potatoes can increase the calorie count.

6. Broccoli

One cup of raw broccoli has almost 2.6 g of protein and contains a variety of nutrients such as folate and potassium. This powerhouse veggie only has 31 calories per cup.

7. Cauliflower

Cauliflower has a lot of protein with very few calories. One cup of chopped cauliflower has 27 calories and 2 g of protein.

8. Chinese cabbage

Also known as bok choy, this vegetable gets much of its calories from protein and is full of antioxidants.

9. Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, nutrients, and healthful fats. A variety of studies have shown that eggs can help people feel more satisfied and stop them overeating. For example, one study found that a group of women who ate eggs instead of bagels for breakfast felt fuller for longer and ate fewer calories throughout the day.

10. Beef

Beef offers high amounts of protein per serving. There is a range of different types of beef to choose from for weight loss. People following a moderate carbohydrate diet should eat lean beef whereas a person on a low-carb diet may eat fattier beef.

11. Chicken breast

Chicken breast is a lean source of protein. The majority of its calories come directly from protein when served without skin. A 136 g skinless chicken breast provides around 26 g of protein.

12. Oats

Oats offer about 17 g of protein per 100g. They are also a source of complex carbohydrates. Raw oats are easy to prepare as oatmeal and people can flavor them with a variety healthful foods, such as fruits and nuts. People should avoid prepared oatmeals as they often contain added sugar.

13. Tuna

Tuna is an excellent and widely available source of protein that also has a low calorie count. Tuna is a lean fish with minimal fat. Add tuna to salads, sandwiches, and snacks. Be careful with additional dressings, such as mayonnaise, as these can add additional, unwanted calories.

14. Tempeh

fried tempeh on a baking parchmentShare on Pinterest
Tempeh is a popular source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

Tempeh comes from soybeans, like tofu. However, it has a higher protein count than tofu, offering about 17 g per half cup. Tempeh may not be easy to find, but some grocery stores carry it in the refrigerated vegetarian section.

15. Spirulina

Spirulina is a bacteria that grows in both fresh and salt waters. It offers a variety of nutrients and protein from a small amount of its powdered form.

16. Legumes

Legumes are both high in fiber and protein. This makes them a good choice as part of a weight loss diet because they can be quite filling. Some people may have trouble digesting legumes, however.

17. Hemp seeds

People can use hemp seeds in salads as a substitute for croutons. Hemp seeds offer about 9.5 g of protein per tablespoon. They are fairly easy to find in most grocery stores but can be expensive.

18. Sun-dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent addition to many dishes and are widely available. They offer both a good source of protein, as well as additional nutrients and fiber.

19. Guava

Guava is a tropical fruit that may not be available everywhere. Guava is one of the most protein-rich fruits available. It also offers additional nutrients, such as vitamin C.

20. Artichokes

Artichokes are high in fiber and offer a good amount of protein. Artichokes are very versatile and are suitable for use in a variety of recipes. Artichokes are typically easy to find in most grocery stores.

21. Peas

Peas are high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Peas are inexpensive, easy to find, and can be used in lots of recipes.

22. Bison

Bison meat is another excellent source of protein. Bison is lean meat, offering less fat per serving than beef. Bison is becoming more available, and some people use it as a substitute for beef.

23. Pork

Lean pork is a good source of protein. Pork roasts and tenderloin are good choices for meals. People should avoid processed pork products such as bacon.

24. Turkey

Turkey packs a powerful punch of protein. Boneless turkey can provide about 13 g of protein per 100 g.

25. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a healthful vegetarian protein that is high in fiber, and full of nutrients that support heart and bone health. They also ward off cancer.

26. Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the only complete sources of vegetarian protein. Quinoa contains all 11 amino acids needed to make a protein complete, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians, vegans, and those who do not eat a lot of meat.

27. Greek yogurt

Plain, low-fat Greek yogurt packs as much as 19 g of protein in a 200g pot. People looking to lose weight should limit or avoid Greek yogurt that contains added sugar. People should opt for the plain versions instead and jazz it up with some fruit or seeds.

28. Cottage cheese

This dairy product has an abundance of protein. It also offers a healthful serving of calcium and other nutrients.

29. Almonds

Nuts have a reputation for being high calorie but with a little bit of portion control, dry roasted or raw almonds can make for a filling, protein-rich snack.

30. Milk

Cow’s milk is an excellent source of protein for people that can tolerate drinking milk. An 8 ounce serving of milk contains 8 g of protein.

31. Lentils

Lentils pack a hefty dose of plant protein and fiber. They are very affordable and may promote heart health.

32. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are full of protein and minerals, such as magnesium and selenium. People looking to lose weight should stay away from oil roasted pumpkin seeds and choose dry roasted seeds, instead.

33. Avocado

avocados

Avocados not only contain protein and heart healthful unsaturated fat, but they also contain good levels of fiber and nutrients, such as potassium.

Portion control is necessary, however, since avocados are very calorie dense.

34. Pistachios

Pistachios are a reasonably low calorie nut that contain a big serving of protein.

One ounce of pistachios contains about 6 g of protein and a wealth of other nutrients including a high dose of B-6.

35. Chia seeds

This tiny seed packs more than 5 g of protein per ounce, along with omega-3s, fiber, and calcium. Vegans often use chia seeds as an egg substitute, and many people enjoy adding them to smoothies or salads for extra health benefits.

36. Nut butters

Nut butters, including peanut butter, contain a lot of calories, but a portion-controlled serving can add unsaturated fat and a dose of protein to a person’s diet. People wanting to eat nut butters healthily should stick to those with no added sugars or oils.

37. Halibut

This white fish is an excellent source of lean protein with nearly 30 g of protein in half a fillet.

38. Asparagus

Asparagus gets over one quarter of its calories from protein. It is also full of nutrients, including B vitamins and is low in carbohydrates.

39. Watercress

This cruciferous vegetable grows in water, has a surprisingly high protein content, and contains a full day’s worth of vitamin K. Adding some watercress to salads can really maximize its health benefits.

40. Brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts are full of protein, fiber, and vitamins. A one cup serving contains almost 3 g of protein.

41. Spelt

Spelt is a type of hulled wheat that has a very high protein content. It has risen in popularity and is often available with the specialty flours.

42. Teff

Teff is a grass that is often ground down to make flour. This gluten-free food has a fairly high protein content with about 13 g of protein per 100 g serving.

43. Whey protein powder

Whey protein powder is used by many bodybuilders and athletes as a supplement to help increase muscle mass and strength. This powder is made from the proteins found in the liquid part of milk and can add a substantial amount of protein to a person’s diet.

It is essential for people to read the labels because whey proteins are often full of sugar.

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HDL: Is It Possible to Raise Your ‘Good’ Cholesterol?

You mean cholesterol can actually be good for you? The answer is yes, when it’s high-density lipoprotein (HDL). That’s one of two types of cholesterol you’ll find on your lipid panel test results. The other is low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

“Think of HDL as the good, or ‘helpful,’ cholesterol, and of LDL as the ‘lousy,’ or ‘less desirable’ cholesterol,” says cardiovascular medicine specialist Heba Wassif, MD, MPH.

Why is HDL helpful?

LDL causes plaque build-up, and, over time, can lead to heart attack and stroke. HDL works in your bloodstream like a scavenger or cleaner. It removes the bad LDL cholesterol from the blood, taking it to your liver to be excreted.

It’s critical to keep your LDL low — ideally, under 100. (Your doctor may want to keep it even lower if you’ve had a cardiac event.) You also want to keep your HDL high — ideally, 50 milligrams per deciliter of blood or higher. (The normal range is 40 to 59 milligrams per deciliter.)

When HDL levels dip below 40 milligrams per deciliter, your risk of heart disease rises.

What can you do to keep HDL high?

“Although medications can increase HDL cholesterol, research has shown that they do not necessarily alter your risk of heart disease,” says Dr. Wassif. “So we focus on LDL cholesterol reduction and recommend lifestyle changes.” The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommends:

A healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean vegetable or animal protein and fish. (Limit trans fats, processed meats, refined carbs, and sweetened beverages.)

Regular exercise, such as walking. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity.

Maintain a healthy weight, or lose excess pounds if needed. Besides improving your diet and exercise habits, a comprehensive plan may include lifestyle counseling for stress, sleep hygiene, and other individual challenges you face.

Don’t smoke. If you smoke, individual or social support groups are recommended while trying to quit to increase your chances of success.

Manage your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes, a healthy diet and exercise are crucial, along with any medications your doctor may recommend.

Aim for a blood pressure of < 130/80 mm Hg. Get the proper amount of good-quality sleep, follow a low-sodium diet and meet the recommended exercise guidelines.

Start by taking these small steps to change your lifestyle. They’ll help you boost your HDL, making it easier for your “bloodstream’s cleaner” to do its job.

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Can a Healthy Diet Prevent Cancer?

Doing a search for foods that prevent cancer is not for the faint of heart: You get results that skew more Wild West than American Medical Association.

