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Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 1: Açaí
Nature's Energy Fruit


It may seem odd to start this list of superfoods with one you’ve likely never even heard of. But studies have shown that this little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Açaí (ah-sigh-ee) is the high-energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, açaí tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and chocolate. Hidden within its royal purple pigment is the magic that makes it nature's perfect energy fruit. Açaí is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Although açaí may not be available in your local supermarket, you can find it in several health food and gourmet stores (often in juice form). A new product featuring the unsweetened pulp is now also available, and I highly recommend that you choose this form of açaí.

Açaí pulp contains:

* A remarkable concentration of antioxidants that help combat premature aging, with 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine.
* A synergy of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health.
* An almost perfect essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration.

The fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is important for a number of reasons. It helps omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane; together they help make cell membranes more supple. By keeping the cell membrane supple, all hormones, neurotransmitter and insulin receptors function more efficiently. This is particularly important because high insulin levels create an inflammatory state, and we know, inflammation causes aging.

Get more of Dr. Perricone's 10 superfoods.
Reference: Oprah.

All 10 superfoods:

Ten Superfoods for Age-Defying Beauty
Ten foods for age-defying beauty

The benefits from eating healthy are endless. And, according to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, some foods can be eaten to help you look and age better!
Acai fruit
This little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world. It can often be found in juice form in health food and gourmet stores.

Anything in the "Allium Family"
Garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, chives and shallots can all help the liver eliminate toxins and carcinogens.

This can be used as a breakfast cereal, in soups and stews, and as a rice substitute. Barley's also high in fiber, helping metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates.

Green Foods
Green foods like wheat and barley grasses can be bought in powder, tablet or juice form, and offer greater levels of nutrients than green leafy vegetables. They also help cholesterol, blood pressure and immune response.

Buckwheat: Seed & Grain
Buckwheat is loaded with protein, high in amino acid, stabilizes blood sugar and reduces hypertension.

Beans & Lentils

You can reduce cholesterol while beefing up on antioxidants, folic acid and potassium. Try kidney, black, navy, pinto, chickpeas, soybeans, peas and lentils.

Hot Peppers

Both bell and chili peppers contain antioxidants, have twice the Vitamin C as citrus fruit and work as great fat burners.

Nuts & Seeds

You can't go wrong with a handful of nuts a day—walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia and pistachio nuts contain Omega 3 fats, which are great for your heart. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are best.

Numerous varieties of sprouts are great with any meal. They're a great source of protein and Vitamin C. Try adding them to any dish and your immune system will get a boost.

Yogurt and Kefir
These cultured foods contain healthful bacteria that aid immune function, and the calcium helps burn fat. Try using them as a base for a smoothie.

Learn more about Dr. Perricone's superfoods!


Of course, there are more than just 10 "superfoods." In fact, just about every brightly colored fruit and vegetable fits the category of a superfood, as do nuts, beans, seeds and aromatic and brightly colored herbs and spices. The beneficial properties of each one of these superfoods could fill an entire book.
The 10 featured here were chosen because of their direct link to the Brain-Beauty Connection. These foods (listed here in alphabetical order) are rich in either the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), antioxidants or fiber, and as in the case of açaí—all three!

In addition, we have included foods that have been proven to lower or help regulate blood sugar levels—an extremely important factor for all of those concerned with slowing the aging process and preventing diabetes, obesity, wrinkles and a host of degenerative diseases.

Learn More About Dr. Perricone's Superfoods:

* Açaí
* The Allium Family
* Barley
* Beans and Lentils
* Buckwheat
* Green Foods
* Hot Peppers
* Nuts and Seeds
* Sprouts
* Yogurt and Kefir

Health Benefits

Although many of these foods have reported medical benefits, remember at all times that if you have any type of health problem or physical symptom, do not self-diagnose or self-medicate—even if with a food or herb. Trust your medical professional first and foremost in this department. However, the 10 foods included here do have incredible health benefits. Listed below are just some of the reasons to include these foods in your diet—every day:

* Prevent or reduce inflammation
* Help regulate metabolism and burn body fat
* Lower total cholesterol
* Lower blood pressure
* Help protect against heart disease
* Help protect against cancer
* Help protect organs from toxins
* Promote digestive health

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 2: The Allium Family
Onions, Garlic, Chives, Leeks, Shallots and Scallions

If açaí is the most exotic food on this list, the Allium family of foods is perhaps the most humble. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives contain flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione (the tripeptide that is the liver's most potent antioxidant). Glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the Allium family of vegetables at the top of the list for foods that can help prevent cancer. Here are just a few benefits from members of this family.


* Lowers total cholesterol (but raises HDL—"good"—cholesterol)
* Lessens the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
* Lowers blood pressure
* Reduces the risk of blood clots (cause of the majority of strokes and heart attacks)
* Destroys infection-causing viruses and bacteria
* Reduces the risk of certain cancers, in particular, stomach cancers
* Produces more "natural killer" cells in the blood to fight tumors and infections
* Helps fight against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's
* Enhances detoxification by reducing toxins

For optimum effect, eat garlic raw. Cooking can destroy some of the allicin compound, which is the active constituent.


* Inhibit the growth of cancerous cells
* Increase in HDL cholesterol (especially when eaten raw)
* Reduce total cholesterol levels
* Increase blood-clot dissolving activity
* Help prevent colds
* Stimulate the immune system
* Reduce the risks of diabetes
* Have antibacterial and antifungal properties
* Reduce the risk of certain cancers
* Help relieve stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders

Onions contain two powerful antioxidants, sulphur and quercetin—both help neutralize the free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body's cells from damage.

Leeks have all of the healthy properties of the Allium family as described above. However leeks also contain these nutrients:

* Vitamin B6
* Vitamin C
* Folate
* Manganese
* Iron
* Fiber

This particular combination of nutrients makes leeks particularly helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, since they not only slow the absorption of sugars from the intestinal tract, but help ensure that they are properly metabolized in the body. Remember, the stabilization of blood sugar is one of the most important goals of the Perricone Promise. Spikes in blood sugar accelerate aging, wrinkles and a host of degenerative diseases.

We all know that onions and garlic are important for imparting delicious flavor to a meal. However, when we include leeks, we raise the flavor of the meal from delicious to "sublime." They are particularly delicious with fish such as halibut, chicken and fish and chicken soups.

Get more of Dr. Perricone's 10 superfoods.


No. 3: Barley
This ancient grain is sadly overlooked by today’s culinary trendsetters. Yet it is one of the grains with the greatest health benefits, delightful flavor and versatility. Barley can be used as a delicious breakfast cereal, in soups and stews, and as a rice substitute for dishes such as risotto.

Not only is barley a low-glycemic grain, it is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps the body metabolize fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber—commonly called "roughage"—promotes a healthy digestive tract and reduces the risk of cancers affecting it (e.g., colon cancer).

Dietary fiber is critical to health—yet few people in our modern society even come close to the recommended daily intake. Many experts believe that good health begins in the colon, and without sufficient dietary fiber in the diet, we run the risk of a host of diseases, ranging from hemorrhoids to colon cancer.

The fiber found in barley provides food for the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. This is important as the "good" bacteria can crowd out the disease-causing bacteria in the intestinal tract, resulting in greater health and disease resistance.

Barley is sold in many forms, all of which are nutritious. But hulled barley, in which the outer hull (the bran) is left intact, is richer in fiber and contains more fiber and nutrients than other forms, such as pearl barley or Scotch barley.

Eating hulled barley on a regular basis:

* Lowers blood cholesterol levels
* Protects against cancer because its high fiber content helps speed food through the digestive tract, and because its a good source of selenium, shown to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer
* Is a good source of niacin, the B vitamin that is cardio-protective
* Slows starch digestion, which may help keep blood sugar levels stable
* Provides high concentrations of tocotrienols, the "super" form of Vitamin E
* Provides lignans, phytochemicals that function as antioxidants. Women who consume lignans (also present in high levels in flaxseed) are less likely to develop breast cancer.


Superfood No. 4: Beans and Lentils
No. 4: Beans and Lentils
There are good reasons that beans occupy two places on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid: the first is with high-protein foods such as meat, eggs, poultry and fish, and the second is with vitamin-rich vegetables. The beneficial phytochemicals found in beans offer other preventive health attributes not reflected in the USDA’s Pyramid. The multi-faceted nutrition and prevention powers of beans—a category that encompasses common beans (e.g., kidney, black, navy, pinto), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soybeans, dried peas, and lentils—make them an anti-aging dietary necessity.

Beans are low in fat (except for soybeans), calories, and sodium, but high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and they offer modest amounts of essential fatty acids—mostly omega-6s (only soybeans have significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids). They are also an excellent source of protein, needing only to be combined with grains such as barley or oats to provide all the amino acids necessary to make a complete protein for vegetarians who do not have other sources of protein for their meals.

