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A Healthy Diet Can Decrease Disease Risk

<p>Notably, nutritious foods may decrease your risk of disease — while the opposite is true for highly processed foods.</p><p><strong>Unhealthy Food Choices Can Increase Disease Risk</strong></p><p>Unhealthy diets high in sugary drinks, fast food, and refined grains are a main contributor to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.</p><p>These processed foods harm your gut bacteria and promote insulin resistance, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-foods-that-cause-inflammation” target=”_blank”>chronic inflammation</a>, and overall disease risk (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4531228/” target=”_blank”>19Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>A study in over 100,000 people found that every 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake resulted in a 12% increase in cancer risk (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811844/” target=”_blank”>20Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Additionally, a study on worldwide <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-habits-linked-to-a-long-life” target=”_blank”>mortality</a> and disease showed that in 2017, 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were likely due to poor diet (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30954305″ target=”_blank”>21Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>DALYs measure the burden of disease, with one unit representing the loss of one year of full health (<a href=”https://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/daly_rates/text/en/” target=”_blank”>22Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Nutritious Diets Protect Against Disease</strong></p><p>On the other hand, research indicates that diets abundant in plant foods and low in processed products strengthen your health.</p><p>For instance, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables, is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative conditions, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29244059″ target=”_blank”>23Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537789/” target=”_blank”>24Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29039967″ target=”_blank”>25Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Other eating patterns shown to safeguard against disease include plant-based, whole-food-based, and <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu” target=”_blank”>paleo</a> diets (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29659968″ target=”_blank”>26Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482457/” target=”_blank”>27Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>In fact, some diets may reverse certain conditions.</p><p>For example, plant-based diets have been found to reverse coronary artery disease while very-low-carb lifestyles may help eliminate type 2 diabetes in some people (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29417495″ target=”_blank”>28Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30593389″ target=”_blank”>29Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>What’s more, nutritious eating patterns like the <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan” target=”_blank”>Mediterranean diet</a> are tied to better self-reported quality of life and lower rates of depression than typical Western diets — and may even boost your longevity (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30050006″ target=”_blank”>30Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29031185″ target=”_blank”>31Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5902736/” target=”_blank”>32Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Such findings prove that robust diets indeed function as preventative medicine.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Following a healthy diet can increase longevity, protect against disease, and improve your overall quality of life.</p>

Can Food Treat Disease?

<p>While some dietary choices can either prevent or increase your disease risk, not all diseases can be prevented or treated through diet alone.</p><p><strong>Many Other Factors Affect Your Health and Disease Risk</strong></p><p>Disease risk is quite complex. Although a poor diet can cause or contribute to illnesses, many other factors need to be considered.</p><p>Genetics, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety” target=”_blank”>stress</a>, pollution, age, infections, occupational hazards, and lifestyle choices — such as lack of exercise, smoking, and <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad” target=”_blank”>alcohol use</a> — also have an effect (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/” target=”_blank”>33Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5732407/” target=”_blank”>34Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK115561/” target=”_blank”>35Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53017/” target=”_blank”>36Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Food cannot compensate for poor lifestyle choices, genetic disposition, or other factors related to disease development.</p><p><strong>Food Should Not Be Used as a Replacement for Medicine</strong></p><p>Though shifting to a healthier dietary pattern can indeed prevent disease, it’s critical to understand that food cannot and should not replace pharmaceutical drugs.</p><p>Medicine was developed to save lives and treat diseases. While it may be overprescribed or used as an easy fix for <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-graphs-that-show-what-is-wrong-with-modern-diet” target=”_blank”>dietary and lifestyle problems</a>, it’s oftentimes invaluable.</p><p>As healing does not hinge solely on diet or lifestyle, choosing to forgo a potentially life-saving medical treatment to focus on diet alone can be dangerous or even fatal.</p><p><strong>Beware of False Advertising</strong></p><p>While scientific evidence shows that food can aid various health conditions, anecdotal claims of curing or treating diseases through extreme dieting, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/4-supplements-as-powerful-as-drugs” target=”_blank”>supplements</a>, or other methods are often false.</p><p>For example, diets advertised to <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cancer-and-diet” target=”_blank”>cure cancer</a> or other serious conditions are typically not backed by research and often prohibitively expensive.</p><p>Eschewing conventional treatments like chemotherapy for alternative, unproven diets can worsen diseases or lead to death (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528553/” target=”_blank”>37Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0104-cancer-treatment-scams” target=”_blank”>38</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332115/” target=”_blank”>39Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Although many foods have strong disease-fighting benefits, diet should not be considered a replacement for conventional medicine.</p>

Foods With Powerful Medicinal Properties

<p>Transitioning to a diet based on whole foods can improve your health in countless ways. Foods that offer particularly powerful benefits include:</p><ul><li><strong>Berries.</strong> Numerous studies have found that nutrients and plant compounds in berries combat disease. In fact, diets rich in <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-healthy-berries” target=”_blank”>berries</a> may protect against chronic conditions, including certain cancers (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187535/” target=”_blank”>40Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Cruciferous vegetables. </strong>Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale contain a wide array of antioxidants. High intake of these vegetables may decrease your risk of heart disease and promote longevity (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21593509″ target=”_blank”>41Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Fatty fish.</strong> Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish fight inflammation due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which also protect against heart disease (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073188/” target=”_blank”>42Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Mushrooms.</strong> Compounds in mushrooms, types of which include maitake and reishi, have been shown to boost your immune system, heart, and brain (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/” target=”_blank”>43Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Spices.</strong> Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and other spices are packed with beneficial plant compounds. For example, studies note that <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric” target=”_blank”>turmeric</a> helps treat arthritis and metabolic syndrome (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618098/” target=”_blank”>44Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/” target=”_blank”>45Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Herbs.</strong> Herbs like parsley, oregano, rosemary, and sage not only provide natural flavor to dishes but also boast many health-promoting compounds (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618098/” target=”_blank”>44Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Green tea.</strong> Green tea has been thoroughly researched for its impressive benefits, which may include reduced inflammation and lower disease risk (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370896″ target=”_blank”>46Trusted Source</a>).</li></ul><p>Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, honey, seaweed, and fermented foods are just a few of the many other foods studied for their medicinal properties (<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748761/” target=”_blank”>47Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/” target=”_blank”>48Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/” target=”_blank”>49Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28945458″ target=”_blank”>50Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931196/” target=”_blank”>51Trusted Source</a>, <a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23638933″ target=”_blank”>52Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Simply transitioning to a diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables is the simplest way to reap the medicinal benefits of food.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Berries, cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish, and mushrooms are just a selection of the foods that offer powerful medicinal properties.</p>

The Bottom Line

<p>Food not only provides energy but may also act as medicine.</p><p>A nutrient-dense diet of <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/21-reasons-to-eat-real-food” target=”_blank”>whole foods</a> has been shown to prevent and even treat or reverse many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods” target=”_blank”>heart disease</a>.</p><p>Keep in mind that you should not rely on food to replace traditional medicine.</p>

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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