There’s a saying in Spanish that roughly translates to this: Love enters the kitchen when there’s someone who cooks well. I believe love and health go hand-in-hand, so food that protects your health should bring love into your kitchen.

A pill, no matter its potency, can never substitute what natural food can provide you. For example, when you take a vitamin D supplement, you’re not getting the other vitamins and carotenoids, vitamin A, choline and lutein along with the vitamin D that eggs contain.

You can help prevent major diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease to less dangerous ones, such as urinary tract infections and the common cold, by paying attention to what you put in your grocery cart.

What’s your health concern?

Keri Glassman, RD, author of The O2 Diet, and Susan Mitchell, Ph.D., RD, LD/N, FADA, put together this disease preventing shopping list to include as part of your regular diet to keep the doctor away.

1)    Coronary Heart Disease

Mitchell recommends nuts and switching up the type of fats that you consume. Glassman suggests tea, garlic and soy. Both agree that legumes are a must.

Nuts: Researchers from Loma Linda University found that the participants consuming nuts daily (2/3 cup of walnut halves) saw an average 5 percent drop in total cholesterol, 7.4 percent decline in lousy or LDL cholesterol and 8.3 percent improvement in the ratio of the lousy LDL cholesterol to the healthy HDL cholesterol. And, those with high triglycerides saw their levels plummet by an average of 10 percent. The good news for us nut eaters is that different types of nuts had similar effects.

Switch your type of fat: As much as possible, use healthier oils such as olive, peanut and canola, which are rich in monounsaturated fats, the more heart healthy type of fat. Avocados provide the same benefits.

Garlic: A compound in fresh garlic called allicin has been found in some studies to lower blood cholesterol.

Tea: Evidence suggests that the antioxidants in tea can help prevent the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries, act as an anti-blood clotting agent, and improve blood vessel dilation to allow increased blood flow.

Legumes and soy: Soy protein has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels, especially when blood cholesterol levels are high.

When attempting to prevent cancer and other less serious ailments, Glassman points out these foods:

2)    Breast cancer

Eggs, fatty fish, shiitake mushrooms: All of these foods are high in Vitamin D. Research has shown that boosting Vitamin D intake could help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

3)    Prostate cancer

Tomato-based foods: Studies have shown that tomato-based foods can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 20-45 percent, depending on how many servings per week you have (the more servings, the higher the percentage). Most likely, this is a result of the lycopene, a carotenoid and antioxidant found mostly in tomatoes and tomato products.

Apples, onions, black and green tea, red wine: These are abundant in the flavinoid quercetin, which has shown promise as a protective agent against prostate cancer.

4)    Urinary tract infections

Blueberries, cranberries, unsweetened cranberry juice, cherries: All of these contain substances that inhibit the binding of bacteria to bladder tissue, which can help prevent urinary tract infections. Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice regularly also helps lower the risk of UTIs.

5)    Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome can affect people in different ways: Individuals can have different triggers, and the result can be diarrhea or constipation.

Fruits, vegetables, flaxseed, dried plums, and drinking water: Foods high in insoluble fiber help push waste through the colon, which can help those who suffer from constipation.

Barley, oats, brown rice, and small portions of no-sugar-added dried fruits: Foods high in soluble fiber add bulk to the colon, which can help those with diarrhea.

6)    Flu/cold

Oranges and persimmons: Colorful fruits and vegetables are sources of the antioxidants, including beta carotene, vitamin E, selenium and vitamin C, which work together to boost immunity and increase resistance to infection, colds and flu bugs.

Carrots, apricots and broccoli: These foods are rich in beta-carotene, which helps maintain the skin and mucous linings in the lungs and nose (these are the body’s first line of defense against germs).

Low fat yogurt: Yogurt contains immunity-increasing probiotics, and eating a cup of low-fat yogurt every day can reduce your susceptibility to colds by 25 percent.

To avoid the flu, Mitchell adds:

Vitamin D-rich foods: The research is relatively new but the bottom line is that adequate vitamin D in the diet everyday (most people do not get enough) has a role in overall immune function. Sources include: dairy products, salmon or sardines, and mushrooms. New on the research front, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D.

Hot tea: All types of tea including green, black, white and red offer health benefits in the form of antioxidants. Besides feeling really good on your throat and warming your body when you have the chills, hot liquids temporarily thin out the mucus in the nose and throat. Regular tea contains enough caffeine to gives you a slight energy boost when you feel so bad you don’t want to lift your head off the pillow.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University.  Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health  tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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