Beans are extremely beneficial in an anti-diabetes diet because they rank low on the glycemic scale, which means that they do not cause the inflammatory, hunger-inducing spike in blood sugar levels associated with refined grains and baked goods. Beans offer ample fiber (one cup of cooked beans can provide as much as 15 grams of dietary fiber, more than half the recommended “daily value” of 25 grams and are released into the bloodstream slowly, providing energy and satiation for a sustained period. However, I recommend no more than 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked beans per meal.

Dried beans and lentils are a staple of many cuisines worldwide. For thousands of years, beans and lentils have been and continue to be one of the most nutritious foods available. In addition, beans and lentils are extremely versatile. They can be combined with fragrant herbs and vegetables and made into delicious soups. They can be used in salads, or puréed and served as a dip or spread. Chickpeas and lentils can also be ground into a high protein, low glycemic flour.

Healthy Benefits of Beans
Beans are heart-healthy for a number of reasons in addition to their fiber content:

* They are a good source of potassium, which may help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. More than 80 percent of American adults do not consume the daily value for potassium (3,500 mg), and just 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans contains as much as 480 mg, with no more than 5 mg of sodium.
* Dry beans are a good source of folic acid, which protects against heart disease by breaking down an amino acid called homocysteine. (One cup of cooked dry beans providing about 264 mcg of folate, or more than half the recommended daily intake of 400 mcg.) High levels of homocysteine in the blood, or inadequate amounts of dietary folate, can triple the risk of heart attack and stroke. Folate is also key in preventing birth defects, and may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer because it plays an important role in healthy cell division and is crucial to the repair of damaged cells.
* In a large study of almost 10,000 men and women, those who ate beans four or more times a week cut their risk of coronary heart disease by about 20 percent, compared with those who ate beans less than once a week. It appears that this health benefit was independent of other health habits, since adjustments to account for other important cardiovascular disease risk factors produced minimal change in the risk estimates.
* Other studies show that within two to three weeks, diets high in either canned or dry beans (3 to 4 ounces per day) reduce blood cholesterol levels by 10 percent or more: an effect that can result in a 20 percent decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.
* Beans and lentils have the same potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants—flavonoids and flavonals—found in tea, fruits, grapes, red wine and cocoa beans. In particular, the reddish flavonal pigments in bean and lentil seed coats exert antioxidant activity 50 times greater than vitamin E, protect against oxidative damage to cell membrane lipids, promote healthy collagen and cartilage, and restore the antioxidant powers of vitamins C and E after they’ve battled free radicals.
* Beans are among the richest food sources of saponins, chemicals that help prevent undesirable genetic mutations.

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
Preparation Tips
Generally speaking, the larger the bean, the longer they need to soak: and the longer you soak beans, the faster they cook. Dried chickpeas, beans and whole dried peas need about eight hours of soaking.

If you forget to soak them the night before, just do it before you leave in the morning and they’ll be ready to cook when you get home. Or, add three times the amount of water as beans, bring them to a boil for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and let sit for an hour. Throw out the soaking water, and cook as normal. You can also use a pressure cooker, which will reduce the cooking time by more than half, and reduce nutrient loss. (Of course, you can just drain and rinse canned beans, and add them directly to salads, soups or curries.) You can also prepare large batches to freeze in meal-sized portions, as cooked beans freeze well.

Well-soaked beans take 45 minutes to an hour to cook, depending on the variety. Cook beans until soft, and then rinse them thoroughly, because the residual starch on the surface feeds the harmless bacteria in your gut, which then release gas. Some of the gas-producing starch stays in the soaking water so don’t cook with it.

You can prevent gas by adding beans to your diet gradually, eating just a bite or two per day to start until your body adjusts period. Drinking ample fluids also helps. You can also try an enzyme supplement such as Beano, sold in most supermarkets, which will digest the gas-producing sugars. Just put a few drops on the first bite of food.

Like other legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, but they have the added advantage of cooking quickly. Lentils do not need pre-soaking. Simply remove any debris, then rinse and boil them. Red lentils take only twenty minutes, green lentils take 30 to 45 minutes, and brown lentils cook in 45 to 60 minutes. Do not add salt to cooking lentils, as this may toughen them. Like beans, lentils will keep almost indefinitely in a cool, dry place. Their colors may fade slightly after long storage, but their flavor and nutrition won’t. Lentils are the perfect way to add protein, fiber and all the antioxidant benefits of this food group to any meal. And they taste wonderful, adapting themselves to a wide range of aromatic spices and herbs—particularly turmeric and ginger.


No. 5: Buckwheat
Seed, Grain and Health Powerhouse
Though it is usually thought of as a grain, buckwheat is actually the seed of a broadleaf plant related to rhubarb. While it is not a true grain, it is used like one in cooking, and it surpasses rice, wheat and corn on almost every measure of healthfulness (including the fact that rice, wheat, and corn are high on the glycemic scale, thus provoking a quick spike in blood sugar levels, a proven promoter of systemic inflammation). Buckwheat, on the other hand, ranks low on the glycemic scale.

Hulled buckwheat kernels (called groats) are pale tan-to-green, while the roasted buckwheat groats known as Kasha—a staple food in Eastern Europe—are dark brown with a nutty flavor. Kasha is often steamed in a stock with onions, olive oil, and fresh parsley, and you can combine equal parts plain buckwheat groats and oats, and cook the mix to enjoy as a hot breakfast cereal topped with berries. Buckwheat has been cultivated for at least 1,000 years in China, Korea and Japan, where it is often enjoyed in the form of buckwheat “soba” noodles—a form that’s become increasingly popular in the West as a healthy substitute for wheat pasta.

Buckwheat has more protein than rice, wheat, millet, or corn, and is high in the essential amino acids lysine and arginine, in which major cereal crops are deficient. Its unique amino acid profile gives buckwheat the power to boost the protein value of beans and cereal grains eaten the same day. Yet, buckwheat contains no gluten—the source of protein in true grains—and is therefore safe for people with gluten allergy or celiac disease.

Buckwheat Protein's Unique Health-Promoting Properties:

* The specific characteristics of buckwheat proteins, and the relative proportions of its amino acids, make buckwheat the unsurpassed cholesterol-lowering food studied to date.
* Its protein characteristics also enhance buckwheat’s ability to reduce and stabilize blood sugar levels following meals—a key factor in preventing diabetes and obesity.
* Like the widely prescribed “ACE” hypertension drugs, buckwheat proteins reduce the activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thereby reducing hypertension.

Why Buckwheat is Better Than Grains

* More vitamins and minerals. Compared with true grains, buckwheat is high in minerals: especially zinc, copper, and manganese.
* Healthier fat profile. Unlike true grains, buckwheat’s low fat content is skewed toward monounsaturated fatty acids—the type that makes olive oil so heart-healthful.
* Healthier starch and fiber profile. The fiber in true grains other than barley is largely insoluble, while a considerable portion of buckwheat dietary fiber is the soluble type that makes oats so heart-healthful, and yields digestion byproducts that reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk of colon cancer. Buckwheat is also high in “resistant starch,” which also enhances colon health, and serves to reduce blood sugar levels.
* Reduces high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and discourages obesity. Most recently, a buckwheat extract substantially reduced blood glucose levels in diabetic rats: a promising finding that should lead to similar research in human diabetics. This blood sugar benefit is attributed in part to rare carbohydrate compounds called fagopyritols (especially D-chiro-inositol), of which buckwheat is by far the richest food source yet discovered.
* Contains flavonoids for heart and circulatory health. In addition to its marked nutritional benefits, buckwheat has been traditionally prized as a “blood-building” food. Modern science attributes this ancient reputation to buckwheat’s high levels of antioxidant polyphenols—especially rutin (a bioflavonoid), which supports the circulatory system and helps preventing recurrent bleeding caused by weakened blood vessels, as in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Finally, rutin acts as an ACE inhibitor, and contributes to buckwheat’s ability to reduce high blood pressure.


No. 6: Barley Grass, Wheat Grass and Other Green Foods
Plant Power in Small Packages
When we talk about "green foods," we’re referring to a group of foods that includes young cereal grasses like barley grass and wheat grass, as well a blue-green algae known as BGA. Nutritionally, they are close cousins to dark green leafy vegetables, but offer far greater levels of "nutrient density." In other words, an ounce of these concentrated green foods contains much more of the beneficial phytonutrients found in an ounce of green vegetables.

The results of many experimental studies show that green foods have marked beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, immune response and cancer prevention. These effects are attributed in part to their high concentrations of chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll, the phytochemical that gives leaves, plants and algae their green hues, is the plant equivalent of the oxygen-carrying red pigment hemoglobin in red blood cells. Dietary chlorophyll inhibits disease bacteria and exerts therapeutic effects on bad breath and internal odors.

