Listen up, food lovers!
We're often told that there are certain foods we should try to eat less of. But what if the real key to nourishing our bodies is actually to add to our diets?
Well, Dr. William Li, internal medicine physician, research scientist and author of Eat To Beat Disease, has some good news for us.
"Food is a powerful tool when it comes to our health," Dr. Li tells Rach. "While we use medicines to treat disease, food can prevent diseases in the first place."
He tells us that our health is constructed from five defense systems, which work together to keep our bodies strong and protected.
According to Dr. Li, research shows that there are specific foods you can implement in your diet to improve these defenses and help you maintain your health.
The doc is breaking down the five systems and sharing his suggestions of the best food to eat for each category — some of which might surprise you!
1. SOY boosts angiogenesis.
"Angiogenesis is how our bodies grow blood vessels," Dr. Li says. "That's our circulation — it brings oxygen and nutrients to every cell in our body."
The doc's number one food for angiogenesis? Soy!
Soy has gotten a bad reputation in the past, he continues, because some people think that the plant estrogen in it can cause breast cancer — but this is not true, Dr. Li says.
"Human estrogens can fuel breast cancer, but plant estrogens in fact counter human estrogen," according to the doctor.
This means that soy can actually help prevent cancer, he says. Research shows you need 10 grams of soy protein a day, which is the same amount you get from one 8 ounce glass of soy milk, according to Dr. Li.
If you don't like soy milk, you can try tofu, tempeh or even soy yogurt.
2. DARK CHOCOLATE improves regeneration.
"Science is now saying we can regenerate from the inside out, through our stem cells," Dr. Li explains. "My favorite food for this defense system is dark chocolate."
Yes, you read that right!
Research has shown that you can actually drink dark chocolate as hot cocoa. As long as it's 70% dark chocolate (or higher), melting it down and mixing with the milk of your choice is good for you, according to Dr. Li.
"If you drink two of these a day, it will actually double the number of stem cells in your bloodstream, which improves regeneration," Dr. Li says.
3. PUMPERNICKEL + SOURDOUGH BREAD support the microbiome.
"It's the healthy bacteria in our body — 39 trillion bacteria that boost our immune system, decrease inflammation and even help fight cancer," the doc claims.
His number one food for the microbiome is... bread! (Certain kinds, of course.)
Pumpernickel bread is made with rye, which Dr. Li says contains a natural substance that helps decrease harmful bacteria that can create toxins.
Also, according to Dr. Li, sourdough bread is made with a healthy bacteria that not only boosts your immune system, but also causes our brains to release oxytocin (a.k.a. the feel good hormone).
4. KIWI aids in DNA protection.
You've probably heard of DNA (a.k.a our genetic code), but you probably don't know that DNA is a health defense, too.
"It protects us against the assaults from the environment," Dr. Li says. What does this mean? Well, our DNA can protect itself from damage — such as from the sun's UV rays or from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, he explains.
The doc's number one food for DNA protection? Kiwi!
"Research has shown that eating one kiwi a day can reduce the impact of DNA damage," he says. And if you eat three of them a day, it helps DNA fix and rebuild itself, according to the doctor.
And they're delicious, too!
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5. MUSHROOMS help build immunity.
Our immune systems help us fight infection, and even diseases like cancer, Dr. Li says.
"My number one food for activating immune defenses is mushrooms," he says.
Shiitake, button, chanterelle, oyster — it doesn't matter! According to the doc, all mushrooms contain a natural compound called beta glucan, which activates the immune system.
Dr. Li says research also shows that while the mushroom cap is good for you, the stem of the mushroom is even better — it has twice the amount of beta glucan! So the next time you have mushrooms, eat the caps and the stems, he suggests.
"Five defenses, five foods, and on average we eat five times a day — breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of snacks," Dr. Li says.
"It's easy to get our 5 by 5 in there!" Rach says.
We'll toast to that — with a glass of red wine, which Dr. Li says also activates our health defense systems!