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The vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle, writes Michael Greger, MD. The Cornell physician outlines 10 categories of foods – alongside beverages and daily exercise – which he tags the “Daily Dozen” in How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. When the right daily dose is consumed, he writes, you have a greater chance of preventing chronic illness and disease.
“The book is well referenced and uses legitimate research instead of fad trends,” says Stefania Palmeri, a registered dietitian at Medcan. “His categories remind us about the strengthening and healing properties of individual foods and how widespread their effects can be – from preventing cancer to neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and depression.”
Palmeri and colleague Alexandra Friel provide insights on five of those foods below:
Daily Dozen category: Other Vegetables
How much: 2 servings per day – a serving is one cup raw leafy vegetables; ½ cup raw or cooked non-leafy vegetables; ½ cup vegetable juice; ¼ cup dried mushrooms.
“This doesn’t mean that cancer patients should eat leeks instead of getting chemotherapy. We have standard treatment plans for a reason. But it is an interesting phenomenon that is being studied in an effort to better understand how we might selectively target cancer cells in the future. And if you like eating leeks to begin with, it certainly can’t hurt.” – Alexandra Friel, RD
Daily Dozen Category: Spice (Greger recommends a ¼ teaspoon of turmeric daily in addition to any other spices, like ginger, you may enjoy for their benefits)
How much ginger: As desired, maximum 1 tablespoon for pregnant women.
Daily Dozen category: Nuts
How much? Registered dietitians usually recommend starting with ¼ cup per day
“Pistachios are thought to have originated from Syria, and then spread through migration to Italy and neighbouring countries. They remain a large part of middle eastern cuisine and are routinely used in desserts.” – Stefania Palmeri, RD
Daily Dozen category: Berries
How much: ½ cup fresh or frozen, or a ¼ cup dried each day
“I eat them year round – frozen in the winter or fresh in the summer. What I love about frozen berries is that the majority of their nutrition is retained through the freezing process. In the winter, I top steaming oatmeal with frozen blackberries and mix in the juices as they thaw. In the summer, I make a quick and easy blackberry chia seed jam. Essentially, I cook frozen blackberries in a pot over medium heat until much of the liquid has reduced. Next I add a small amount of vanilla extract, maple syrup and a couple tablespoons of chia seeds. It thickens as it cools. The jam can be mixed in to cold oatmeal parfaits or plain Greek yogurt.” – Alexandra Friel, RD
Daily Dozen Category: Beverages
How much: 5 glasses of water a day, be they plain tap or recommended alternatives. No more than a quart/day of hibiscus tea due to its high maganese content.
“Always remember to aim for at least 1 to 2 litres of water per day. Other healthy beverages to include as part of your fluid intake can include green, chai or matcha tea, and unsweetened coffee.” – Stefania Palmeri, RD