Every now and then, I get a patient who wants to know which fruits and vegetables they should eat. They want a list of the “top 5” or the “most nutritious”.
My answer is always the same. You should eat as many kinds of fruits and vegetables that you can!
The thing that most folks don’t realize is that fresh, organic, plant-based foods are the most powerful medicine available to you. The greater the variety, the more health benefits you’ll experience.
The healing power behind these foods stems from something called “nutrigenomics”.
This is a big term, but the concept is pretty simple. It’s how the foods you eat alter the expression of your genes… and how your genes respond to the compounds found in those foods.
And it’s great news for you. It means that, even if you’ve inherited a “bad” gene, the food you eat can turn it on or off.
For example, just imagine what genes you’re activating when you sit down and eat a bag of chips with dip and a soda. Then, consider what replacing that snack with a bowl of mixed berries and a cup of green tea might do for them.
Right now, scientists across the globe are working on ways to incorporate nutrigenomics to treat and prevent today’s most common chronic diseases, including certain cancers.
But there are many ways you can start putting this concept to good use right away.
Four Powerful Foods that Activate Healthy Genes
One thing’s for certain. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and other natural compounds can play a mighty role when it comes to activating genes that are protective for your health.
For example, foods that contain sulforaphane can turn on tumor inhibitor genes. This explains why cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, radishes and cabbage are such potent cancer fighters.
The epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea can also reactivate tumor inhibiting genes. Unfortunately, not all green teas contain appreciable amounts of this compound. Your best bet is to use loose, organic green tea leaves. Or, you can take a green tea supplement.
Resveratrol, found in grape skins, is especially notable for being able to turn on your SIRT1 gene. This is commonly called the “youth gene”. It helps your body produce more mitochondria… the energy factories that keep your cells powered up to youthful levels.
And if you like curry, you’re doing a world of good for your genes. Curcumin (the main compound in turmeric) appears to have numerous epigenetic effects. It works on many different levels to change gene expression related to cancer, inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease.
But don’t restrict yourself to these foods alone.
The Diet that Turns Bad Genes Off and Good Genes On
It’s a known fact that gene expression varies widely between people who eat a Westernized diet, and those who eat more like the Mediterranean’s do.
So if you really want to change the expression of your genes for a healthier and more vigorous life, I recommend adopting a Mediterranean style diet.
Just consider this. When men with prostate cancer switched to a diet similar to the one that Mediterranean’s eat, it changed the gene expression in their prostates. An amazing 453 genes that play a role in tumor formation were down-regulated.
The Mediterranean way of eating can also activate genes that play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease, inflammation and the build up of arterial plaque.
So make organic, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables the central focus of your meals. Include all colors of the rainbow for the most impact on positive gene expression.
It’s also a good idea to replace your vegetable oil with extra virgin olive oil. Then, top everything off with zesty herbs, spices and tree nuts that are filled with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
When it comes to protein choices, seafood should be your number one pick. Select small, wild-caught fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring and trout. On those occasions when you want a little red meat, make sure it’s grass-fed.
And don’t hesitate to enjoy a glass of red wine or green tea with your meals. These both contain compounds that have a very positive influence on your genes.
For even more power over your genes, stay physically active. Develop good sleep habits and take control of your stress levels. Avoid over-consumption of alcohol and don’t smoke.
The healthier the choices you make, the better chances you have of activating genes that protect your health… and turning off the ones that are harmful.
To your good health,