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Disease-fighting foods that are also tasty

January 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The jury is still out on feeding a cold or even fighting the flu with your fork, but many health experts agree that the grocery store has loads of disease-fighting foods that should be household staples.

"I see it every day that the power of food can really turn your health around," says dietitian Linda Illingworth of Cal-a-Vie Spa. "We see cholesterols come down, blood pressure come down, blood sugars normalize just by eating really healthy food."

Illingworth says to observe the 80/20 rule. If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you'll still be OK when you don't eat as healthy the rest of the time.

Lean protein, heart-healthy fats, whole grains and colorful produce can do a body good.

Other foods pack more of a nutritional punch, like salmon. Illingworth says salmon provides essential fatty acids that are great for mood elevation, preventing depression and preventing cardio vascular disease by making the platelets less sticky in the arteries so they don't stick together and create plaque formation.

Jason Graham, executive chef at Cal-a-Vie Spa, says good for you can also taste good. Whole grains in quinoa tabouli, for example, can reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease, diabetes and help lower blood pressure.

Swiss chard greens are also literally easy on the eyes.

"The one cup of chard contains 19 milligrams of lutein. You need about six a day to prevent macular degeneration," Illingworth said.

Some of the best news? Dark chocolate is prescribed.

"Those flavanols in the chocolate are what help repair the endothelium of the arteries and so that's what can actually help prevent future plaque formation and actually heal the arteries so they're more flexible," Illingworth said.

When it comes to planning our day, most of us already have a full plate. But if we would just plan our next meal and think about filling it with nutrient rich foods, we could really help protect ourselves from illness.

"I set aside a few hours one day and I cook everything and I just put it in separate containers," Graham said. "From those separate containers, I put in smaller containers my meals."

"Pick one new thing each week to do and in the course of a month you've made at least four to six different healthy changes," Illingworth said. "You completely can change your eating lifestyle and make a really big impact."

See these disease-fighting foods through photos.