Wheat and Barley Grasses
Young cereal grasses—especially wheat and barley grass—are distinguished by their brilliant emerald green hues. Before World War II, drug stores throughout the country, but especially in the grain-belt states of the Midwest, sold tablets of dried wheat or barley grass as a kind of primitive vitamin supplement. Today, young wheat and barley grasses are dried and powdered to make dietary supplements, or picked fresh to process in juicing machines.

At the early grass stage of their growth, wheat and barley are closer to vegetables than grains in composition. This is important to note because while I strongly discourage eating wheat and wheat products, I believe wheat grass is an excellent addition to your diet.

The nutrient profiles of green cereal plants change quickly as they grow. As the plant grows, the chlorophyll, protein, and vitamin content of cereal grasses declines sharply and the level of cellulose (indigestible fiber) increases. Over a period of several months, the green leafy cereal grasses become amber waves of grain bearing the kernels we harvest to make into flour—an unhealthy, pro-inflammatory food.

There is very little nutritional difference between wheat grass and barley grass, although it is important to note that barley grass acts as a free radical scavenger that also reduces inflammation and pain, and wheat grass contains P4D1, a "gluco-protein" that acts like an antioxidant, reducing inflammation. It is also thought to be able to help the body attack cancer cells.

You can get cereal grasses in powder or tablet form. Dried cereal grasses are certainly easier to handle than fresh, which must be juiced. However, fresh grass juice contains healthful enzymes not found in dried grass powder, and is likely to be higher in just about every phytonutrient found in cereal grass. Many juice bars and health-oriented markets offer these juices on their menus.

Blue-Green Algae (BGA): Spirulina, Chlorella and more
The single-celled plants known as blue-green algae (BGA) are sold in health food stores as superior sources of protein, chlorophyll, carotenoid antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and disease-preventive phytonutrients. There are several types of BGAs, the most popular being spirulina and chlorella.

The existing research, while lacking in many regards, suggests that BGAs exert some significant and perhaps unique preventive-health effects, most likely due to their polysaccharides, antioxidants, nucleic acids, and peptides. Preliminary evidence suggests that they have the following benefits:

* Spirulina inhibits the infectious power of many viruses—including HIV, flu, mumps, enterovirus, measles, and herpes—probably because a sulfated polysaccharide called calcium spirulan prevents viruses from entering human cells.
* Chlorella helps prevent cancer and the growth of tumors, probably because its glycoproteins enhance the migration of T cells to tumor sites
* Chlorella binds to toxic heavy metals and dioxin and helps eliminate them from the body.
* Chlorella protects the intestinal lining against peptic ulcers

Both Spirulina and Chlorella:

* Help diminish allergies such as hay fever
* Help protect the liver from toxins
* Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
* Help control symptoms of ulcerative colitis
* Exert strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects

BGAs are rich in essential fatty acids, phenolic antioxidants, chlorophyll, B vitamins, carotenoids and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. BGAs—especially spirulina—are also good sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid with many healthful properties, which some people’s bodies have trouble producing, and which is lacking in the standard American diet.


Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
Chili pepper
No. 7: Hot Peppers
The term "peppers" encompasses a diverse group of plants, ranging from the popular sweet green or red bell pepper to the fiery hot habañero or the even more lethal Scotch bonnet. When Columbus tasted the small, hot red "berries" he found on his Caribbean voyages, he believed he had reached India—where Europeans obtained black pepper—and called them red pepper. In truth, the native peoples of the Americas had been growing and enjoying sweet and chili peppers for an estimated 7,000 years. Soon after Columbus's ships brought them back to Spain, traders spread them around the world, transforming cuisines—and people's preventive health prospects—from Morocco to Hungary, and India to China.

Peppers—whether sweet bell or hot chili—are members of the plant genus "capsicum" (cap-sih-kum), a term that comes from the Greek word kapto, which means "to bite."

All peppers contain compounds called capsaicinoids. This is especially true of chili peppers, which derive their spicy heat—as well as extraordinary anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-cancer, heart-healthy effects—from very high levels of capsaicinoids, the most common form of which is capsaicin.

In addition to capsaicin, chilies are high in antioxidant carotenes and flavonoids, and contain about twice the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits. Almost any dish, from homemade soups, stews and chili to stir fries, salads, and salsas, can benefit from small amounts of hot peppers.

Learn more about the benefits of hot peppers:

* From headaches to arthritis relief—Capsaicin's health benefits
* The Scoville Scale: How hot is your pepper?

No. 7: Hot Peppers
Capsaicin's Health Benefits

* Headache help: Substance P is the key transmitter of pain to the brain. In fact, Substance P is the body's main mechanism for producing swelling and pain throughout the trigeminal nerve, which runs through the head, temple, and sinus cavity. When the nerve fibers come in contact with Substance P, they react by swelling—an effect that yields headaches and sinus symptoms. Clinical studies have shown that capsaicin, a compound in hot peppers, is extremely effective for relieving and preventing cluster headaches, migraine headaches, and sinus headaches.
* Arthritis relief: People suffering from arthritis pain typically have elevated levels of Substance P in their blood and in the synovial fluid that bathes their joints. Research has shown that eating foods that contain capsaicin or applying a topical cream that contains capsaicin can suppress Substance P production.
* Capsaiscin as spicy sinus soother: Capsaicin also possesses powerful antibacterial properties, and is very effective in fighting and preventing chronic sinus infections (sinusitis). This purely natural chemical will also clear out congested nasal passages like nothing else, and is helpful in treating sinus-related allergy symptoms. Small daily doses of capsaicin have even been shown to prevent chronic nasal congestion.
* Capsaicin as anti-inflammatory: In recent years, researchers discovered that capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammatory, and have even pinpointed how it works to fight chronic, sub-clinical inflammation. The nuclei of human cells contain chemicals called nuclear transcription factors (NTFs), two of which—activator protein 1 (AP-1) and NF-kappa B—are especially important targets when it comes to prevention of cancer and premature aging of skin. Each of these NTFs can be "activated" by ultraviolet light and free radicals: a result that produces a pro-inflammatory chain reaction that promotes premature aging and a wide variety of degenerative diseases. As it turns out, nature offers several effective NTF-activation blockers, including the capsaicin in chilies, and the yellow pigment curcumin in turmeric.
* Gastric relief: A recent study on gastric disorders at Duke University showed capsaicin may actually lead to a cure for certain intestinal diseases. The Duke team found that a specific nerve cell receptor appears to be necessary to initiate the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a general term given to a variety of chronic disorders in which the intestine becomes inflamed—resulting in recurring abdominal cramps, pain and diarrhea. The cause of IBD is unknown, and it is believed that up to 2 million Americans suffer from this disorder.

No. 7: Hot Peppers
The Scoville Scale: Hot, Hotter, Hottest
Capsaicin is mainly found in hot pepper plants from the Capsicum frutescens family. While most varieties are found in South America, where chilies originated, there are also Capsicum varieties in Africa, India, and even China. Like bell peppers, which also belong to the capsicum falmiy, not all chili peppers are hot. For example, paprika is from the capsicum family, but it's mild at best. On the other hand, paprika's cousin, cayenne, is scorching hot. It all depends on the heat factor within a particular plant.

Hot peppers even have their own measuring scale for heat, known as "Scoville Units." Mostly used in the food industry, the Scoville heat scale is regarded as the most accurate way to measure the true hotness of a pepper plant. Developed in 1912 by botanist Wilbur Scoville, a pepper's Scoville Unit number is based on how much the ground chili needs to be diluted before no heat is detected. Scoville Units measure the perception of heat in multiples of 100, with bell peppers setting the heat-free baseline at zero Scoville Units, pure capsaicin measuring more than 16 million Scoville Units, and most popular types ranking around 30,000 Scoville units. Until recently, habañero peppers held the world record, with some varieties scoring a searing 300,000 Scoville units. However, in 2000, Indian research scientists tested a chili pepper called Naga Jolokia, from the remote northeastern province of Assam. This devilishly hot Indian chili now holds the dubious distinction of being the world's hottest pepper, with a reported score of 855,000 Scoville units.

About 80 percent of a chili's capsaicin is found in the ribs and seeds, which can be removed to reduce its heat. Capsaicin is also distributed unevenly, in much smaller amounts throughout the flesh of a chili pepper.

Aerosolized capsicum, better known as pepper spray (often used to fend off potential attackers) is now being used to fend off sinus infections, allergies and headaches, thanks to a new nasal spray packed with hot pepper extract.

Always exercise a great deal of care when preparing hot peppers to avoid injury. Check at the produce department to select the pepper with the right degree of heat for your palate. Use rubber gloves when chopping and seeding and don't touch your eye during preparation as the oil in the hot peppers will cause a burning sensation—advice spoken with the voice of painful experience!

