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    Excerpted from Food--Your Miracle Medicine, by Jean Carper.

    Jean Carper is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and author of seven books, including "The Food Pharmacy"

    The best prescription for living longer may be right in your kitchen.

    It's true -- the foods that are best for you can act like medicine, boosting your immune system and warding off illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. But because foods are exceedingly complex packages of chemicals and compounds, they don't deliver a single biological punch, as do pharmaceutical drugs designed to accomplish a specific purpose. Instead, the right foods can have a much broader effect on a variety of health problems. Eat these foods raw or lightly cooked. (Cooking destroys many of their most protective chemicals.) And remember, no matter how beneficial these foods may be, they're no substitute for a doctor's care.

    Apple. Reduces cholesterol, contains cancer-fighting agent known as antioxidant. High in fiber, helps prevent constipation and suppresses appetite.

    Asparagus. A super source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. In studies, glutathione has been shown to act against at least thirty carcinogens.

    Avocado. Can help prevent clogging of arteries; dilates blood vessels. Lowers cholesterol. Its main fat, monounsaturated oleic acid, acts as an antioxidant, slowing the buildup LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Also one of the richest sources of glutathione.

    Banana. Soothes the stomach. Strengthens the stomach lining against acid and ulcers, and lab tests show that bananas can act like antibiotics. Very high in potassium, thus may help regulate high blood pressure.

    Barley. Long considered a heart medicine in the Middle East. Reduces cholesterol levels and contains antioxidants that may help prevent cancer.

    Beans. (including navy, black, kidney, and pinto beans, and lentils) Studies show that eating a half cup of cooked beans daily may reduce cholesterol levels as much as 10 percent. Also helps to regulate blood-sugar levels. Very high in fiber. Bean consumption is linked to lower rates of prostate and breast cancer.

    Bell Pepper. Super-rich in antioxidant vitamin C. Therefore, a great food for fighting off colds, asthma, bronchitis, respiratory infections and cataracts, as well as angina, atherosclerosis (damaged, clogged arteries) and cancer.

    Blueberries. Act as an unusual type of antibiotic by keeping infectious bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract, helping to prevent recurring urinary tract and bladder infections. Also contain chemicals that curb diarrhea.

    Broccoli & Cauliflower. Abundant in antioxidants. Broccoli is rich in anticancer agent such as vitamin C, beta carotene and quercetin. Both broccoli and cauliflower are considered effective in helping to prevent lung, colon, and breast cancers. These cruciferous vegetables can speed up removal of estrogen from the body, perhaps helping to prevent hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer. Rich in fiber. Compounds in broccoli also help prevent ulcers.

    Brussels Sprouts. Possess some of the same powers as their cruciferous cousins broccoli and cabbage. Packed with antioxidants and other cancer-fighters including indoles, chemicals that may help protect against colon cancer.

    Cabbage. Contains numerous anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds. Seems to suppress the growth of colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer; in studies, eating cabbage more than once a week cut men's colon cancer odds by 66 percent.

    Carrot. A super source of beta carotene, the antioxidant reputed to help prevent numerous health problems, including heart attacks, cancer, and cataracts. One study showed that the beta carotene in a daily cup of carrots slashed stroke rates in women by 40 percent and heart attacks by 22 percent. One medium carrot's worth of beta carotene daily may cut lung-cancer risk in half, even among formerly heavy smokers.

    Celery. Celery compounds have been shown to lower blood pressure in animals. High in certain anticancer compounds that have been shown to detoxify carcinogens, including cigarette smoke. tests also show celery may act as a mild diuretic.

    Chili Pepper. Revs up the blood clot-dissolving system, opens sinuses and air passages, and acts as a decongestant. Most of its pharmacological activity is credited to capsaicin, the compound that makes the pepper taste hot. Capsaicin is also a potent painkiller, alleviating headaches when inhaled. Putting hot chili sauce on food may even speed up metabolism, burning off calories.

    Cinnamon. A strong stimulator of insulin activity; thus, potentially helpful for those with adult-onset diabetes. Also seems to help prevent blood clots.

    Clove. Long used to dull the pain of toothache. Contains compounds that act like aspirin.

    Collard Greens. Full of antioxidant compounds, including lutein, vitamin C and beta carotene. In animal studies, collards inhibited the spread of breast cancer. Collard-green consumption, like that of other green leafy vegetables, is associated with low rates of many cancers.

    Corn. High in anticancer compounds called protease inhibitors, corn may help fight cancer and act as an antiviral agent.

    Cranberries. Like blueberries, help prevent recurring urinary tract and bladder infections. Also believed to be effective in inhibiting viruses.

    Dates. High in natural aspirin. Also high in fiber; have a laxative effect. Dried fruits, including dates, are linked to lower rates of certain cancers, especially pancreatic cancer.

    Eggplant. Eating eggplant may lower blood cholesterol and help counteract some of the detrimental effects high-fat foods have on the blood. Lab tests show that eggplant also seems to act as an antibacterial agent and as a mild diuretic.

    Garlic. A proven antibiotic that has been shown to kill bacteria, fungi, and intestinal parasites. Also shown to lower blood-cholesterol levels, seems to act as an anticoagulant. Garlic also contains multiple anticancer compounds, antioxidants, and immune-system boosters. A good cold medication, garlic also acts as an effective decongestant and anti-inflammatory agent.

    Ginger. Used for centuries in Asia, ginger is a proven anti-nausea remedy. Also, relieves the inflammatory pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

    Grapefruit. Contains a pectin that's been shown to lower blood-cholesterol levels and blood pressure in animals. High in antioxidants, especially disease-fighting vitamin C, grapefruit may help prevent stomach and pancreatic cancer.

