Monday, November 12, 2012

BOOM! POW! WHAM!: A Super Diet for Super Immunity

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I spent the greater part of my weekend devouring a new book. It wasn't a trashy romance novel (although that could've been fun). No, I'm afraid to say I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to nutrition. My book of choice this weekend was a book on the immune system called Super Immunity by Joel, Fuhrman, M.D.

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I bought this book because my goal this year is to change my body from the inside out. I've had various chronic issues my whole life, ranging from horrible allergies to annoying skin problems. It's time I put those to rest - for my own sanity's sake.

We all know that we should eat healthy, but are certain foods better for you than others? The answer is a resounding yes! Dr. Fuhrman advises building your diet around greens, onions, mushrooms, berries, beans and seeds. Let's take a look at each of these closely:

GREENS - There's a family of greens called cruciferous vegetables (coming from the Latin word 'crucifer', meaning 'cross'). Dr. Fuhrman explains that they 'have a unique chemical composition: they have sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent or bitter flavors. When their cell walls are broken down by blending or chopping, a chemical reaction occurs that converts these sulfur-containing compounds into isothiocyanates (ITCs) - an array of compounds with proven and powerful immune-boosting effects and anti-cancer activity.' Cruciferous vegetables include the following: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccolini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, red cabbage, turnip greens and watercress.

I was pretty jazzed to see that this list contained almost all of my favorite vegetables! But then, my excitement reached a whole new level when he went on to cite the findings of multiple population studies - "Cruciferous vegetables are twice as powerful as other plant foods. In population studies, a 20 percent increase in plant food intake generally corresponds to a 20 percent decrease in cancer rates, but a 20 percent increase in cruciferous vegetable intake corresponds to a 40 percent decrease in cancer rates." If that's not enough reason to 'go green', I don't know what is.
ONIONS - We all know that onions make you cry. The enzyme alliinase, found in the cell walls, is the culprit, but the same chemical reaction that makes you cry when cutting an onion is actually allowing immune-building sulfide compounds to form. Those are actually tears of joy! Dr. Fuhrman explains that "these compounds prevent the development of cancers by detoxifying carcinogens, and they also...halt cancer cell growth by preventing tumors from obtaining a blood supply." It's not just onions that do the job though. Any member of the allium family will give you these benefits: garlic, leeks, shallots, chives or scallions. He suggests eating 1/2 cup of chopped onions per day to get maximum benefits.

MUSHROOMS - Your body contains natural killer T cells (NKT's for short). In addition to having an awesome sounding name, these cells have an incredibly powerful job within the body. They find damaged cells, attack and remove them. The compounds found in mushrooms (specifically white, cremini, portobello, oyster, maitake and reishi mushrooms) help to enhance the function of NKT's in your body, allowing them to do their job with much more power. Mushrooms also contain angiogenesis inhibitors, which keep new blood vessels from forming and allowing cancer it's own blood supply to grow.

BERRIES - Berries contain remarkably high levels of ellagic acid, which inhibits the formation of tumors. Berries are a super food for a reason because in addition to the ellagic acid, they also contain many other anticancer phytochemicals. Pomegranates are especially good for you. In addition to inhibiting tumor growth, they can lower blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and strokes, improve symptoms of depression, reduce tissue damage, and block the stimulation of breast cancer tissue from increased levels of estrogen. Did you hear that? Pomegranates are great natural tools in the fight against breast cancer!

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BEANS - In addition to being low calorie and low in sugar, beans are packed with fiber, meaning you digest them slower and feel satisfied for longer. Beans are also extremely high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. According to, "In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, researchers measured the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods. Three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. And three others -- black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas -- achieved top-40 status."

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SEEDS - Seeds are packed with protein and vitamin E. Natural vitamin E, present in the leaves and seeds of plants, is a major player in scavenging for cancer-causing free radicals and regulating immune system activity. The benefits of a vitamin E supplement do not even begin to touch the power of vitamin E in its natural form, obtained through seeds. Two major players are flax seeds and sesame seeds. Both of these seeds contain more lignans than any other food. Dr. Fuhrman explains that lignans work to "bind estrogen receptors and interfere with the cancer-promoting effects of estrogen on breast tissue and they also have strong antioxidant effects.... a study revealed that when flax seeds are given to women with breast cancer, the women show reduced tumor growth and enhanced survival, compared to women not given flax."

In just one weekend, I tackled the never-ending question of 'what to eat?'. If you can focus your meals around these 6 categories, then you can rest assured that you will be eating well - eating in a way that will pump up the power of your immune system and keep you healthy and cancer-free.

Try throwing some pomegranate seeds and flax seeds on your morning yogurt or cereal. Have a salad for lunch that incorporates sunflower seeds, mushrooms and cruciferous greens. Grab a burrito or burrito bowl and incorporate pinto or black beans into your lunch. For dinner, saute some greens and have a handful of berries for dessert. See? It's not hard. Your body will thank you and so will your boss (goodbye sick days)!


  1. Lauren, additional reading; 20 Powerful Steps to a Healthier Life by Dr. Richard Schulze, ISBN: 0-9671569-3-4. You're on the right track.
    Wayne and Judy

    1. Hey guys! I will most definitely check that out! Thanks for the recommendation!