1. The foundation of any health eating pattern (diet) is large quantities of brightly colored vegetables and fruits. It is increasingly important to consider organic produce as the pesticide burden can be 90 times higher in conventional produce and the mineral content can be 1/5th that of organic produce. Recent data shows that the number of servings a day of fruits and vegetables is directly related to lifespan, and 7 or more servings a day reduces mortality by over 40% compared to those that eat little produce.
2. Shop at least twice a week for produce, spending the most time and money on the perimeter of the grocery section where produce is usually found. Stay away from packaged foods on the inside. If it is from a plant eat it, if it is made in a plant skip it.
3. Plan to prepare meals that can last at least twice a week. Large bowls of organic brown rice steamed and stored, soups, chilis, stews, and steamed vegetables stored in containers, can all be the basis of very quick meals during the week. Adding a marinara sauce on top of reheated vegetables, rice and beans can be inexpensive, quick, and very nutritious.
4. Spices are a secret weapon for health. Fresh herbs and spices are best or bottled ones that aren’t too old. Sprinkling spices on food can boost the antioxidant power of food tremendously. Four spices that have been shown to decrease inflammation and increase health include turmeric, ginger, rosemary and cloves. I like to keep “pumpkin pie” and “apple pie” spice mixes handy as adding them to oatmeal, fruit, cereals and baking is so tasty. Don’t forget hot spices like pepper flakes which can be healing for arteries.
5. Although the goal is to eat the most whole food, plant based meals you can, if you are eating something off that menu that is greasy and lower quality, combine it with as much fresh vegetables as possible. Science has shown that adding a big salad or a slice of avocado to a fast food hamburger lessens the harm that the processed food causes to your health. Try to avoid adding fries to the chick nuggets or burger, if you must eat them, and go for carrot and vegetable sticks, or and green vegetable.
Clinical Professor of Cardiology
Wayne State University School of Medicine