    Grapes. A rich storehouse of anti-cancer compounds, red grapes are high in the antioxidant quercetin. Red-grade skins also contain resveratrol, which seems to lower bad-type LDL cholesterol.

    Kale. An amazingly rich source of antioxidant compounds. High in beta carotene, and contains more lutein than any other vegetable tested. Kale is a member of the cruciferous family and contains anticancer chemicals called indoles, which may help prevent estrogen-linked cancers.

    Melon. (cantaloupe and honeydew) May help prevent blood clots. Orange melons, such as cantaloupe, also contain high levels of beta carotene.

    Mushroom. Esteemed in Asia as a heart medicine and cancer preventive. Tests show that compounds in Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake, may help inhibit cancer as well as viral diseases, and can lower cholesterol levels. One study showed that fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms cut cholesterol by up to 12 percent when eaten daily.

    Mustard. (including horseradish) Helps relieve congestion from colds and sinus problems, and acts as an antibiotic. Revs up metabolism: One study showed that ordinary yellow mustard seemed to increase metabolic rate, helping to burn more calories.

    Nuts. High in the antioxidant vitamin E., nuts help prevent cancer and heart disease. Almonds have a high concentration of oleic acid, which may help reduce cholesterol and protect arteries. Brazil nuts are extremely rich in selenium, an antioxidant linked to lower rates of both heart disease and cancer. And walnuts contain ellagic acid, another cholesterol-reducer.

    Oats. Oats can help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood-sugar levels. Compounds in oats also seem to suppress nicotine cravings.

    Onion. Including chives, shallots, scallions, leeks) Containing exceptionally strong antioxidants, onions have been shown to help prevent cancer in animals. The onion is a rich source of quercetin, a potent antioxidant known to inhibit stomach cancer. Onions may also help prevent atherosclerosis and blood clots, and even high fight bacterial and viral infections.

    Orange. A complete package of cancer-inhibitors, including antioxidants such as vitamin C. Specifically tied to lower rates of pancreatic cancer. Because of their high vitamin C content, oranges may also help ward off breast and stomach cancer, asthma attacks, atherosclerosis, and gum disease. Some studies show that vitamin C deficiencies may also inhibit fertility in some men.

    Parsley. Rich in antioxidants, parsley can help detoxify carcinogens, including those in tobacco smoke. Parsley also acts as a diuretic.

    Plum and Prune. Compounds in these fruits may act as antibacterial and antiviral agents. High in fiber, these fruits work as laxatives.

    Potato. (white) Contains cancer-fighting protease inhibitors. Also high in potassium.

    Pumpkin. Extremely high in beta carotene.

    Raspberries. As do other berries, raspberries help fight infections, and may help prevent some cancers. Also help curb nausea.

    Rice. (white and brown) Like other seeds, contains anticancer protease inhibitors. Effective against diarrhea. Rice bran helps lower cholesterol levels and may help prevent formation of kidney stones.

    Soybeans. Rich in compounds that act like hormones and thus seem to ward off cancer, especially estrogen-linked breast cancer. High soybean consumption may be one reason rates of breast cancer and prostate cancers are very low among the Japanese. In studies, soybeans lowered blood cholesterol levels substantially. And animal studies showed that soybeans seem to deter and help dissolve kidney stones.

    Spinach. As with other green leafy vegetables, consumption of spinach is linked with lower rates of cancer. A super source of antioxidants, including folate, beta carotene and lutein, for example.

    Strawberries. Rich in antioxidant vitamin C as well as high in fiber. Studies show that compounds in strawberries act like antiviral agents. And other studies link regular strawberry consumption to lower rates of all types of cancer.

    Sweet Potato. A blockbuster source of beta carotene. One half-cup of mashed sweet potatoes is higher in beta carotene than a medium carrot. Also high in fiber.

    Tea. (including black, oolong, and green tea) Tea acts as an antibactial, anti-ulcer agent, cavity-fighter, even an anti-diarrheal agent. In animal studies, tea and tea compounds seemed to inhibit various cancers. Tea drinkers appear to have lower risk of atherosclerosis and stroke.

    Tomato. A major source of the antioxidant lycopene. tomatoes are linked to low rates of certain cancers, including bladder cancer.

    Watermelon. Like the tomato, watermelon contains high levels of lycopene and glutathione, an antioxidant and anticancer compounds.

    Wheat. High-fiber wheat bran has formidable anti-cancer potential. One or two daily servings of wheat-bran cereal has been shown to suppress pre-cancerous polyps that can develop into colon cancer. In women, wheat bran also appears to prevent breast cancer by diminishing supplies of estrogen circulating in the body.


  • Why be vegetarian? Save animals, get healthy, lose weight, help the planet -- take your pick!
  • All about Protein. All vegetables have plenty of protein. Even lettuce. How do you think elephants get so big? :)
  • Is meat-eating natural?  Our bodies are optimized for eating plants, not meat. Read all about it here.
  • Vegetarian Myths.  From "plants aren't a complete protein" to "Hitler was a vegetarian", we run down all the common misconceptions here.
  • Vegetarianism and the Environment.  Meat production involves horrific amounts of water, land, energy, and pollution, compared to plant foods. Going veg. is the easiest way to lessen your impact.
  • This website is not medical advice.  While the author has tried to ensure the accuracy of the information on this site, and while he quotes many medical doctors, he is not a medical doctor himself, and this website is not medical or nutritional advice. Anyone contemplating nutritional changes should seek the counsel of a qualified health professional.

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