In This Article
- Overnourished and chronically ill
- Your GI tract: the gateway to good health
- Nutritional implications of common illnesses
Health-care costs are rising in harmony with disease incidence rates. Billions of dollars are being poured into new therapies, medications, procedures, and more while the patients for whom these therapies are intended grow sicker and sicker. Evidently, a key element is missing. That element is our food.
Awareness is growing rapidly that whole food, plant-based nutrition is an inexpensive, pain-free, and effective alternative. It’s been hypothesized that lifestyle change—as a form of prevention and treatment—can cut health-care costs by as much as 70 to 80 percent. Because researchers and health-care practitioners are seeing great successes, we’re at the tipping point where food is making a comeback as preventative “medicine.”
Eradicating Chronic Disease
Chronic disease is considered an incurable illness. Medically speaking, for physicians treating chronic disease, the goal is symptom management, accomplished by balancing and modifying medications and offering procedures when appropriate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the United States. However, each of these conditions can be prevented—and many of them completely reversed—simply by adjusting lifestyle. Remember, genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.
More than 29 million Americans have diagnosed diabetes, and more than one in four people don’t know they have it. Moreover, an additional 86 million have prediabetes. The two types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2—are different in terms of origin and mechanism. They may share symptoms such as high fasting blood glucose or elevated postprandial (after eating) rise in blood glucose, but the pathology is different in each: type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease— meaning it’s caused by the body attacking itself—that typically is diagnosed during childhood and results in the pancreas being unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that occurs when the cells become resistant to insulin. In the past, type 2 diabetes was considered an adult-onset disease, but nowadays, it’s being diagnosed at progressively younger ages.
Immediate health complications of diabetes include the following:
- Diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening situation caused from insufficient insulin and uncontrolled ketone formation that leads to high blood-sugar levels, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, ketones in the urine, acidosis, and the potential for coma and death
- Increased incidence of infections
- Insulin shock, when too much insulin is in the blood, which leads to severely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and possibly results in convulsions or coma
Diabetes is the number-one cause of amputations and blindness. Additional long-term outcomes of diabetes include the following:
- Kidney disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Retinopathy, a disease of the small blood vessels in the retina of the eyes that can eventually result in impaired vision and blindness
- Skin infections
- Neuropathy, or damage to the nerves that causes tingling, weakness, pain, and/or numbness usually in the legs, feet, toes, arms, and fingers
- Foot ulcers
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and even reversed with diet and exercise. Obesity is the most common factor predisposing someone to type 2 diabetes, so weight management is a crucial issue. High levels of body fat, particularly intramyocellular lipids, lead to insulin resistance and progressively increase the need for more insulin. Eventually this need for extra insulin exhausts the pancreas, resulting in decreased secretion of insulin. Losing weight and exercising improve insulin sensitivity, thereby minimizing the amount of insulin necessary.
In contrast to adipose tissue (fat), which functions to store lipids until needed, intramyocellular lipids (intra, “within” and myo, “muscle”) are droplets of lipids within muscle tissue cells. It is suggested that these accumulated lipids interfere with normal glucose utilization (insulin resistance) which leads to the accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream after a meal. Paradoxically, a diet low in saturated fat and high in whole-food starches can reverse this action, restoring normal insulin sensitivity.
Although type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, some studies have found that insulin dosing can be decreased and long-term health outcomes can be controlled with a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Around the globe, the prevalence of diabetes increases in populations that consume more saturated fat, animal fat, and animal protein. On the contrary, prevalence decreases with greater intakes of fiber and vegetable fat. Studies show an increased risk for diabetes with meat intake and with higher blood cholesterol levels. Careful control of blood sugar levels over the long haul reduces the risk of several of the complications of diabetes.
Dietary recommendations for people with diabetes used to focus on minimizing intake of carbohydrates, causing the diet to be shifted toward more protein and fat. Currently, this advice is changing due to accumulating evidence of the harm of high intakes of saturated fat and animal protein. Nutrition plans are more individualized now, and success in using whole-food, plant-based diets to reverse diabetes has been incredibly promising.
Many studies indicate an association between early exposure to dietary cow’s milk proteins and an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Gut influence such as inflammation and variations in gut permeability may interplay, further exacerbating these autoimmune issues. The immune system attacks these foreign proteins and fragments, eventually mistaking our own cells and proteins for invaders. Ultimately this may destroy pancreatic cells, leading to the inability to produce insulin and thereby resulting in a lifetime of type 1 diabetes.