No. 7: Hot Peppers
Capsaicin's Health Benefits

* Headache help: Substance P is the key transmitter of pain to the brain. In fact, Substance P is the body's main mechanism for producing swelling and pain throughout the trigeminal nerve, which runs through the head, temple, and sinus cavity. When the nerve fibers come in contact with Substance P, they react by swelling—an effect that yields headaches and sinus symptoms. Clinical studies have shown that capsaicin, a compound in hot peppers, is extremely effective for relieving and preventing cluster headaches, migraine headaches, and sinus headaches.
* Arthritis relief: People suffering from arthritis pain typically have elevated levels of Substance P in their blood and in the synovial fluid that bathes their joints. Research has shown that eating foods that contain capsaicin or applying a topical cream that contains capsaicin can suppress Substance P production.
* Capsaiscin as spicy sinus soother: Capsaicin also possesses powerful antibacterial properties, and is very effective in fighting and preventing chronic sinus infections (sinusitis). This purely natural chemical will also clear out congested nasal passages like nothing else, and is helpful in treating sinus-related allergy symptoms. Small daily doses of capsaicin have even been shown to prevent chronic nasal congestion.
* Capsaicin as anti-inflammatory: In recent years, researchers discovered that capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammatory, and have even pinpointed how it works to fight chronic, sub-clinical inflammation. The nuclei of human cells contain chemicals called nuclear transcription factors (NTFs), two of which—activator protein 1 (AP-1) and NF-kappa B—are especially important targets when it comes to prevention of cancer and premature aging of skin. Each of these NTFs can be "activated" by ultraviolet light and free radicals: a result that produces a pro-inflammatory chain reaction that promotes premature aging and a wide variety of degenerative diseases. As it turns out, nature offers several effective NTF-activation blockers, including the capsaicin in chilies, and the yellow pigment curcumin in turmeric.
* Gastric relief: A recent study on gastric disorders at Duke University showed capsaicin may actually lead to a cure for certain intestinal diseases. The Duke team found that a specific nerve cell receptor appears to be necessary to initiate the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a general term given to a variety of chronic disorders in which the intestine becomes inflamed—resulting in recurring abdominal cramps, pain and diarrhea. The cause of IBD is unknown, and it is believed that up to 2 million Americans suffer from this disorder.

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods

* Capsaicin versus cancer: Several recent studies have shown that capsaicin may actually prevent the growth of certain types of cancer. In particular, there have been several clinical studies conducted in Japan and China that showed natural capsaicin directly inhibits the growth of leukemic cells. Although these studies used pure capsaicin directly injected into isolated diseased cells in a laboratory setting, scientists have also concluded that daily consumption of hot peppers (thus capsaicin) may actually prevent certain types of cancer. Throughout South America, intestinal, stomach, and colon cancer rates are very low compared to the United States. It is widely regarded by medical experts that this low cancer rate may be tied to the large amounts of capsaicin in their diets, since nearly every main dish in their normal diet contains some form of capsaicin-based food, particularly hot cayenne and jalapeño peppers. Of course we must also take into consideration the fact these cultures also consume fiber-rich beans on a daily basis.
* Capsaicin as fat burner: Capsaicin is an active ingredient in many of the most popular "fat burning" supplements on the market. A thermogenic agent, capsaicin helps to increase overall metabolic activity, thus helping the body burn calories and fat. Since the FDA banned the herb ephedra, supplement manufacturers have been searching for new thermogenic ingredients and many have added chilies to the mix. While capsaicin replaces some of ephedra's metabolic effects, it doesn't have that herb's negative, stimulant effects on heart rate. In fact, capsaicin is an actively "heart healthy" supplement.

No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
If you want to dramatically decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, control your weight with no hunger pangs and reduce the visible signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging skin, I recommend that you "go nuts." Here's how:

* When thoughts turn to food between meals, enjoy a handful of raw, unsalted nuts. They're extremely filling and satisfying—and healthful.
* Add some nuts to regular meals—a tablespoon of chopped almonds on your oatmeal, a tablespoon of walnuts in your lunchtime salad or a hazelnut-encrusted grilled salmon fillet. Nuts are so versatile they can take the place of flour and breadcrumbs—with a lot more flavor and health benefits. Just remember, as with all things, to use moderation.

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
Nuts, Seeds and Heart Health
Studies involving more than 220,000 people show that "nutty" diets help reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. This should come as no surprise, as nuts contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and like so many other diseases, heart disease is an inflammatory condition.

For example, consider these findings:

* The famous Seventh Day Adventists study followed more than 30,000 church members over a 12-year period. The results showed that even in this healthy-living, largely vegetarian group, those who ate nuts at least five times per week cut their risk of dying from coronary heart disease (CHD) by 48 percent, compared with those who ate nuts less than once weekly. They also cut their risk of a non-fatal heart attack by 51 percent.
* In a study involving more than 3,000 African-American men and women, those who consumed nuts at least five times a week cut their risk of dying from CHD by 44 percent, compared with those who ate nuts less than once weekly.
* The results of the 14-year-long Nurses' Health Study—which involved more than 86,000 women—indicate that women who consume more than five ounces of nuts weekly will cut their risk of CHD by 35 percent, compared with those who eat less than one ounce per month. (Similar reductions seen in the risk of death from CHD and non-fatal heart attacks.) And, the 17-year Physicians' Health Study involving more than 21,000 men found that those who consumed nuts at least twice a week cut their risk of sudden cardiac death by 53 percent, compared with those who rarely ate nuts. (There was no significant decrease in the risk of non-fatal heart attack or non-sudden CHD death.)

Nuts enhance heart health because of their unique protein, fat, sterol and vitamin profile:

* Heart-Healthy Protein: Most nuts are high in arginine, an amino acid that reduces cholesterol levels and, as a precursor to nitric oxide, dilates blood vessels, thus reducing blood pressure and the risk of angina, congestive heart failure and heart attack.
* Heart-Healthy Fats: Most of the fat in nuts consists of the polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 varieties that reduce blood cholesterol levels. Numerous clinical studies have found that almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts and walnuts all reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol in people with normal-to-high cholesterol levels. And, the fatty compounds in nuts' phytosterols inhibit accumulation of fats in artery walls, which promotes angina, strokes and heart attacks.
* Heart-Healthy Vitamins: Vitamin E—an antioxidant in which almonds are especially rich—helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that leads to fatty buildup in the arteries. The B vitamin folate, found in many nuts, lowers high blood levels of homocysteine, a strong predictor of heart disease.
* Heart-Healthy Minerals: Nuts and seeds are generally rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which serve to reduce blood pressure.
* Heart-Healthy Phytochemicals: The coatings of all nuts and seeds—such as the thin brown papery layer coating almonds and peanuts—are rich in the antioxidant polyphenols associated with reduced risk of heart disease. (Processed nuts and seeds possess fewer of these antioxidants: choose raw nuts in the shell when possible.) Walnuts in particular are high in alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that is protective to the heart and circulation.

No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
Nutty, Seedy Cancer Foes
The particular fats, antioxidant polyphenols and proteins that make nuts heart-healthy also help prevent cancer:

* Phytic acid is a natural plant antioxidant found in nuts and seeds. It serves as a potent antioxidant to help preserve seeds and may reduce the rate of colon cancer and other inflammatory bowel diseases via the same mechanism.
* The coatings of all nuts and seeds are rich in the antioxidant polyphenols associated with reduced risk of cancer. (This is another reason to choose raw nuts and seeds in the shell, versus processed nuts and seeds.)
* Beta-sistosterol and campesterol—two of the phytosterols in most nuts—appear to suppress breast and prostate tumors.
* The amino acid arginine abundant in most nuts—especially almonds—also inhibits tumor growth and boosts immunity.
* Walnuts are especially helpful because they contain ellagic acid—the cancer-fighting polyphenol antioxidant also found in pomegranates and red raspberries.
* Selenium, another key antioxidant factor and cancer-preventive mineral, is especially abundant in Brazil nuts.

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and Diabetes
Numerous studies show that nuts reduce the risk for diabetes: a benefit likely related to their fatty acids' ability to enhance cell membrane structure and function. Degradation in cell membrane function promotes development of virtually every disease and promotes chronic inflammation. The wrong types of fats in our diets precipitate an abnormal cell membrane structure, leading to impaired action of insulin.

Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes is associated with an excess of saturated fats and trans-fatty acids in the diet and a relative insufficiency of monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Margarine, supermarket brands of peanut butter and the vast majority of pre-packaged baked goods, including cakes, pies and cookies as well as any other foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, are high in trans-fatty acids, which are especially harmful to cell membrane function.

In contrast, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids improve the efficiency of insulin. For example, among the more than 86,000 women followed over 16 years in the Nurses' Health Study, those who consumed an ounce of nuts at least five times a week cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 27 percent, compared with those who rarely or never consumed nuts.

No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and Your Weight
While it may seem odd, diets that include moderate amounts of nuts—which are inherently high in fat and calories—help prevent obesity and even reduce weight. One study found that dieters on a calorie-controlled, "moderate-fat" (35 percent of calories) plan that included nuts and other good fats lost as much weight as dieters on a 20-percent-fat calorie-controlled plan. The moderate-fat group also maintained their weight loss better than the low-fat group over the 18-month test period and beyond—likely because the "moderate-fat, nuts-allowed" group reported fewer problems with sensations of hunger than the low-fat diet group did.