“The first things that tend to pop up are lists of foods you should eliminate because they cause cancer to grow. But we shouldn’t be fearful of food,” says cancer dietitian Joseph Dowdell, RDN, LD. “Instead, take a step back and look at the big picture. That will allow you to focus on the diet changes that will have the most impact.”

Dowdell explains what’s currently known about diet and cancer risk — and how to eat to lower yours.

The connection between diet and cancer

While food has not been shown to prevent cancer, diet plays a big role in cancer prevention. According to the American Cancer Society, having excess weight or obesity is a risk factor for many cancers, including:

  • Breast cancer (among women who have gone through menopause).
  • Colon and rectal cancer.
  • Endometrial cancer (cancer in the lining of the uterus).
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Liver cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Stomach cancer.
  • Thyroid cancer.
  • Multiple myeloma (white blood cell cancer).
  • Meningioma (a tumor in the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

And at least 18% of all cancers and about 16% of cancer deaths are related to:

  • Excess body weight.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Poor nutrition.

“Food can help prevent many of the chronic conditions that increase your risk of cancer,” says Dowdell. “Genetics and other health conditions can impact cancer prevalence as well, but those are usually out of our control. Obesity is something we can control through food and exercise.”

Six ways to reduce cancer risk with diet

To help reduce cancer risk, Dowdell says it’s all about balance to maintain a healthy weight. He recommends:

1. Go Mediterranean

A Mediterranean diet focuses on eating plant-based foods. It includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Healthier fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Lean sources of protein, such as poultry, fish and legumes.

It also involves limiting:

  • Red meat.
  • High-fat dairy.
  • Added sugars.
  • Saturated fats.

Dowdell says that the Mediterranean diet has been linked to cancer prevention and other positive impacts on long-term health. And high-fiber diets like the Mediterranean diet are associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer.

2. Eat at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day

“Eat the rainbow” is a good rule of thumb, according to The American Cancer Society, which reports that the pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their color has ingredients that may reduce cancer risk. “And all those vitamins and minerals play a role in cell health, keeping our body functioning at its peak levels,” says Dowdell.

To incorporate more plants into your diet, try to:

  • Eat at least three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Make 50% of your plate fruits and vegetables. Split the other half between lean or plant-based proteins and whole grains.

3. Limit added sugars

When it comes to cancer, some view sugar as public enemy No. 1. But Dowdell says there’s more to it. “While sugar fuels cancer cells, it fuels us, too. It helps our organs function properly. So it is nearly impossible to eliminate sugar. But the problem isn’t foods with natural sugar. It’s the added sugars that can lead to obesity and heart disease, which increase your risk of cancer,” he says.

Watch out for the usual suspects — sugary beverages, candies and desserts — as well as “healthier” foods that contain added sugars:

  • Breads.
  • Crackers.
  • Granola bars.
  • Salad dressings.

“Food is powerful. Some use it for comfort. Others use it for fuel or to be social. So it’s important to still embrace those things but in the healthiest way possible,” Dowdell adds. “You can eat that piece of cake on your birthday or indulge a little during a barbecue. Having an occasional treat is perfectly fine. It’s when those practices happen daily that negative long-term effects come into play.”

4. Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of esophageal, throat and breast cancer. People who drink a lot of beer also have an increased risk of rectal cancer. And people with alcohol use disorder have increased incidences of liver cancer.

5. Go easy on the salt

Avoid cured, smoked and nitrite-preserved foods. International studies reveal higher incidences of stomach and esophageal cancers in people who consume large amounts of these products.

6. Take vitamin D supplements (1,000 to 2,000 IU daily)

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of breast, colon and pancreatic cancer.

Healthy eating: Start small for big change

If your diet is currently more fast-food fodder than plant-based paradigm, Dowdell says to start small. “Making any change is difficult. But setting small, achievable goals makes big goals much easier to accomplish.”

Dowdell suggests:

  • Reduce portion size: Try to reduce portion sizes first before eliminating unhealthy foods.
  • Reduce unhealthy foods incrementally: “If you’re used to drinking four sodas a day, shoot for one a day for the next week,” Dowdell says. “And then the following week, shoot for one every other day and see how that goes. Slowly cut down even more. You can make drastic health impacts without feeling deprived.”

But Dowdell has an important reminder: “Everyone’s body reacts to food differently.”

“While all of these are healthy guidelines, nutrition should be individualized. If you have digestive issues, for example, you should seek medical help,” Dowdell adds. “And always use reliable sources of information like the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.”

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