Foods That Fight Disease

Leslie Beck - Author

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ISBN 9780143056577 | 432 pages | 03 Sep 2008 | Penguin Global | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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In her new book, Foods That Fight Disease, leading Canadian nutritionist Leslie Beck gives us a complete guide to eating right and staying healthy for life. This comprehensive book explains that the foods you eat can have a dramatic effect on your body's ability to fight off heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other ailments. Offering over 100 recipes that will help fight disease, Leslie shows how easy it is to incorporate these foods into your daily diet.


The notion that foods can fight disease is certainly not new. Food as medicine began 3500 years ago, when ancient Egyptians discovered that night blindness—caused by a lack of vitamin A—could be treated with certain foods. Much later, in the mid-1700s, a Scottish surgeon named James Lind learned that some unknown substance in limes prevented scurvy in British sailors.

Despite that we've used foods to heal for thousands of years, nutrition is a relatively new science. Only less than a century ago did scientists discover vitamins and minerals and determine that very small amounts could cure diseases such as rickets, goiter, beri beri, and pellagra. Fast forward to the twenty-first century. No longer are North Americans plagued by diseases caused by a lack of vitamin and minerals. We have easy access to an abundance of foods, many of them fortified with nutrients and with vitamin supplements.

Instead, the diseases that are killing us are caused by over-nutrition—eating too much food, rather than too little. Today, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease (emphysema and bronchitis), and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability around the world. In Canada, nearly two-thirds of all deaths are due to these chronic diseases. As our national waistline continues to expand, the number of cases of type 2 diabetes—a major cause of heart disease—is expected to continue to rise.

Our lifestyle choices are clearly linked to the diseases that plague us in modern times. A poor diet high in overly processed foods—many high in saturated and trans fats, sodium, and refined sugars—with too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar, which are all risk factors for future disease. And a lack of regular physical activity also shares some of the blame.

But there is good news. The majority of today's chronic diseases are preventable. During the past few decades, scientists have learned how phytochemicals like beta carotene (in carrots), anthocyanins (in blueberries), lutein (in spinach), and catechins (in tea) can help guard against cancer, heart disease, cataract, even Alzheimer’s disease. Almost every day study findings are reported that link certain diets, foods, and food components to disease prevention.

It seems that Canadians are also aware of the link between nutrition and health. According to the most recent national survey conducted by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition, the majority of Canadians strongly believe that fibre, omega-3 fats, and trans fat play a role in their health. What's more, 75% of Canadians consult nutrition labels when deciding what foods to buy. Among label readers, nearly two-thirds use them to check how much of a particular nutrient is in a food product.

Many of us are seeking foods with more omega-3 fats, fibre, whole grains, and vitamins and little or no trans fat, sugar, and sodium. Indeed, an increasing number of people are turning to the foods they eat as a way to reduce the risk of disease and stay healthy, active, and energetic as they age. The desire to eat the right foods to ward off disease is evident in my private practice. Every day I meet clients who want to know what foods they should be eating more of, and which ones they need to eat less of in order to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and obesity. Often I am consulted for advice on what to eat to lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, or blood sugar levels. Clients at increased risk for developing a health problem are highly motivated to improve the quality of their diet to ward off disease and, if possible, avoid taking a prescription drug.

Eating to reduce your risk of chronic disease is more than just limiting high-fat animal foods, refined grains, sugary desserts, heavily processed foods, and fast foods. Don't get me wrong, that is important. But when it comes to fighting disease, the foods you include in your diet are just as important as the ones you exclude.

Foods That Fight Disease is a comprehensive guide to disease-fighting foods. It's a manual of which foods to eat—how often, in what amounts, and how to add them to your family's diet in unique and delicious ways. Foods That Fight Disease will help you discover power foods—nutrientpacked whole foods that have been shown in scientific studies to lower the risk of many chronic diseases.

Although this book focuses on the foods you should be including in your diet, I'd be remiss not to mention foods that you should limit in an effort to stay healthy. You'll find tips throughout the book on how to cut sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars from your diet. You'll also read about the pros and cons of red wine and other alcoholic beverages. Most of all, however, Foods That Fight Disease is about the enjoyment of tasty and healthful foods.

How to use Foods That Fight Disease

The information and practical tips in this book will help you boost the nutritional quality of your diet. Each chapter provides everything you need to know about a category of power foods—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein foods, dairy foods, vegetables oils, and beverages that are nutritional standouts when it comes to fighting disease.

There is no right or wrong place to start. Choose a group of foods that you want to learn more about or you want to increase your intake of. While some people might start with vegetables, others might prefer to begin eating more whole grains. For each power food, I share with you the study findings that support its disease-fighting powers, how it works in the body, and notable nutrients and phytochemicals it contains.

While it's nice to know the science behind how foods keep you healthy, you need to know how to incorporate them into your diet. Many of my clients say they know that legumes are healthy, but they don't know what to do with them. Foods That Fight Disease arms you with the information you'll need to put my recommended intakes into action: tips for buying, storing, and preparing, and plenty of ideas for creative ways to incorporate each food into meals and snacks.

To help you gradually increase your intake of power foods, I recommend you make copies of my Power Foods Checklist, which you'll find at the back of the book. Here, you'll also find suggestions for adding phytochemical-rich herbs and spices to meals, as well as a label-reading tips.

Over a hundred recipes that fight disease

Every recipe in this book was developed, tested, and analyzed by Michelle Gelok, a nutritionist who has worked with me as a research assistant for the past three years. (At the time of writing, Michelle was completing her dietetic internship in Toronto.) Along with my tips to add power foods to breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, you'll find delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes created by Michelle—recipes that will add leafy greens, berries, legumes, fish, even green tea to your meals. Each recipe is accompanied by a nutrient analysis: a breakdown of its calories, fat, protein, fibre, and so on. We've come a long way in our understanding of how foods fight disease since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Yet, we still have more to learn as nutrition and food scientists seek answers to questions that remain unanswered. In the meantime, I hope you will use this book as a resource—one that's based on our current scientific knowledge—to help you and your family eat the healthiest diet possible.

Leslie Beck, RD
Toronto, 2008


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