No. 8: Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and Seeds in Your Diet
Nuts and seeds add texture and flavor to salads and many recipes. Of course, they also make great snacks. Many people like to snack on nut butters, spread on crackers or fruit. I do not recommend buying nut butters prepared on site in stores because you can't know whether the grinder is clean and because the fresh nut butter is exposed to air and light as it emerges from the grinder. Frankly, you are better off buying pre-made nut butters from reputable natural food brands that do not add hydrogenated oils. It is fairly easy to make your own nut and seed butters in a food processor: just add additional oil as needed. As with nuts and seeds, keep homemade nut butters and open, store-bought nut butters in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

I recommend eating one serving of nuts or seeds (1/4 cup) every day. And, in addition to olive oil, it is healthy to cook with macadamia, peanut, sesame or canola oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening. Needless to say, you need to consider the distinct flavor of each nut oil: peanut oil is ideal for many Asian meals. Never cook with fragile flax, hemp or walnut oils, as their delicate omega-3 fatty acids will oxidize under the exposure to heat and air and light. Use flaxseed, walnut, hemp seed or olive oil in homemade salad dressings. When possible, always buy organic nuts, seeds and oils.

All nuts and seeds are healthful in moderation. The key is to eat a variety. However, certain ones stand out for their exceptionally healthful fatty acid composition. I recommend the following nuts and seeds because they are the highest in either omega-3 or omega-9 (monounsaturated) fatty acids. Both fatty acids are heart-healthy; omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatory agents as well. The fatty acid content of each nut or seed is expressed here as a percent of its total fat content (note: The percentage figures provided are averages, as the fatty acid content of nuts and seeds varies considerably among data sources):

* Highest in omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acids: Macadamia (50%), pecans (45%), almonds (42%), filberts (38%), pistachios (35%), Brazil nuts (32%), peanuts (23%), sesame seeds (21%). Note: Unlike most nuts, pistachios are high in antioxidant carotenoids.
* Highest in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Flaxseed (50%), walnuts (8%), pumpkin seed (7%).

Buying and Storing Nuts
The appetite-suppressing and health benefits of nuts and seeds are lost when they are salted, oiled, roasted, stale, or rancid. And, the fats in nuts and seeds are susceptible to oxidation after they are shelled and exposed to light and air—a process that destroys their nutritional value and degrades their taste.

Accordingly, nuts and seeds should be bought in small quantities and stored in their shells, which shield them against oxidation, in a cool, dry place. Discard any shells with cracks and any nuts or seeds that are discolored, limp, rubbery, moldy, or shriveled, or that have an "off" smell or taste. Store any shelled nuts or seeds in an airtight container in your refrigerator (one week or less) or freezer. Last, prepare your own crushed or slivered nuts, to ensure maximum freshness.

The enzyme inhibitors and phytates in nuts limit the availability of their nutrients. To maximize the nutritional value of nuts, soak nuts in salted water for six to eight hours, drain out the water and oven-dry the nuts on a cookie sheet on low heat. (Cashews become slimy after six hours.)


Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 9: Sprouts
Sprouts are a highly nutritious food. Grown locally year round, sprouts are a good source of protein and vitamin C. A sprout is produced when a seed starts growing into a vegetable. Sprouts can grow from the seeds of vegetables, grains, legumes, buckwheat, and beans. Sprouts vary in texture and taste. Some are spicy (radish and onion sprouts), some are hardy and often used in Asian cuisines (mung bean), while others are more delicate (alfalfa), and add texture and moistness to salads and sandwiches.

Why Sprouts?
There are a great many reasons to eat sprouts. As we age, our body's ability to produce enzymes declines. Sprouts are a concentrated source of the living enzymes and "life force" that is lost when foods are cooked or not picked fresh from your own garden. Additionally, due to their high enzyme content, sprouts are also much easier to digest than the seed or bean from which they came.

All nutrients necessary for life are contained in seeds—a food category that includes grain kernels, beans, legumes, and nuts. Because sprouts are so fresh, and do not sit for days or weeks in warehouses, we know that we are getting optimum nutrition.

Great Ways to Serve Sprouts

* Add to tossed salads
* Use in coleslaw (cabbage, clover, radish)
* Try in wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
* Stir-fry with other vegetables (alfalfa, clover, radish, mung bean, lentil)
* Blend with vegetable juices (cabbage, mung bean, lentil)
* Mix with soft cheeses, tofu, yogurt of kefir for a dip (mung bean, radish)
* Stir into soups or stews when serving (mung bean, lentil)
* Eat them fresh and uncooked in a sprout salad (salad mixes)
* Top omelet or scrambled eggs (alfalfa, clover, radish)
* Combine in oat, barley or buckwheat dishes (fenugreek, lentil, mung bean)
* Add to sushi (radish, sunflower)
* Sauté with onions (mung bean, clover, radish)
* Puree with dried peas or beans (mung bean, lentil)
* Add to baked beans (lentil)

Where to Find Sprouting Supplies
Inexpensive sprouting kits and seeds are available online and at some health food stores and supermarkets. Buy only certified organic seeds, grains, legumes or beans for sprouting, purchase them in small quantities, and keep them refrigerated prior to sprouting.

A partial list of seeds, beans, legumes and grains appropriate for sprouting includes alfalfa, cabbage, clover, fenugreek, mustard, radish, sesame, sunflower, adzuki beans, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, green peas, wheat, rye and triticale. If you grow your own sprouts, harvest them within four to eight days for maximum enzymatic activity.

When you do not have the time to grow your own sprouts, purchase them at a local fruit and vegetable market, or in the fresh vegetable department of your supermarket. Health food stores that sell produce often offer sprouts as well.

Sprouts are fresh when their roots are moist and white and the sprout itself is crisp. Caution: Regardless of the source, do not use seeds that have been treated with a fungicide. Treated seeds are not edible and can be recognized by the coating of pink or green dust on the seed coat. Seeds sold for planting purposes fall under this category. Use only seeds sold for sprouting or eating not for planting.

Store sprouts in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator, and use them as soon as possible. Rinsing daily under cold water can extend their life. Mung bean sprouts can be frozen in an airtight bag for several months, if they are to be used in cooking.

Get more of Dr. Perricone's 10 superfoods.

No. 10: Yogurt and Kefir
"Probiotic" Partners in Health
The origin of fermented foods and cultured milk products goes so far back that it is rumored to predate recorded history. This is perfectly in keeping with my philosophy that the most ancient foods have survived for a reason—they continue to be instrumental to the survival of our species. Fermented and cultured foods may well represent our first experience with what researchers now call "functional" foods—foods that actively promote optimal health.

The fermented foods scientists consider "probiotic" are primarily yogurt and kefir.

No. 10: Yogurt and Kefir
What Are Probiotics and What Do They Do?
Early in the 20th century, research by Nobel Prize-winning biologist Dr. Elie Metchnikoff led him to propose the "intoxication theory" of disease. Metchnikoff believed that aging was accelerated by toxins secreted by unfriendly bacteria that putrefy and ferment food in the intestines. He also believed that the harmless bacteria in fermented milk products might explain the longevity of certain ethnic groups—most notably the peoples of the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.

Accordingly, Metchnikoff recommended consuming "cultured" foods, such as yogurt, that contain healthful bacteria. His ideas spread rapidly, and in short order, both yogurt and the concept underlying probiotics garnered world attention. And because Metchnikoff identified lactic-acid-secreting bacteria as among the most beneficial, these so-called lactobacilli became an early focus of popular efforts to put Metchnikoff’s hypothesis into practice. Today, probiotic microbes are routinely fed to livestock, and it is widely accepted that various lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species hold great promise for enhancing human health.

In humans, probiotic microbes help the body’s ongoing fight against infectious diseases by competing with the pathogens for food, nutrients and survival. This is why human breast milk is rich in nutritional factors that foster the growth of bifidobacteria—a beneficial bacterial family that keeps babies’ intestinal ecosystems healthy and disease-resistant.

Probiotics Versus Disease
Preliminary research supports probiotics’ potential to prevent or treat many common conditions (more research is needed, however, so don’t rely on probiotics to help treat any health condition without medical supervision). Probiotics:

* Ameliorate vaginal (bacterial and yeast), urinary tract and bladder infections.
* Ameliorate inflammatory intestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
* Ameliorate food allergies and inflammatory, allergic conditions like asthma and eczema.
* Reduce several risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
* Reduce several risk factors for intestinal cancers.
* Reduce the duration of gastroenteritis and rotavirus-induced diarrhea in infants.
* Reduce the rate of childhood respiratory infections.
* Ameliorate microbe-induced traveler’s diarrhea.
* Help prevent tooth decay.

