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'Food prescription' may improve health

January 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Millions of Americans are diagnosed with heart disease, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis. But could a "five food prescription" keep you healthier, or even reverse some of the damage?At 67, Ina Jeffery knows she's at risk for osteoporosis.

"I am aware, quite aware. My mother had osteoporosis," said Ina.

Besides exercise, she's learned something else can make a big difference. For 15 years, Dr. Bahram Arjmandi has studied how our bodies react to certain foods. His latest study followed Ina and more than 100 other women to see if bone density could be improved just by adding dried plums or prunes to their diet.

"I have never seen anything this consistent that not only prevents bone loss but increases bone mass," said Dr. Arjmandi.

Prunes aren't the only power food. Research showed two apples - or about 75 grams of dried apple - a day can boost good cholesterol levels.

"We saw nearly 10 percent increase in good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. That is almost unheard of," said Dr. Bahram Arjmandi.

Studies also showed two large slices or about one pound of watermelon a day can significantly increase circulation. Canadian researchers found two to six teaspoons of flaxseed daily reduced plaque formation up to 40 percent.

More new research shows one ounce of soy per day significantly reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis.

In one year, exercise plus 10 prunes a day improved Ina's bone density by more than three percent.

For anyone who wants to live a healthier life, it could be food for thought. Experts say the key to making functional foods work is to only eat the foods you enjoy, otherwise you won't stick to it long-term.

One thing experts don't yet know is how much you should have of each food, which is a question more research should answer.

 

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