Heart disease, or coronary heart disease (CHD), is the number-one cause of death in America and around the world. It is estimated that one person dies every 40 seconds from cardiovascular disease in the United States alone. In most cases, heart attacks are due to a narrowing of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. Atherosclerotic plaque—a buildup of cholesterol, calcium, cellular debris, and fatty materials— accumulates over many years, even starting in childhood for some people, and causes this narrowing.
Heart disease is mostly a foodborne illness, brought about by the overconsumption of saturated and trans fats, animal protein, and highly processed foods and the underconsumption of whole-plant foods. Coronary artery disease—the condition resulting from atherosclerosis in the arteries—is virtually nonexistent in cultures with a plant-based diet.
Therapy options for heart disease—drugs, stents, and bypasses—offer no more than a bandage effect. Truly treating the disease requires the cessation of consistently applying the source. If a sink is overflowing with water, mopping up the mess on the floor isn’t going to stop the problem. That’s precisely what current medical treatment does for heart disease—it mops up the water. Eating a whole food, plant-based diet along with exercising is the equivalent of turning off the faucet.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Almost 600,000 people die from the disease every year. As poorly understood as the development and spread of cancer is, the disease itself is rather simple on the surface. New cells routinely divide and grow as the body needs them. Old or damaged cells die as they are no longer needed. This cellular symphony of just-in-time birth and death of cells is normally well regulated, but what happens if the conductor loses the beat? New cells grow without control where they aren’t needed (tumors), and old cells aren’t dying when they are damaged or no longer needed. Sometimes these cells can break off, travel to new tissue, and begin growing there; this is called malignancy. Cancer is unlike bacterial or viral infections, as there is no foreign invader. With cancer, the problem is a genetic signaling breakdown within your own DNA that particularly impacts how cells divide and grow. These mixed signals may be inherited genetic defects or they may be associated with epigenetic modifications. Recall that this expression and silencing of genes is highly influenced by environmental conditions, especially diet.
The treatments for cancer may sometimes be worse than the cancer itself, so living to avoid cancer is a prudent choice. When treating cancer, once again, the symptoms are targeted instead of the disease mechanism. Choosing among amputating parts of your body, flooding your system with powerful toxins, and radiating your cells, or a combination of all three, is likely one of the most difficult decisions you could ever need to make. Even more tragic is the fact that these treatments don’t always work. Although, they are aimed at stopping the progression of the cancer, sometimes these options simply buy you time. While cancers take on a wide range of variables outside the scope of this book, lifestyle habits that have been associated with a decreased risk for developing cancer include maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking, minimizing consumption of alcohol, reducing intake of processed and red meats, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and staying consistent with exercise.
It should be pointed out that the cruciferous greens such as broccoli, Chinese broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, bok choy, cabbage, kohlrabi, mustard, turnip, radish, watercress, and arugula have a potent anticancer compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is transformed by the enzyme myrosinase when cruciferous greens are cut, chopped, or chewed, creating the active anticancer form. If you’ve ever eaten some fresh broccoli sprouts or mustard greens, you can taste the “spicy” flavor resulting from this chemical reaction. Note that myrosinase is deactivated by heat, so be certain to chop greens and allow them to sit for a few minutes before cooking so that the reaction can take place. Mustard powder, wasabi, and daikon radish also contain the same enzyme, myrosinase, and can be added to cooked cruciferous vegetables to jumpstart the reaction.
Certain cancers, such as those found in the breast, are dependent on the amino acid methionine. Studies have found that cultures of normal breast tissue survive methionine restriction, but cultures of cancerous breast tissue quickly die. A whole food, plant-based diet naturally restricts some amino acids, such as methionine, and may help prevent or slow the progression of cancerous growths even before they are large enough to be detected.
Because there are many types of cancers, multiple variables contributing to its initiation and progression, and a long lag time between the initiation of the disease and the development of symptoms, it is extraordinarily challenging to connect dietary patterns to cancer outcomes. However, you have absolutely nothing to lose by using food as part of your prevention or treatment plan. At worst, it’s inexpensive, painless, and nutritious; but, at best, whole plants may help.
More than one third of the U.S. population has diagnosed hypertension, or high blood pressure. Defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg, this condition is a primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Hypertension is also both a cause and a result of kidney disease.
Diet and lifestyle have been consistently found to contribute significantly to elevated blood pressure. Plant-based eaters have lower blood pressure and lower incidence of hypertension than non-plant-based eaters.
Reducing sodium intake has long been promoted as a treatment for people with hypertension. However, this conventional wisdom is controversial. For salt-sensitive individuals, this dietary adjustment may certainly be beneficial. For optimal efficacy, treatment emphasis should be on weight management, exercise, and eating a whole food, plant-based diet.
