Reducing your risk for developing many diseases could be as simple as shopping the perimeter of your supermarket and getting better acquainted the foods that create a plant-based diet. That’s the premise of Whole Foods CEO and co-founder John Mackey’s new book “The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity,” which he co-wrote with Alona Pulde, M.D., and Matthew Lederman, M.D.
Before you roll your eyes at another piece of advice suggesting you eat more fruits and veggies, consider Mackey’s two simple rules for eating to reduce your disease risk:
Rule 1: Eat whole foods instead of highly processed foods.
Rule 2: Eat mostly plant foods (90+ percent of your daily calories).
And, make sure you get your “essential eight” daily:
- Whole grains
- Starchy vegetables
- Beans and other legumes
- Berries, other fruits
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Nonstarchy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
“By following this way of eating, you can have significant strides in your health,” Mackey told Fox News.
Fox News talked to Mackey and Lederman to learn more about which foods can help reduce your chances of developing some of the diseases linked to the most common causes of death in the United States. Here are their suggestions:
1. Heart disease
“If someone has heart disease [or is trying to help prevent it], eat whole, unrefined plant foods,” Lederman said. A diet consisting of 90 percent plant foods can significantly impact heart disease and help reverse it, he pointed out.
[Cruciferous vegetables] contain glucosinolates, which break down to create isothiocyanates and indoles, and may inhibit the development of cancer, and help protect against tumors,” Lederman said. Cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, collard greens, artichokes, arugula and kale.
3. Alzheimer’s disease
Berries prevent against cognitive decline, Lederman said. “It’s not just that raspberries or blueberries help, but … people eating this whole-food diet tend to be protective against these brain diseases,” he explained. To boost your brain health, reach for juicy fruit like blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, cranberries and currants.
4. Autoimmune disease
When someone is suffering from an autoimmune disease, his or her immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body. Following a typical western diet can cause inflammation in the body and contribute to autoimmune diseases, research suggests. “Inflammation shows up in the body in different ways,” Lederman said. For example, studies have found that diets high in plant fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in walnuts, sunflower seeds and flax seeds) may help reduce the chance of developing multiple sclerosis, a common autoimmune disease. “Allow your immune system to function optimally … so it can heal wounds where it needs to,” he said. “If people can get this [plant-based diet] down, they’re going to feel better,” Lederman said.
5. Parkinson’s disease
To help protect against Parkinson’s, which causes tremors and difficulty with movement, consider following an anti-inflammatory diet. While the precise cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, the medical community generally agrees an inflammatory event or episode contributes to the initiation of neurodegeneration. “When you eat whole, unprocessed foods, you decrease inflammation, improve blood flow, remove waste, and bring nutrition to the cells,” Lederman said. “Your body’s immune systems thrives on this diet.” Some studies have found that people who eat more peppers have a lower risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. Other research suggests people who eat berries, apples and oranges have a reduced risk of developing the disease.