Probiotics, Inflammation and Immune Function
Researchers have found that people whose diet is rich in probiotics foods enjoy enhanced immune function. It appears that probiotics normalize immune responses, inhibit chronic sub-clinical inflammation, and may improve inflammatory conditions with an autoimmune component, such as asthma, eczema and Crohn’s disease.

Today there is an alarming emergence of disease-causing agents (viral, bacterial, etc.) that are resistant to antibiotics. These dire and potentially life-threatening circumstances have prompted urgent research into the use of probiotic bacteria to battle infections. We now know that probiotics can raise antibody levels in the body. This immune-system boost reduces the risk of infections taking hold in the first place, thus avoiding the need for antibiotics. Many doctors recommend live yogurt for patients on antibiotics to replenish good bacteria and some argue that yogurt live cultures may also reduce the occurrence of colds, allergies and hay fever.

Dr. Perricone's 10 Superfoods
No. 10: Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt Versus Obesity
A daily dose of yogurt is good for people of all ages. Yogurt is also important for those wanting to lose weight. As a milk product, yogurt is naturally rich in calcium. Research shows that calcium helps reduce weight gain. Even small changes in the calcium levels of fat cells can change signals within the cell that control the making and burning of fat.

The authors of a 2003 study at the University of Tennessee placed 34 obese people on a low-calorie diet. Sixteen of them were given 400 to 500 mg of calcium in the form of a daily supplement. The other 18 people ate a diet higher in calcium— 1,100 mg per day—in the form of yogurt. After 12 weeks, both groups lost fat. The supplement-taking group had six pounds less fat, but the yogurt group lost about 10 pounds of fat. And, those who ate yogurt discovered that their waists shrank by more than an inch and a half. In comparison, the supplement-taking subjects lost only about a quarter of an inch in waist size. Finally, a whopping 60 percent of the yogurt eaters' weight loss was belly fat, while only 26 percent of the supplement group's loss was belly fat.

This is very exciting news as belly fat—which doctors call visceral or intra-abdominal fat—is linked to high cholesterol, high insulin, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and other problems. Visceral fat may also secrete more disease-linked inflammatory molecules than other types of fat.

The study also reported that in addition to helping the participants lose more weight, the group that ate yogurt was about twice as effective at maintaining lean muscle mass. As the study director, Michael Zemel, PhD, stated in a news release, "This is a critical issue when dieting. You want to lose fat, not muscle. Muscle helps burn calories, but it is often compromised during weight loss." I couldn’t agree more!

Always buy organic yogurt and avoid yogurt that contains thickeners and stabilizers. Also avoid yogurt that contains added sugars or sweetened fruit, as these upset the delicate chemical balance that allow the cultures to thrive. Sugars also feed the growth on unwanted yeasts, such as Candida albicans.

No. 10: Yogurt and Kefir
Kefir: Ancient Elixir of the Caucasus

I start every morning by pouring myself a glass of unsweetened whole milk kefir and add to it two tablespoons of POM Wonderful (pure pomegranate extract). I stir it up and it looks and tastes like a rich and beautiful berry smoothie. It is the perfect way to start the day.

Kefir (kee-fer) is a fermented, probiotic milk drink from the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union. The name kefir loosely translated means “pleasure" or "good feeling." Due to its health-promoting properties, kefir was once considered a gift from the gods. Fortunately it is being rediscovered and recognized for its many health and beauty benefits.

Kefir can best be described as a sort of liquid, sparkling yogurt, with its own distinct and deliciously mild, naturally sweet, yet tangy flavor—with a refreshing hint of natural carbonation. Its unique taste and almost mystical reputation as a longevity elixir explains why people all over Europe are making kefir (along with similar fermented drinks) their beverage of choice. Sales are even beginning to rival top soft drink brands.

Unlike yogurt, which is created from milk by adding certain lactic acid bacteria, kefir is made by combining milk with a pinch of “kefir grains”—the folk term coined to describe a complex mixture of yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. The small amount of carbon dioxide, alcohol, and aromatic compounds produced by the cultures give kefir its distinct fizzy, tangy taste.

Kefir also contains unique polysaccharides (long chain sugars) called kefiran, which may be responsible for some of its health benefits. Much of the Russian research on its health benefits remains un-translated, and Western research is in its early stages—but the results to date support kefir's impressive folk reputation.

Kefir's Colorful and Romantic History

Kefir dates back many centuries—likely even longer—to the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains, who reportedly discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.

Another legend, from the Islamic peoples of the Caucasus Mountains, claims that kefir "grains” were a gift to the region's Orthodox Christians from Mohammed, who strictly forbade their dissemination, because they would lose their "magic strength." Although Marco Polo mentioned it in his travel accounts, kefir and its secrets remained unknown outside the Caucasus region until reports spread of its value in treating tuberculosis, and for intestinal and stomach disorders. Russian doctors of the Victorian era believed that kefir was beneficial for health and the first scientific studies for kefir were published in the late 19th century.

This mildly self-carbonated beverage continues to be popular in the Caucasus, Russia and southwestern Asia, and recently gained wide popularity in Western Europe. In the United States, most natural food stores and the “whole food” chain markets found in urban areas—such as Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats—carry kefir. Given the ever-increasing popularity of yogurt and yogurt drinks here, I predict it won't be long before the big U.S. supermarket chains follow suit. However, as with yogurt, beware of products laden with sugars and fructose. Buy plain, unsweetened kefir and flavor with mixed berries, including açaí.

Kefir's Health Benefits

In addition to kefir's ancient reputation as a healthy drink, it has been famously credited with the extraordinary longevity of people in the Caucasus. Hospitals in the former Soviet Union use kefir—especially when no modern medical treatment is available—to treat conditions ranging from atherosclerosis, allergic disease, metabolic and digestive disorders and tuberculosis to cancer and gastrointestinal disorders.

A number of studies conducted to date have documented kefir's ability to stimulate the immune system, enhance lactose digestion, and inhibit tumors, fungi, and pathogens— including the bacteria that cause most ulcers. This makes a lot of sense as scientists have since discovered that most ulcers are caused by an infection with the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori and not spicy food, stomach acid or stress, as physicians erroneously believed for years.

Scientists are now discovering that a great many inflammatory diseases (including certain types of heart disease) can be triggered by a bacterium. And that provides all the more reason to enjoy kefir as part of your daily diet.

Best protein choices
(these are also rich in essential fatty acids, which help facilitate weight loss): Wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, herring, trout, anchovies and sardines.

Seafood choices: Shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, crab, lobster, bass, cod and flounder.

Best poultry choices: Skinless chicken breast and skinless turkey breast.

Other good sources of protein (choose low fat varieties if weight is a concern): Plain yogurt, high essential fatty acid eggs, plain kefir, cottage cheese and tofu.

Grains and legumes: Old fashioned oatmeal, lentils, chickpeas, dried beans, buckwheat and barley.

Fruits and Vegetables (The Rainbow Foods): Apples, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bamboo shoots, bell peppers (green and red), berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries), bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, cherries, chives, collards, cucumbers, dark green leafy lettuces (baby greens), eggplant, endive, escarole, fresh lemons, garlic, green beans, grapefruits (red and pink), honeydew melon, hot peppers, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, pears, pea pods, radish, rutabaga, scallions, swiss chard, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnut and zucchini.

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flaxseeds.

Herbs and spices: Cinnamon sticks, dill, marjoram, parsley, turmeric, ginger root, basil, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, mint, sage and rosemary.

Beverages: Green tea, water, Açaí (found in natural food stores), pomegranate juice (unsweetened).

Condiments: Extra-virgin olive oil (look for Italian or Spanish high quality), cayenne pepper, salsa.


Pro-Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Avoid the bread basket.

Stay away from pro-inflammatory foods, which accelerate the aging process. A simple rule of thumb is to consider the following: If it contains flour, and/or sugar or other sweetener, it will be pro-inflammatory. Sugary, starchy foods are poor choices and will not only pack on excess pounds, they will make you look older than your years.

* Bagels
* Breads, rolls, baked goods
* Candy
* Cake
* Cookies
* Cereals (except old fashioned oatmeal)
* Cornstarch
* Corn bread, corn muffins
* Corn syrup
* Crackers
* Croissants
* Doughnuts
* Egg rolls
* Fast food
* French Fries
* Fruit juice—choose the fruit instead
* Fried foods
* Flour
* Granola
* Hard cheese (except for feta and grating cheeses, such as Romano and Parmesan)
* Honey
* Hot dogs
* Ice cream, frozen yogurt, Italian ices
* Jams, jellies and preserves
* Margarine
* Molasses
* Muffins
* Noodles
* Pancakes
* Pastry
* Pie
* Pita bread
* Pizza
* Pasta
* Popcorn
* Potatoes
* Pudding
* Relish
* Rice
* Sherbet
* Shortening
* Snack foods, including: potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, rice and corn cakes, etc.
* Soda
* Sugar
* Tacos
* Tortillas
* Waffles
Dr. Perricone's Inflammation-Aging Connection Theory:  
Dr. Perricone's years of research have shown that the inflammation-aging connection is the single greatest cause of aging and age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, certain forms of cancer, diminished mental and physical energy, the loss of muscle mass and wrinkled, sagging skin.

