The scenario for fighting diseases and building healthier immune systems with certain foods exists in all cultures. This is not to say we cast aside the marvelous strides in medicines that have been made over the last fifty years, but your best first defense against disease is nutrition. Healthy nutrition is quite simply back to basics. Wise food choices help fight those beginning cancer cells and prevent that build up of cholesterol in the arteries while making you feel a whole lot healthier. To begin that path to health, start with Vitamin C.
Scurvy was the first disease recognized as being caused by a dietary deficiency. Scurvy, caused by a Vitamin C deficiency, with symptoms of bleeding gums, bruising, weakness, aches, and pains that often lead to death, was common among sailors during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was not unusual on long sea voyages for a ship to loose half of its crew to scurvy. In 1747, scurvy-ridden sailors were being treated with lemons and limes through the efforts of the Scottish naval surgeon James Lind. By 1795, the British Navy added lime juice to the rations of sailors, which was successful in preventing scurvy. Born was the nickname “Limeys” for British sailors.
While today scurvy is not a familiar disease because of the efforts of fortified food, Vitamin C deficiency is still rather common. In the United States, one third of all adults receive less Vitamin C in their diets than is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. One out of every six adults get less than one half of the recommended amount. Frequent colds and infections, bleeding gums, poor healing, and lung related problems are all symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin C is the most important antioxidant of all the antioxidants because it defends the interior part of our cells against free radicals that provoke diseases like cancer and heart while fighting stress in our bodies. The human body cannot manufacture Vitamin C, nor can it store it. Vitamin C should be taken through food sources daily, not through a multiple vitamin supplement. Oranges, bell peppers, broccoli, and parsley are excellent sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin D deficiency that is associated with weak bones now has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. “The higher risk associated with Vitamin D deficiency was particularly evident among individuals with high blood pressure,” researchers concluded. The study continued, “Low levels of Vitamin D are highly prevalent in the United States, 20 to 30 percent of the population … has moderate to severe Vitamin D deficiency.” The research further provided evidence that people who tested low in Vitamin D are 45 percent more likely to have high triglycerides.
Since few foods are rich in Vitamin D, we must depend upon sunlight as our best source. Sunlight creates Vitamin D on the skin where it is absorbed into the body. The overuse of sunscreens is the main reason for Vitamin D deficiency. To get your needed dose of Vitamin D, go out daily into sunlight for about fifteen minutes without sunscreen. Don’t cover your arms. Your skin will convert the sunlight into Vitamin D where it will be stored in your liver for use. The daily fifteen minutes in the sun without sunscreen will not increase your risk of skin cancer.
Who isn’t trying to lower the numbers? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four great foods to help you do just that.
1) Fiber. The fiber in oatmeal, apples, pears, and kidney beans are excellent choices for lowing cholesterol.
2) Walnuts. When 20 percent of your calories come from walnuts, your “bad” cholesterol can be reduced by as much as 12 percent. Eat a handful of walnuts everyday.
3) Omega-3. Helps the heart by reducing blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. If you already had a heart attack, a good level of omega-3 in your body significantly reduces the risk of sudden death. Eat two servings of fish weekly. Good sources of omega-3 are lake trout, salmon, herring, sardines, and anchovies. Be alert for mercury contamination. Try to buy fish from the wild.
4) Olive Oil. Not canola oil, not flaxseed oil, but extra-virgin olive oil. Buy extra-virgin olive oils first cold press to receive more heart healthy antioxidants. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be used as is—freshly pressed from the olive. Studies corroborate olive oil’s protection against heart disease by its ability to control “bad” cholesterol while raising “good” cholesterol. Two tablespoons of olive oil are recommended daily. Use olive oil to sauté vegetables or mix with vinegar for a salad dressing.
Back to basics. Back to nutrition. Back to health. You’re on your way.