Dr. Michael Roizen | Cleveland Clinic
For a nation struggling to improve its diet, tough economic times can make healthy habits that much tougher: Eating what’s good for you can be pricey. But Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen, founder of the RealAge health-evaluation test and Web site and co-author of the best-sellingYOU series of books, says eating well doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, some of the best foods for you may already be in your kitchen. If not, add these affordable, disease-fighting foods to your shopping list:
Fish: Grilled or baked fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglyceride levels in the blood, make platelets less likely to stick together and decrease inflammatory responses in the brain, arteries and immune system — decreasing the risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease and cancer.
“The fish protein seems to have a beneficial effect on memory as well,” Roizen says. The pigment that gives salmon its distinctive pink color delivers an additional disease-fighting punch by inhibiting cancer growth and facilitating collagen growth in the skin. Roizen cautions that toxins are now being found in fish once considered “safe,” but legislation now requires country-of-origin labeling, so log on to usda.gov to learn what’s safest.
Watermelon: This humble summer staple actually contains “a ton of potassium and vitamin C.”
Broccoli: This much-maligned veggie is packed with the cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane, which also helps stabilize blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity. Roizen adds that broccoli has lots of potassium, “which helps lower blood pressure,” as well as magnesium (a mineral that also helps lower blood pressure and reduce heart arrhythmias by dilating the arteries) and calcium.
Spinach: “Popeye always trumps Bugs Bunny” when it comes to choosing a food that helps maintain eye health, according to Roizen. He explains that, unlike the much-ballyhooed carrot, spinach (fresh or frozen) contains lutein.
“It helps form a colored membrane over the retina that protects it from the sun,” he says. It also has calcium, magnesium, iron and “a bunch of other trace minerals.”
Tomatoes: These are loaded with lycopene, a carotenoid (a vitaminlike substance), with antioxidant properties that seems to help prevent prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
“It also decreases inflammation in your arteries, so it decreases blood pressure, coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease,” Roizen says.
The biggest protective boost comes from tomato sauce. Studies have shown that consuming 10 tablespoons a week decreases the risk of developing the aforementioned cancers.
Kale: Often ignored in the produce department (yet inexpensive), Roizen says kale, a green, leafy vegetable, is a great source of carotenoids, calcium and lutein.
Cheap mustard: The spice curcumin, used to supplement expensive mustard seed in less expensive brands (it’s responsible for that bright yellow color), activates a gene that helps clear away amyloids, which are proteins that contribute to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, associated with memory loss. Roizen recommends downing a teaspoon of cheap mustard each day.
Coffee: Roizen defends coffee (no decaf, please) as one of the best sources of antioxidants around. The benefits are particularly impressive for those who drink six or more cups a day — seriously.
“It decreases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 40 percent, Parkinson’s disease by 35 percent, liver and ovarian cancer,” he says. “It also seems (in large studies) to decrease the risk of developing diabetes.”
He advises using a paper filter in the coffeemaker. “That will absorb the chemicals that produce an increase in cholesterol.”