Another primary risk factor for heart disease is a high cholesterol level. Over 100 million U.S. adults have total cholesterol higher than 200 mg/dL (considered the threshold for diagnosis of hyperlipidemia) and almost 31 million have a total cholesterol level above 240 mg/dL. The American Heart Association recommends maintaining a blood cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL, but the research shows that heart attacks very rarely occur in people with a total cholesterol level of under 150 mg/dL. Ideally, your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) should be less than 100 mg/dL, and your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) should be above 40 mg/dL.
It’s important to note that with a lowering of total cholesterol, HDL, the “good” cholesterol, commonly decreases, too. The role of HDL is to remove cholesterol from the blood. With less cholesterol to be removed, the need for HDL is naturally lessened. Although lower HDL levels are typically seen in plant-based populations, this is accompanied by a decreased incidence of coronary heart disease.
Cholesterol-lowering medications, especially statins, are among the most widely used drugs. Although they do what they intend (lower blood cholesterol levels), they fail to address the source of the high cholesterol. Worse, they can be toxic to the liver. No medication comes without side effects. Always opt for the drug-free path, if possible.
Cholesterol levels respond rather rapidly to diet change. Within 3 weeks of following a whole food, plant-based plan, especially one with plenty of fiber, your cholesterol profile can take a dramatic turn for the better. Fiber acts like a sponge in your body. It soaks up cholesterol and accompanies it out of your body.
Bone is living, dynamic tissue made up of protein embedded with minerals. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in bone, but phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, fluoride, and chloride are also present.
Bone strength is determined by bone mineral density (BMD), or the amount of minerals in any volume of bone. After age 25 or 30, bone minerals naturally start to break down. When this process appears to be accelerated, one of two diagnoses is made: osteopenia or osteoporosis. Osteopenia is a condition in which BMD appears to be lower than normal and is considered a precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a crippling disease that increases your risk of bone fractures. Pain, disability, diminished quality of life, and—with hip fractures—increased risk of mortality are all potential complications of osteoporosis. The disease is most common in postmenopausal women. Clinically diagnosed osteoporosis is similar between strict plant eaters and omnivores; abstaining from animal products doesn’t increase risk of osteoporosis.
Claims of osteoporosis becoming epidemic have made headline news recently. Bone-building medications are flying off the physician’s prescription pads as quickly as milk off supermarket shelves. However, several caveats are evident. For the pharmaceutical, medical, supplement, and food industries, tremendous financial opportunities can be gained with medical tests, medications, supplements, and dairy products. More people with diagnosed osteoporosis equal more money to be made.
Ironically, the medications used to treat osteoporosis are not as effective as the drug manufacturers lead you to believe. Some have even been found to be dangerous. Reports have surfaced of these drugs causing esophageal cancer, heart damage, muscle pain, and other complications.
Many factors are at play when it comes to optimizing bone health. To reduce your risk of osteoporosis and support optimal bone mineralization, emphasize …
Daily exercise, especially resistance-based exercise.
Plenty of sunshine and possibly vitamin D supplements, if you’re deficient.
Foods rich in calcium, vegetable protein, isoflavones, phytoestrogens, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins K, C, and B12.
What you put into your body via your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is your inside’s direct link to the outside world. Your GI tract acts as a filter, deciding what may pass into the bloodstream and what has to keep traveling back out. In fact, the GI system plays a crucial role in immune function. Hence, your immune system is greatly determined by your gut health. Ultimately, every bite determines your overall well-being. A nutrient-deficient diet plus an influx of pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative compounds virtually destroys your body, beginning in your mouth.
Carrageenan is an algae-derived ingredient used for gelling, thickening, and stabilizing food products, as well as in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and other applications. Some past evidence raised concerns that carrageenan may pose a risk of harmful inflammation in the intestines. More recently, authorities around the world have concluded that the use of carrageenan in food is safe. If you have intestinal issues and notice products containing this ingredient irritates you, you may consider avoiding it.
Chronic GI disorders are more prevalent than ever, and people suffer needlessly because of them. It’s time to address these overly common problems by looking at the obvious—what’s on your plate.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known simply as reflux or heartburn, is a chronic condition caused by the regurgitation of stomach acid back up into the esophagus. Not only is GERD painful, but it can also lead to serious complications such as inflammation, ulcers, or cancer in the esophagus.
