All-star Foods

Take a look at Dr. Greene's list of all-star foods to prevent and repair damage from environmental toxins. You might be surprised.

Here is my list of all-star foods to prevent and repair damage from environmental toxins:

  1. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale (think kale chips) and spinach (see why).
  2. Whole soy (think edamame). I understand soy is controversial (see my take on the controversy), but soy had the same effect as greens in study referenced here.
  3. Cherries. Tart cherries in particular can be powerful at reducing both inflammation and oxidative damage.
  4. Yogurt. Beneficial bacteria are part of the frontline of our defense. And getting plenty of calcium can help keep lead we’re exposed to out of our bloodstreams, and our baby’s.
  5. Mustard seeds. Mustard has been used medicinally since the time of Hippocrates, and more recently to protect from damage from environmental chemicals. They are famously small, but herbs and spices often contain the most concentrated nutrients of all all-star foods.
  6. Cumin. Part of the great flavor of modern Tex-Mex cuisine, cumin has been used around the world in traditional Latin dishes, as well as in the curries of India and the Middle East. Studies are finding that it can prevent and repair damage of many kinds.
  7. Turmeric. This yellow curry spice (and it’s major ingredient, curcumin) is the superstar of the team. I’ve seen more studies into its health benefits than with any other herb or spice. If your family is going to learn to love one spice flavor, it’s hard to think of a better choice.

This group is colorful and powerful. Protective effects of healthy foods add to and enhance each other. Any others on your list of all-star foods?

Liu RH. Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combination of phytochemicals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78:S517–20.

Kirakosyan A, Seymour EM, Urcuyo Llanes DE, Kaufman PB, Bolling SF. Chemical profile and antioxidant capacities of tart cherry products. Food Chem.2009;115:20–5.

Seeram NP, Momin RA, Nair MG, Bourquin LD. Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine.2001;8:362–9.

Martinez-Tome, M., Jimenez, A. M., Ruggieri, S., et al. “Antioxidant Properties of Mediterranean Spices Compared with Common Food Additives.” Journal of Food Protection, Sept. 2001, 64(9): 1412–1419.

Thimmulappa, R. K., Mai, K. H., Srisuma, S., et al. “Identifi cation of Nrf2-regulated Genes Induced by the Chemopreventive Agent Sulforaphane by Oligonucleotide Microarray.” Cancer Research, Sept. 15, 2002, 62(18): 5196–5203.

Balasubramanian, K. “Molecular Orbital Basis for Yellow Curry Spice Curcumin’s Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2006, 54(10): 3512 –3520; Dorai, T., Cao, Y. C., Dorai, B., et al. “Therapeutic Potential of Curcumin in Human Prostate Cancer. III. Curcumin Inhibits Proliferation, Induces Apoptosis, and Inhibits Angiogenesis of LNCaP Prostate Cancer Cells in Vivo.” Prostate, June 1, 2001, 47(4): 293–303; Egan, M. E., Pearson, M., Weiner, S. A., Rajendran, V., Rubin, D., Glockner-Pagel, J., Canny, S., Du, K., Lukacs, G. L, and Caplan, M. J. “Curcumin, a Major Constituent of Turmeric, Corrects Cystic Fibrosis Defects.” Science, Apr. 23, 2004, 304(5670): 600–602; Nagabhushan, M., and Bhide,

S. V. “Curcumin as an Inhibitor of Cancer.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Apr. 1992, 11(2): 192–198. 1992; Nakamura, K., Yasunaga, Y., Segawa, T., et al. “Curcumin Down-Regulates AR Gene Expression and Activation in Prostate Cancer Cell Lines.” International Journal of Oncology, Oct. 2002, 21(4): 825–830; Shah, B. H., Nawaz, Z., Pertani, S. A., et al. “Inhibitory Effect of Curcumin, a Food Spice from Turmeric, on Platelet- Activating Factor- and Arachidonic Acid-Mediated

Platelet Aggregation Through Inhibition of Thromboxane Formation and Ca2+ Signa.” Biochemical Pharmacology, Oct. 1, 1999, 58(7): 1167–1167; Shishodia, S., Amin, H. M., Lai, R., and Aggarwal, B. B. “Curcumin (Diferuloylmethane) Inhibits Constitutive NF-Kappab Activation, Induces G1/S Arrest, Suppresses Proliferation, and Induces Apoptosis in Mantle Cell Lymphoma.” Biochemical Pharmacology., Sept. 1, 2005, 70(5): 700–713.

Published on: March 15, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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