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Simple Therapies for Serious Diseases

Although medicine has become increasingly more sophisticated, some aspects of medicine remain (and probably always will be) quite straightforward. Recent research has shown that something as simple as drinking green tea may reduce the risk of developing cancer. In fact, a number of “simple therapies” like green tea are proving to be scientifically sound. Here is a brief look at a few of them.

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat appears to be one of the best ways of lowering your risk of several serious diseases, particularly cancer. Researchers have consistently found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables protects against many kinds of cancer. Precisely which nutrient in fruits and vegetables is responsible is unclear — quite possibly it is more than one. Fortunately, nature packaged them all together for you.

Several scientific studies suggest that increasing your intake of antioxidant vitamins, particularly beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C, helps reduce your risk of developing a number of disorders. Vitamin E has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, while vitamin C and beta-carotene may lower your risk of certain cancers.

Although antioxidants are available as supplements, you are always better off getting these vitamins from foods. Foods contain other nutrients and substances that may protect against disease; supplements don’t. Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E include nuts, vegetable oils, wheat germ, and leafy green vegetables. Citrus fruits and juices, broccoli, and potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, and carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene. Getting your vitamins from plants is probably better than getting them from meats and dairy — plants are naturally low in fat and cholesterol, meat and dairy products are not.

Other vitamins also appear to play an important role in disease prevention. By including more folic acid (a B vitamin) and vitamin B6 in your diet, for example, you can reduce the levels of a chemical called homocysteine in your blood. High homocysteine levels have been shown to increase the risk of suffering strokes and heart attacks. Good sources of folic acid are leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals, while bananas, low-fat cuts of red meat, chicken, and fish, and nuts are rich sources of vitamin B6.

If you eat animal products, including more fish in your diet may also help reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Oils found in fish (called omega-3 fatty acids) prevent blood clots from forming and fatty deposits from building up in blood vessels (both of which can contribute to a heart attack or stroke). In one study, mean and women who ate fish at least once a week had half the number of strokes as those who never ate fish or ate it only infrequently.

As surprising as it might sound, sometimes preventing diseases as serious as cancer, heart attacks, and strokes can be as simple as starting to eat more spinach and drink your tea.


– From Preventative Medicine Magazine
November/December 1997