Top 12 Disease-Fighting Foods

PHOTO: Garlic, onion and ginger
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The most harmful and deadly diseases plaguing America today are caused by food -- cheap, low-quality processed foods high in sugar, fat, salt, genetically modified ingredients -- and pesticides. But when you reach for whole, nutrient-dense, organic foods, you get a food-remedy tool kit that not only will ward off cancer and heart disease, but also colds, flu, allergies, and a host of other ailments that plague us every day.

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With so many great healing foods out there, it's hard to choose just 12, but if you stock your kitchen with a plentiful supply of these staples, recommended in The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke, PhD, you'll ward off everything from cancer and colds to arthritis and menopause.

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Beans

Beans are the cheapest healthy food you can buy, and their high isoflavone content wards off heart disease, improves bone and prostate health, and eases some symptoms of menopause. Being low in fat and high in protein, beans are easy swaps for red meat, so add them to soups, stews, dips, and even pasta sauces (pureed white beans can be used as a substitute for high-fat Alfredo sauces). Nutrient-wise, it doesn't make much difference if you use dried or canned, though canned beans can contain high levels of salt and often come packaged in cans lined with harmful bisphenol A. We like Eden Organics canned beans, which contain very little added salt and are packaged in BPA-free cans.

Garlic and Onions

Members of the same plant family, garlic and onions do so many things for your heart and immune system, it's hard to list them all. Garlic's 70 active phytochemicals may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points, and it lowers rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Onions are the single best source of quercitin, a flavonoid shown to keep your blood healthy and prevent clots. Both are must-haves for natural allergy prevention. To boost garlic's health effects, be sure to crush the cloves and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them. Most of an onion's nutrition is in the skins, so Duke suggests putting the skins in a mesh bag and allowing them to steep in soups or sauces.

Caffeinators

Addicted to coffee? In love with chocolate? That's good. Caffeinated foods, including coffee, chocolate, and tea, have high levels of polyphenols, dubbed "super" antioxidants for their ability to fight everything from cancer to depression. A Harvard University study even found that drinking five cups of coffee daily cuts the risk of developing diabetes in half. That much coffee could give you the jitters, though, so most experts recommend limiting intake to two cups a day, or switching to decaf. Whether you prefer tea or coffee, studies seem to suggest that decaf versions contain just as many antioxidants as the regular stuff. And, of course, dark chocolate is better than sugary milk chocolate or white; check out our organic chocolate taste test results for the best organic, Fair Trade brands.

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