This inflammation may be caused by:

* Eating a pro-inflammatory diet (i.e., high glycemic carbohydrates)
* Environmental stressors
* Weakened immune system
* Excess exposure to ultraviolet light
* Hormonal changes
* Stress

This sub-clinical inflammation goes on day after day, year in and year out, leading to disease states as well as the disease of aging. In fact, aging is a chronic, uniformly progressive, inflammatory disease that is always fatal.

Our food choices are critical when it comes to causing and controlling inflammation. This is good to know because it actually means we are in control of the situation! This is the key to health, longevity, mental clarity, well-being and beautiful youthful skin. Foods that are pro-inflammatory, such as all forms of sugar, processed foods, pasta, breads, pastry, baked goods, and snack foods such as rice and corn cakes, chips, pretzels, etc., cause a highly destructive pro-inflammatory response in our bodies. If we choose sugary or starchy foods, we trigger this pro-inflammatory release of sugar into our bloodstream, which causes our body to store fat rather than burn it for energy.

The result? Acceleration of the aging process of all organ systems in our body, including the skin, causing an increased risk of degenerative disease and inflexible, wrinkled, sagging skin. In addition, by eating that muffin or couple of cookies, the resulting insulin response triggers our appetite—causing us to crave more and more of these types of carbohydrates, resulting in a vicious cycle of overeating.

After indulging in the wrong types of carbohydrates, in a matter of hours your "feel-good" brain chemical, serotonin, will drop dramatically. These pro-inflammatory sugary, starchy foods will not only cause weight gain, wrinkles and fatigue—they will put you in a bad mood! And if you are suffering from PMS you can be assured that these foods will magnify all the symptoms one hundred fold.

That is the bad news! Now for the good news:

Fortunately we can control inflammation in our bodies. It starts with the very foods we eat. All we have to do is avoid foods that provoke a "glycemic" response in the body, i.e. cause a rapid rise in blood sugar.

* Find out what foods to avoid. Learn more about pro-inflammatory foods.
* Get a list of good' foods.
* Get Dr. Perricone's tips for changing your diet.


Eat your protein first at each meal and snack, because it has no effect on blood sugar. We want to keep our blood sugar level, and we don’t want spikes in blood sugar to occur because this creates an inflammatory state in the body. This is why you don’t want to eat your fruits or other carbohydrates first.

Remember this key fact: we cannot store protein in our bodies. If you want to keep your face and body firm, toned, lithe and supple, you need to provide it with a fresh supply of high quality protein every day.

The best protein sources are cold-water fish such as salmon and halibut. What makes fish stand out from other excellent protein sources is its type of fat and fatty acid content, both of which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects

Herbs and Spices
Use fresh and dried herbs and spices liberally—oregano, ginger, cayenne pepper, basil, marjoram, turmeric, garlic and cinnamon. All of these foods perform many age-fighting functions ranging from antioxidant, anti-inflammatory abilities to the regulation of blood sugar.

High-Fiber Foods
Incorporate high-fiber foods into your diet such as apples, barley, beans, lentils and other legumes, fruits and vegetables, old-fashioned oatmeal and oat bran. A diet rich in high-fiber foods is indispensable in controlling unwanted weight gain.

Drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day. All biological functions in the body take place in water. Water is essential for the removal of wastes and toxins. If you don’t drink water, you cannot metabolize fats. A dehydrated body also provokes the development of aging, inflammatory compounds.

Organic Free-Range Poultry
Choose organic, free-range chicken and turkey for superior flavor and to avoid the antibiotics and processing of regular, commercially raised poultry.

Choose eggs from cage-free chickens that are fed diets high in the omega-3s, such as flaxseed. These eggs are now widely available and are a much healthier choice than conventional eggs.

According to the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, omega eggs are a type of "designer egg," in which the yolk's fatty acid profile has been modified by altering the hens' diet. Specific lipids—fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins—can be modified in the egg yolk by feeding the hen increased proportions of "good" fatty acids and increased amounts of fat soluble vitamins from dietary sources such as flax seed, fish oil or bioengineered algae. Omega eggs contain increased amounts of n-3 fatty acids and decreased amounts of saturated fatty acids. The increase in yolk polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) is accompanied by a substantial decrease in saturated fatty acids, creating a healthier fat profile.

Organic Foods
Buy organic. Pesticides can leave toxic residues on plants that can harm your organ systems.

Choose Wild Alaskan Salmon over farm-raised salmon. Wild salmon have higher levels of oil content than farmed salmon due to thousand of years of natural selection providing them with the fat reserves necessary to migrate and spawn thousands of miles. The oil contains high levels of Omega-3s, the unsaturated fat that helps fend off heart disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer and migraines.

Unlike nearly all farmed salmon, Alaskan Sockeye salmon, for example, grow free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs.

Anchovies and Sardines
Try adding anchovies and sardines to your diet. Like salmon they are rich in the omega-3 essential fats, which help accelerate weight loss. They also contain DMAE, a special nutrient that increases skin tone and decreases sagging in the face and body.

Yogurt or Kefir
Add yogurt or kefir to your daily diet—blend with fresh berries, pomegranate juice or açaí, the antioxidant rich berry from the Amazon. This will not only help your intestinal tract, research has shown that these foods promote weight loss and even fight bad breath!

Garlic and Onions
When possible add raw garlic, scallions, chives and onions to salads and other dishes. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives contains substances that stimulate the production of glutathione (the liver’s most potent antioxidant). Glutathione enhances elimination of toxins and carcinogens, putting the Allium family of vegetables at the top of the list for foods that can help prevent cancer.

Enjoy a wide variety of sprouts—very low calorie but very high in age-fighting antioxidants.

Colorful Vegetables
Buy your produce according to color—the brighter the better! Colorful plants usually have the most antioxidants.


Dark Greens
When choosing lettuce for salads, the darker green the better. Choose romaine, mixed baby greens, mesclun, arugula, kale, spinach, escarole, broccoli rabe, etc.

Avoid iceberg lettuce. Iceberg has very little nutritional value compared to the darker greens.


Nuts and Seeds
If you want to dramatically decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes; control your weight with no hunger pangs and reduce the visible signs of aging (such as wrinkles and sagging skin), go for nuts. The research on nuts and health clearly shows that people who add nuts to their diet will satisfy their hunger more quickly, leading to a reduction in overall caloric intake, helping you to shed unwanted pounds, while enjoying increased energy health benefits. Just remember, as with all things, to use moderation.

When thoughts turn to food between meals, enjoy a handful of raw, unsalted nuts. Nuts and seeds also make a great addition to salads and stir-fries. They’re extremely filling and satisfying—and healthful.

Healthy Fats
Remember the brain-beauty connection—what is good for the brain is good for the skin. So many nutrients that are key to proper brain function and good mental health and well being are the exact same nutrients that give us healthy, glowing skin. If something has a positive effect on the central nervous system, whether it is a nutrient or a pharmacological agent, it seems to also have a positive effect on the skin. It all starts in the womb. When we are developing as a fetus, all tissue is derived from three layers. Skin is derived from the same layer of tissue that brain is derived from. Therefore, there is a strong connection between the two structures.

This means eating healthy fats such as those found in salmon, nuts, avocado, acai, flax and extra-virgin olive oil.

Read Labels
Learn how to read labels. Avoid foods that are processed or that contain trans fats, added sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup), coloring, preservatives, fillers, stabilizers and chemical additives.

Try to shop in the health food section of your supermarket—but even here, remember to read the label! The label for cottage cheese, for example, should contain nothing more than cultured pasteurized Grade A milk, cream and salt.

Also look for brands that are made from the milk of cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics.
Green Glossary:  
Depending on who you ask, bamboo is the new, eco-friendly product of the season. Used to make everything from blankets to shoes to flooring, bamboo is a versatile and, more importantly, fast-growing and replenishable plant.

The ability of a material to decompose through natural processes and eventually be reabsorbed by the natural environment. Biodegradable products include all plant and animal material, paper, food waste and fibers. Plastic, glass and metals are not biodegradable. However, even biodegradable materials will not break down once they are buried in a landfill because they are deprived of oxygen, which is necessary for decomposition. Composting provides optimal conditions for biodegradation. The "Biodegradable" label on products like cosmetics, cleaning supplies, packaging or household items is not necessarily reliable because it is not verified and follows no uniform standards.

Conflict-Free Diamonds:
Diamonds produced without the involvement of violence, human rights violations or environmental degradation. The Conflict-Free Diamond Council examines the entire supply chain—from mine to consumer—before certifying that a diamond is conflict-free.

It may come as a surprise to wine aficionados, but cork is able to do more than keep bottles sealed tight. Found in Ugg boots, floor tiles, jewelry and everything in between, cork is fully recyclable, flexible and repels water.

