Little changes in your diet can add up to big improvements in your health. Recent research has found that tasty foods such as pecans, grapes, mushrooms, cranberries, blueberries and broccoli are part of a healthful diet.


According to the Georgia Pecan Commission, eating a handful of pecans every day reduces cholesterol and may be an alternative to cholesterol-lowering drugs. The assertion is backed up by considerable research, including a study conducted by scientists at Loma Linda University's School of Public Health in California.

The five-member research team investigated the effect of pecans, which are rich in monounsaturated fat, in people who had normal to moderately high cholesterol. They found that the nuts successfully altered the subjects' lipid profiles, without increasing their weight.

The research concluded that pecans can be prescribed as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet for patients who have high cholesterol, or as part of the regular diet of healthy individuals.


Recent studies suggest grapes can play a role in breast cancer prevention.

Shiuan Chen, director of surgical research at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, and her team of researchers discovered that chemicals called procyanidin C dimmers, which are found in high levels in grape-based food products, including wine, block the formation of estrogen. Estrogen is a key factor in the development of breast cancer tumors. This research could prove useful in breast cancer treatment.

"Too much estrogen causes breast cancer tumor growth in postmenopausal women," Chen says. "This research suggests that fruits such as grapes contain natural substances that can act as aromatase inhibitors and can be beneficial as chemo-preventative agents against breast cancer."


Research published by Chen and his City of Hope colleagues showed that white button mushrooms also suppress estrogen formation and can help prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women.


Cranberries and blueberries are packed with powerful health benefits.

New York City physician Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments, says, "Tve often prescribed pure cranberry juice for the prevention and treatment of minor urinary tract infections. Proanthocyanidins in cranberries can prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and causing bladder infections. Cranberries also contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases."

She says blueberries contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins and phenolics that studies show improve memory, clear arteries, enhance vision, strengthen blood vessels, stop urinary tract infections, promote weight control and reverse aging.


Dean also says broccoli contains high levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene. "Both are powerful antioxidants that fight age- and disease-causing free radicals," she says. "Broccoli also has a high fiber content, which is important in bowel health as well as in diabetes control. And it contains as much calcium as dairy products, as well as a substance called sulforaphane. In animal studies, sulforaphane has been found to reduce the number, size and reproduction of malignant tumors, as well as delay their onset."

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