How To Eat Your Way to Better Health According to a Doctor

If this story has piqued your interest, you probably already know that the foods you eat affect your body. Eating is your best opportunity to take care of your health because you do it every day, three or more times a day. It’s easy and almost automatic, unlike training.

What’s not so easy is choosing the right food from the hundreds of options in our refrigerators and pantries, grocery stores and restaurants. This is why meal plans, menus, and curated lists can be so helpful in guiding us toward better health.

In his bestseller Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itselfdoctor-scientist dr William W Li, MDlays out a strategy called the 5 x 5 x 5 framework that provides readers with a structure to add beneficial foods to their diets, rather than eliminating foods.

“Five defense systems are the cornerstones of your health, and each system is affected by diet,” says Dr. Li, whose TED Talk Can We Eat to Starve Cancer has received 11 million views. “The 5 x 5 x 5 framework is a strategy for supporting your body’s five health defense systems by incorporating at least five health-promoting foods that you already love to eat into five meals and snacks per day.”

The 5 health defense systems

Below are the five health defense systems and some of the common foods that make them stronger. Choose at least one food from each defense category every day, says Dr. Li. (Note that many of the foods support multiple defense systems.)

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Angiogenesis is the process our body uses to grow and maintain blood vessels. according to dr Li is a healthy angiogenesis system, a defense mechanism that regulates where blood vessels should grow and can cut off the blood supply to tumors. Certain foods can help your angiogenesis system stay in a healthy state of homeostasis. “You can eat to starve cancer, grow vessels to nourish your heart, and fight off deadly diseases to live longer, healthier lives,” he says.

Best Supportive Foods: Almonds, Apples, Berries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chicken (Dark Meat), Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Green Tea, Licorice Root, Olive Oil, Pink Grapefruit, Pistachio, Red Wine, Soy, Tomato, Tuna, Watermelon and more.

woman with knee injury

Your body is constantly rebuilding itself. Powered by more than 750,000 stem cells in your bone marrow, lungs, liver and almost every organ, your body regenerates itself every day. Some foods mobilize these cells to regenerate. Other foods can kill deadly stem cells that trigger cancer growth.

Best Supportive Foods: Apple peel, arctic char (and other good sources of fish oil), barley, black tea (and green tea), berries, carrots, celery, coffee, kiwis, onions, peanuts, purple potatoes, red lettuce, salmon, spinach, chard, turmeric, walnuts, whole grains and more.

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Our gut microbiome is an important defense system because “it controls our immune system, affects angiogenesis, and even helps produce hormones that affect our brain,” says Dr. Li. But the system can quickly become unbalanced. Disorders of the gut microbiome triggered by unhealthy eating habits, environmental factors, and antibiotic use have been linked to serious health problems such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and many more. One way to support our microbiome is to eat foods rich in microbes.

Best Supportive Foods: Apricots, arugula, blueberries and other berries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, dark chocolate, flaxseed, kale, kimchi, mushrooms, oranges, pumpkin seeds, red wine, sauerkraut, turmeric, among others.

woman sunburn

“Our DNA has surprising repair mechanisms that protect us from damage from sun exposure, chemicals, stress, poor sleep and dietary habits, among other things,” says Dr. Li. “Certain foods can prompt DNA to repair itself, while others turn on helpful genes, turn off harmful ones, and lengthen our telomeres, which protect our DNA.”

Best Supportive Foods: Almond Butter, Basil, Berries, Bluefish, Bok Choy, Cauliflower, Coffee, Flaxseed, Grapefruit, Green Tea, Kale, Macadamia Nuts, Mangoes, Nectarines, Olive Oil (EVOO), Oysters, Prunes, Salmon, Sardines, Soy, Strawberries, Tuna, Turmeric , walnuts, among others.

sick woman blowing nose into tissue

The immune system is like a double-edged sword. It produces an army of cells that go out and defend us against the common cold and other simple infections, as well as serious threats like the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, if the immune system continues to attack even when you’re not sick or injured, you can develop something called mild chronic inflammation, which can damage our tissues over time. The right types of foods can support your immune system’s ability to resist disease while reducing harmful inflammation.

Best Supportive Foods: Aged Garlic, Apples, Arugula, Belgian Endive, Berries, Broccoli, Chamomile Tea, Cherries, Chia Seeds, Chili Peppers, Cranberries, Dark Chocolate, Eggplant, Flaxseed, Green Tea, Kimchi, Kale, Mustard Greens, Olive Oil (EVOO), Pomegranates, Red Wine, Sauerkraut , shiitake mushrooms, strawberries, chard, turmeric, turnips, white mushrooms and others

To use the 5X 5X system by Dr. To use Li, select your favorite foods from the lists above. Then choose five foods that you want to eat each day and make sure each supports at least one of the defense systems. Also, make sure you cover all five systems in these five food options. You can eat all five foods you’ve selected for the day as part of one meal, or spread them out among all five meals and snacks or other eating opportunities throughout the day. “Just make sure you’re getting all five foods every day,” Li says. That guarantees you’ll make significant strides toward improving your health.

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