Also known as "environmentally friendly" or "nature-friendly," eco-friendly refers to goods and services that inflict minimal harm on the environment.

F – J
Fair Labor:
A code of conduct by which participating companies—mostly in the clothing and shoe industries—agree to provide factory workers with fair wages, reasonable work hours, the right to collective bargaining, a safe and healthy workplace free from abuse and discrimination and fair overtime compensation. Forced and child labor are not allowed.

Fair Trade:
Crops produced according to principles in which poor farmers in developing countries receive fair prices for their products, workers enjoy safe working conditions and fair wages, communities receive development assistance and investment in social programs and crops are grown with sustainable farming methods and without the use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Products labeled as "Fair Trade Certified" are verified and audited by an independent certifier. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the United States for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice and vanilla.

The adjective used to describe people, behaviors, products, policies, standards, processes, places, movements or ideas that promote, protect, restore or minimize damage to the environment.

Long a favorite accessory and jewelry piece, hemp is one of the most versatile fibers available. Hemp can now be found in books and paper products, bags, pet supplies, face creams and flour and has long outgrown its hippy roots.

K – O
Purely defined, natural means anything found in nature or derived directly from plants, animals or minerals. Natural products do not contain any man-made (synthetic) ingredients. On food, "Natural" or "All Natural" labels are not meaningful because the federal standard is weak. The USDA will allow a product to be labeled "natural" if it is free from artificial ingredients, added coloring and heavy processing. Natural does not mean organic.

Natural dyes:
Sometimes known as "organic" dyes, natural dyes come from natural sources. These dyes are different than man-made, synthetic dyes—which, to confuse matters, can also be organic—that often use toxic, non-natural sources and ingredients. Natural dyes typically cost more than synthetic dyes but are generally considered more eco-friendly overall.

Organic fabrics and textiles:
Plant and animal fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, cashmere, silk, jute, soy and bamboo can be certified organic if they are produced according to organic standards set by the USDA. However, the organic label does not guarantee that the finished fabric or textile product is free of synthetic chemicals, bleaches or heavy dyes. The Organic Trade Association certifies finished textiles and garments in the United States.

Organic meat, dairy, poultry, eggs and other livestock products:
Organic animal products come from livestock that are fed organic feed and forage throughout their lives, beginning in at least the last third of gestation before birth. Synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals and genetic engineering are prohibited. The living environment must be stress-free and promote the health and well-being of the animals, as well as prevent the contamination of air, land and water. For a livestock product sold in the United States to be labeled organic, it must meet USDA standards and be certified by third-party accredited inspectors.

Organic produce:
Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, lentils, etc. produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and with farming techniques that protect soil quality, minimize erosion and actively prevent the contamination of air, land and water. For an agricultural product sold in the United States to be labeled organic, it must meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards and be certified by third-party accredited inspectors.

Ovo-lacto vegetarian:
A diet, recipe or product that involves no meat, poultry or seafood, yet may contain eggs, dairy products, honey, gelatin or other animal-derived ingredient. Followers of this diet are often considered vegetarians.

P – T
Plants or crops grown without the use of chemical pesticides for controlling weeds, insects, slugs, grubs or rodents. This label is not equivalent to organic and is not verified by an independent or government standard.

Materials destined for the garbage dump but were, instead, rescued and refurbished as a new product. The floor of an old bowling alley can be reclaimed and turned into a dining room table, or bricks from a demolished structure can be used to build a fireplace hearth. The use of glass shards in ceramic tiles is another example of the use of reclaimed material.

Materials that have been taken from one product and made into a new product. The recycling process generally saves energy and reduces the need to extract additional raw resources from the earth. The most commonly recycled products in the United States include paper, glass, steel and aluminum, all of which can be reincarnated as the products they were recycled from. Plastic is also recyclable, but it goes through a process known as downcycling. When a plastic water bottle is broken down for recycling, the quality of the plastic material is diminished, and it is no longer fit to become another water bottle. Instead, it may become filler for a fleece jacket, carpet fibers or a park bench. Packages with Post-Consumer Recycled Content are made from materials that were recycled instead of being sent to a landfill.

Resources that can be replenished quickly after use so that they are not permanently diminished or depleted. Renewable energy sources include the sun (solar power), wind, flowing water and geothermal heat. Renewable material resources include algae, grasses and some fast-growing trees. Substituting renewable resources for nonrenewable resources (e.g., coal, oil, gasoline and other fossil fuels) is the key to sustainability.

Meeting the needs of the present without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability also means that human practices do not result in the permanent damage, alteration or depletion of the environment, ecosystems, species or natural resources.

Scrap fabrics:
Using scrap fabrics is considered more eco-friendly than manufacturing new products and is often called "reuse". Scrap fabrics have more uses than quilts and costumes, however: Cirque de Soleil uses scraps from its costumes and tents to fill Christmas ornaments, while Goodwill recently released a high-end line of clothes based on "scrap" clothes called William Good. As they say, one man's scrap is another man's treasure.

The soybean is the food staple of choice for many vegetarians and those with lactose intolerance due to its high protein levels. Soy is useful beyond food, however, and soybean fiber can be used to make everything from baby clothes to sweaters.

Materials that do not occur naturally but rather are produced artificially through chemical processing. Most synthetic products (plastic, nylon, polyester, polystyrene, etc.) are made from petroleum byproducts, while synthetic components of food, personal care products and pharmaceuticals are produced with chemicals in a laboratory.

Tencel is, in fact, the commercial name for lyocell, a product made by the Lenzing AG as polyester, as easy to care for as acrylic, cool and pleasant like linen, as warm as wool and absorbs more moisture than cotton." It uses no bleach to manufacture and is fully biodegradable but has come under some criticism for using toxic chemicals in the dyeing process.

U – Z
"USDA Organic" (label):
Product contains at least 95 percent certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5 percent can be nonorganic or synthetic, as long as they are approved on the national list (

"USDA Made with Organic Ingredients" (label):
Product contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The remaining 30 percent must be approved on the national list.

"USDA 100 Percent Organic" (label):
Product contains only organic ingredients.

Vegan lifestyle:
A way of living that avoids products containing animal products or byproducts, involved testing on animals or in any way resulted in animal harm. True vegans do not eat products containing meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, gelatin (derived from hooves), whey, honey or refined sugar (often refined using animal bones). Vegans do not buy or use products (such as clothes, accessories, cosmetics or cleaning products) made with leather, wool, cashmere, silk, suede, fur, animal fats (e.g., lanolin) or any other animal-derived ingredient.

Vegan products:
Products produced without animal ingredients (meat, fur, leather, bones, etc.), animal byproducts (milk, eggs, wool) or animal testing. In many cases, vegan products contain synthetic components, which may be harmful to the environment. Vegan products such as food, cleaning products, clothing and personal care may be certified by an independent organization, but there are no federal standards set for vegan certification.
New Food Pyramid:  
Food Pyramid Breakdown


5-8 ounces of grains per day depending on your age and gender. Of that amount, at least 3 ounces should be whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, cereals or rice.


2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day for people eating 2,000 calories a day, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level. Select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables) several times a week.


2 cups of fruit per day.


Most of your fat sources should come from fish, nuts and vegetable oils, and you should limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, lard and shortening.


3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products every day.

Meat and Beans

Choose lean meats and poultry, varying protein choices with more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
Eat for life!
The World's Healthiest Diets
Dr. Mehmet Oz

According to family practitioner Dr. Daphne Miller, unlocking the wisdom of centuries-old indigenous foods from around the globe can help prevent the many diseases afflicting modern-day humans. Dr. Oz talks with Dr. Miller about her findings, which she writes about in her book The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World—Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home.

Dr. Miller says there's no single, magical ingredient or food that will stave off illness and help you live longer—rather, it's the combination of whole, natural foods found among all the indigenous diets she's studied that, when eaten together, pack a highly nutritional punch. On the Greek island of Crete, for example, Dr. Miller says the combination of foods such as locally produced olive oil, wild greens and whole grain bread has contributed to some of the lowest rates of heart disease anywhere in the world.

Foods raised or grown locally have richer nutrient contents as well, Dr. Miller says. In Iceland, for example, she discovered a food supply rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, found in everything from fish to wild berries to grass-fed sheep. She says these healthy fats have been linked with the Icelandic people's long life expectancy, as well as significantly lower rates of heart disease, depression and diabetes compared with people in other Western countries.

Dr. Miller says many of the health benefits of traditional diets can be enjoyed right on your own table, beginning with meals prepared at home with local ingredients whenever possible. Choose complex carbohydrates and fermented foods for their probiotic content and eat meat sparingly, she says. And, adopting the right attitude toward food is as important as what you're eating—Dr. Miller says the healthiest people around the world celebrate food and share meals with loved ones as an almost sacred ritual. "We need to go back to that—giving our food real meaning within our lives and eating as a family," she says.

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