Despite the fact that we have all grown up listening to the adage that prevention is better than cure, the modern healthcare system is predominantly reactive.
For those who do not know, reactive healthcare involves reacting to a disease or a health condition. In simple words, it is about taking measures to treat a health problem once it has occurred or developed. Unfortunately, this is an inherently wrong approach.
As an ancient Chinese metaphor or (according to some sources) a saying of the Yellow Emperor explains, “to fight a disease after it has occurred is like trying to dig a well when one is thirsty or forging a weapon once a war has begun.”
The reactive approach to healthcare is not only expensive, but also ineffective in many cases. According to a report issued by the National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA), the annual U.S. healthcare spending increased by 4.6% in 2018, reaching a total of $3.65 trillion. The amount is already higher than the GDPs of many countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, and Mexico, and is expected to increase even more in the upcoming years. Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states that the country’s annual healthcare expenditures are expected to increase to about $6 trillion by the year 2027.
Despite all the advancements and groundbreaking discoveries, science has been unable to find cures for a large number of diseases. Although the realization came very late, healthcare experts have finally realized that the reactive approach is no longer cutting it. As a result, we have seen a gradual shift to proactive care, aimed at preventing diseases by helping people improve their overall health.
The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Disease Prevention
It is common knowledge that the food we eat has a huge impact on our health. The food choices that you make can either improve your health or put you at the risk of developing certain diseases and health conditions.
Together with a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet cannot only improve your physical health, but also contribute to your mental and emotional well-being.
Ever wondered how the food that you eat can prevent you from or contribute to various diseases and health problems? While it’s a complex phenomenon, here are a few ways your diet affects your health:
- A balanced diet ensures that your body’s nutritional requirements are fulfilled and thus, helps prevent health problems that certain nutritional deficiencies can lead to.
- A healthy diet helps maintain a healthy weight. In other words, it helps prevent obesity, which is a major risk factor for many diseases.
- A diet that is not rich in sugar and bad fats can also help prevent diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
- Making the right food choices is also important for preventing inflammation, which has also been found to play a major role in the development of many chronic illnesses, including major degenerative diseases – Alzheimer’s, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and cancer.
- A healthy diet plays a major role in maintaining various body mechanisms, such as healthy metabolism, blood pressure, and hormone regulation.
- Eating the right kinds of foods can also help improve your mood, which eventually has a positive effect on your mental and physical health.
What to Eat to Improve Your Health and Prevent Diseases
We all have heard sayings like, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But, not many people know what they need to do to prevent diseases. Knowing the struggle a lot of people have been facing, here we are giving a rundown of what foods you should eat to prevent specific diseases or health conditions or gain better control over them:
1. Cardiovascular Diseases
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases, more commonly known as heart diseases, are the number one cause of death worldwide.
For those who do not know, CVD or heart disease is a term that is used to refer to the disorders of the heart and its blood vessels.
Heart attack, heart failure, stroke, abnormal heartbeat, hardening and narrowing of the arteries, and problems of the heart valves and muscles, they all fall under the category of cardiovascular diseases.
Foods to Improve Heart Health and Prevent Heart Diseases
Here are some of the foods known to improve heart health and hence, should be a part of your diet, especially if you have heart disease or are at the risk of developing one:
- Dark leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and salad greens
- At least 2 to 3 servings of fish per week. Choose fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring.
- Flaxseeds and chia seeds
- A handful of healthy nuts, like walnuts and almonds
- Dark chocolate, in moderation
Cancer is among the top ten global causes of death and the second leading cause of death in the United States.
Although research regarding the causes, treatment, and prevention of cancer is still far from being conclusive, there’s evidence that certain foods may help increase or decrease your risk for developing certain types of cancers.
Foods That May Help Prevent Cancer
Here are some of nature’s medicines that may help lower your risk of developing cancer:
- Vegetables that contain carotenoids, like carrots, squash, and Brussels sprouts
- Foods that are high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, watermelon, and guava
- Fruits and veggies that are high in vitamin C, like orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and bell peppers
- Green tea
- Fatty fish that are rich in omega-3s, like salmon and tuna
- Whole grains
- Grapes, particularly red grapes
Diabetes is often referred to as the silent killer because of its far-reaching effects and easy-to-miss symptoms. Since it is a disorder of the blood, diabetes can affect every part of the body and also increase your risk for developing many other diseases.
Also, the disease often remains undiagnosed for a long time. According to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report for 2017, there were about 7.2 million undiagnosed cases of diabetes within the United States alone. The number of diagnosed cases at that time was 30.3 million, which made about 9.4% of the U.S. population.
Since obesity is one of the many risk factors for diabetes, healthy eating can help prevent blood disorder by assisting in maintaining a healthy weight and even weight loss. Furthermore, diet plays a key role in diabetes management.
Here are some of the foods that can help prevent and control diabetes:
- Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies
- Green and non-starchy vegetables, like kale, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and asparagus
- Nuts and seeds, like chia seeds and walnuts
- Whole grains
A serious global public health concern, osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people globally. While bone diseases can affect anyone, women have a significantly higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, out of the estimated 10 million Americans who have osteoporosis, about 80% are women.
For those who do not know, osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become weaker and more prone to breaking. The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 44 million Americans have low bone density and are at the risk of developing osteoporosis.
While there are several factors that can put you at the risk of developing osteoporosis, the dietary risk factors include low calcium intake and vitamin D deficiency. Magnesium and Vitamin K are also known to play an important role in promoting bone health.
Here are some of the foods that can help prevent osteoporosis by strengthening your bones:
- Dairy – milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Fish, like salmon and sardines, especially when eaten with bones
- Collard greens and green leafy veggies
- Nuts and seeds, like almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds
In this article, we have attempted to create a list of foods that can help prevent diseases and improve your overall health.
This is by no means a comprehensive list and the foods mentioned above are not replacements for medicines. Also, if you are suffering from a serious disease or health problem, make sure to consult your doctor before making any significant dietary or lifestyle changes.