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5 Foods to Boost Your Health

Get more bang per bite by incorporating these 5 healthy foods into your diet.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

What if you could make a conscious effort to add five healthy foods to your plate and make an improvement in your longevity?

The key, say some researchers, is to outsmart your body, which, as you age, is busy half-forming or damaging your cells, rather than creating healthy new cells resistant to cancer, rapid aging, and other ills. These cells are damaged by "free radicals," a very reactive and unstable atom or groups of atoms with an odd, unpaired number of electrons. When free radicals bang into DNA in your cells, they can damage it, leading to bad cell behavior such as cancer.

What can you do? Your body already has a defense system of antioxidants, chemicals that can interrupt the damaging reactions of the free radicals. Although antioxidants can also be found in our diets, examples include vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Sometimes, scientists also include selenium in this mix.

But do vitamins definitively lower cancer or heart disease rates? The studies thus far are not conclusive. Some findings do show that people who eat many fruits and veggies, which contain high amounts of these naturally antioxidants compounds, have lower cancer rates -- but maybe they are doing other healthful things.

However, there is also some evidence indicating that taking vitamin supplements, especially taking high dosages of these so-called antioxidants, can result in more free radical damage.

So judgment and moderation are vital. Moderation, however, may mean greens for dinner or a nice salad with olive oil dressing or glass of wine each day. How hard is that?

Healthy Food No. 1: Leafy greens

According to Audrey Cross, PhD, professor of public health at Columbia University in New York City, and author of the nation's first dietary guide under President Jimmy Carter, some people avoid the heaped-up greenery section of the produce aisle because they don't know how to prepare the foliage there.

Others have never even considered grazing in these verdant fields. Cross tells of giving a talk at her daughter's first grade class. Three of the youngsters had never eaten lettuce of any type!

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