Antacids, commonly used to treat symptoms of GERD, contain high levels of aluminum, which are toxic to the brain and contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of popping pills, modify your diet to avoid GERD. Behaviors that can alleviate GERD include eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet; avoiding eating past the point of comfortably full; eliminating spicy foods; sitting upright for a few hours after eating to allow the food to digest; and raising the head of your bed by 4 to 6 inches.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) consists of two inflammatory conditions of the intestines: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms are similar between the two and include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, bloody stools, and mucus. Meat, eggs, dairy, and alcohol exacerbate symptoms of these painful and debilitating diseases. Still, scientists haven’t been able to establish either the cause or dietary management.
A higher prevalence of IBD is found in populations that eat meat-rich, highly processed, Westernized diets. Foods considered irritating to IBD sufferers vary, but certain ones such as alcohol, caffeine, soft drinks, wheat, sugar, high-fat foods, and yeast are common. Because of the minimized nutrient absorption found in IBD, especially during flare-ups, a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet is critical to ensure adequate intakes.
Additionally, a probiotics regimen may help support a healthy colon. Plant sources of probiotics—naturally occurring live microorganisms known to help balance the microflora in your intestinal microbiome—include miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and plant-based yogurts. Probiotics are also available in supplement form.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Approximately 11 percent of adults globally suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and constipation and/or diarrhea. The cause of IBS perplexes health-care professionals, but it has been attributed to depression, bacterial infection, immune insufficiency, food intolerances, and stress. For some, IBS is debilitating, drastically impacting daily life.
Although medications are regularly included in treatment protocol, they’re usually ineffective and, as usual, address the symptoms and not the cause. Trying to manage this disease with a high-fiber, low-fat diet along with adequate fluids may prove more beneficial. Adding foods like flaxseeds and probiotics may also improve symptoms.
Often, people suffering with IBS may have unknown food intolerances or allergies. Wheat is a common irritant, so eliminating it might help. Ask your physician to test you for possible intolerances or allergies if you’ve been struggling with IBS symptoms.
Considered a fiber-deficiency disease, diverticular disease is characterized by outpouching and inflammation of the intestinal wall. Fiber increases stool bulk, thereby aiding its passage through the colon.
Higher fiber intake is one reason plant-based eaters enjoy a much lower incidence of this condition. High-fiber, low-fat diets in addition to exercise prevent diverticular disease.
Celiac sprue, also known as celiac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is an autoimmune chronic disease of the digestive tract that interferes with the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. Between 0.5 and 1.0 percent of the population in different parts of the world have been diagnosed with the condition. Possibly many more cases go undiagnosed because of misdiagnosis and symptoms similar to those of food intolerances and allergies. People with celiac sprue can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as in some oats through cross-contamination. When consumed, celiac sufferers endure damage to the villi that line the intestinal tract and enable nutrient absorption. Major concerns with celiac sprue include malnutrition and the onset of other diseases such as lymphoma or other cancers, type 1 diabetes, liver disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroiditis.
Villi are tiny, fingerlike protrusions that line the small intestines and allow absorption of nutrients from the intestines into the bloodstream.
Eliminating all foods and products containing gluten is the only treatment option. With a bit of information and some practice, avoiding gluten will become second nature, and a well-balanced diet is easily attained. In recent years, a whole marketplace has opened for gluten-free living. Labeling of gluten has become mandatory, and thousands of alternatives to gluten are widely available. Entire stores dedicated to gluten-free shopping and restaurants with gluten-free menus are spreading rapidly.
Ingredients with gluten include wheat and wheat products (bran, bread, bread products, wheat germ, wheat meal, wheat pasta, wheat starch, white flour, durum, wheat berries, red wheat flakes, starch, vital wheat gluten, seitan, modified food starch, modified starch, bread flour, semolina, farina, shredded wheat, wheat protein powder, cake flour); bulgur; triticale; rye; texturized vegetable protein; texturized soy protein; hydrolyzed vegetable protein; kamut; spelt; oats; barley; couscous; graham flour and graham crackers; vegetable gum; gelatinized starch; and beers, ales, and malted drinks. Look on food labels for “contains wheat” or “gluten-free” to be certain.
Carefully watching your diet is critical with celiac sprue because of the serious health complications associated with continued villi destruction.
Several other chronic medical conditions have increasingly become commonplace. As poor diets become more prevalent, resultant disease ensues. Reducing risk of and treating the following illnesses with proper nutrition have shown astonishing promise and success.
Your immune system is a collection of powerful tools designed to resist the constant onslaught of foreign invaders, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In millions of Americans (a majority of whom are women), the immune system goes awry and begins attacking itself. More than 80 diseases can be classified as autoimmune, including multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), scleroderma, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Each condition bears its own set of symptoms and progression of those symptoms, some localized to one body part and others systemic.
