Preventing common diseases (like cancer and heart disease) and promoting health and longevity is as simple as regular trips to the farmer’s market, says Dr. Joel Fuhrman, star nutrition researcher, physician, and author of Eat to Live and Super Immunity.
Why? While building-block nutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—are essential, Americans are over-stuffing their diets with them and missing out on disease-fighting micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
“Your healthy life expectancy is proportional to the micronutrient-per-calorie density of your diet. We want to get as many micronutrients as possible per caloric buck,” he said at a recent lecture at the 92nd Street Y. In other words, heaping servings of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and lycopene should accompany each gram of carbohydrate you ingest. Sweet potatoes are good at this; bagels are not.
To help get you started, Fuhrman created the acronym G-BOMBS to lay out six of the most nutrient-dense foods that promote health and longevity. Here they are… —Lisa Elaine Held
This one’s a no-brainer, but no matter how often you’re eating leafy greens, you could probably still eat more. In addition to protein, greens contain calcium, folate, and a slew of antioxidants. Extra credit portion: Cruciferous green veggies like broccoli and kale also release isothiocyanates (when their cells are broken by chewing, chopping, or blending), compounds linked to lower cancer risk.
Legumes are nutrient-dense carbs that come with lots of fiber, and because your body digests them slowly, they have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Multiple studies suggest that beans may decrease the risk of colon cancer, as as well as other cancers.
These tear-jerking veggies are way more powerful than you may have imagined. In fact, onions are superfoods. They have super high concentrations of superstar flavonoid antioxidants—like quercetin, inflammation-fighters that also lower the risk of colon and other cancers. Onions are a source of organosulfur, compounds that battle carcinogens and suppress the growth of cancer cells.
No matter your preference—Portabello, shiitake, or reishi—mushrooms have nutrients that fight inflammation, prevent DNA damage, and more. They also contain aromatase inhibitors. These block the production of estrogen in the body, leading to significant reductions in breast cancer risk.
You’ve probably heard this one. Berries are bright and colorful because of their powerful antioxidants, like flavonoids, and studies have linked them a long list of health benefits, including (but not limited to) increased brain power, cancer prevention, and reduced blood pressure.
Seeds tend to be high in protein and trace minerals. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds all pack heaping doses of omega-3s, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, and pumpkin seeds come with calcium, iron, and zinc. Flax and sesame seeds also contain lignans, associated with lower risk of some cancers.