Treatment goals are to manage symptoms, delay progression, and maintain the body’s ability to fight disease. Some situations call for immunosuppressants, drugs that slow immune function and increase risk of other infections.
Certain dietary interventions have shown success in reducing inflammation and medication requirements. A strict nutrient-dense diet omitting all animal products and processed foods has been found to be effective. Hidden food intolerances or sensitivities may exist, and therefore need to be assessed so they can be eliminated. Vitamin D has been implicated in autoimmune disease, especially MS, so maintain optimal blood levels of it.
Earlier in the disease process is the time to be aggressive with your diet because once the disease progresses, whatever function has been lost cannot be reversed.
An estimated 30 million, or 15 percent of U.S. adults suffer with chronic kidney disease (CKD). More than half a million people are treated for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), an illness in which the kidneys are unable to function adequately and require dialysis and/or a transplant.
The variety of pathology—or diseases—that occurs in the kidneys is vast and can be brought about in many different ways. The two leading causes of CKD in the United States are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other common causes include various types of chronic excessive protein intake (especially animal protein), toxicity from medications (like over-the-counter pain relievers), and metabolic syndrome.
Plant-based diets may help prevent and manage CKD. Both the amount and type of protein consumed impact your kidneys. High protein intake (especially from animal protein) increases glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Essentially, an increased GFR means more work for your kidneys. Plant eaters also have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, factors known to contribute to CKD incidence and progression when high.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, including obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood sugar, that lead to vascular and other chronic diseases. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR), used to measure kidney function, is the rate at which fluid filters through the kidneys.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are progressive diseases of the brain that are still not clearly understood. Fortunately, you have more control over the prevention and management of both diseases than you may think.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is diagnosed specifically by the presence of senile plaques, beta-amyloid tangles, and neurofibrillary tangles inside the brain.
Treat your blood vessels well to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as heart disease, stroke, and even erectile dysfunction. Your cardiovascular system is made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries, with your heart as the pump. These blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen throughout your entire body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries, can and does occur in any of the blood vessels. Furthermore, a high cholesterol level lends itself to all the aforementioned chronic diseases.
Dementia is a chronic deterioration of cognition that usually affects the elderly. Many varied causes are attributed, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease (atherosclerosis, stroke), infections, structural brain disorders (like tumors or bleeding), depression, and drugs. The progression of dementia varies according to the person, and the severity lies on a continuum. Signs of dementia include short-term memory loss; impaired ability to plan, organize, or sequence abstractly; inability to articulate ideas; and inability to make purposeful movements.
High blood cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis increase your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Logically, these conditions are more prevalent in populations that eat a diet high in fat, dairy, and meat than in those following a plant-based diet. Consuming a diet rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants reduces your risk.
A painful inflammatory disease, gout causes painful uric acid–crystal formation in the joints, usually the toes. Uric acid is a breakdown product of purines, a class of aromatic organic compounds that are found in plant and animal tissues. Technically speaking, there are no purine-free diets, but increased risks of gout are associated with higher consumption of meat and fish, but not with high consumption of purine-rich plant foods. While there are still many guidelines that promote the restriction of purine-rich plant foods, no long-term study has ever found this to be effective. Research suggests that dietary restriction may be only applicable to purines of animal origin. In fact, purine-rich plant foods that gout sufferers are specifically told to avoid—such as beans, lentils, peas, asparagus, mushrooms, and cauliflower—have been found to be protective. This seemingly paradoxical issue may be due to the higher fiber levels that potentially bind uric acid in the gut for elimination. Furthermore, foods rich in folate and vitamin C appear to reduce the levels of uric acid accumulation. In addition to restricting animal foods high in purines, limiting alcohol is also recommended to alleviate symptoms of gout. Animal food sources high in purines include seafood, fish, red meat, and organ meats (liver, kidney, heart, and sweetbreads).
By now, you probably notice a trend. Diet plays a huge role in most illnesses common in the standard American diet and the rest of the Western world. Eating a whole food, plant-based diet prevents and reverses most of these conditions, enabling you to enjoy the freedom associated with true health.
The Least You Need to Know
- Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer may be prevented and even reversed by lifestyle modification.
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two risk factors for heart disease that are controllable with diet.
- Exercising consistently is the most important action you can take to protect your bones from osteoporosis.
- A vast majority of illnesses can be prevented and will respond favorably by eating a diet high in phytonutrients, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.