As a doctor and food scientist, I’ve spent 20 years studying how our diets can help us beat disease and live longer.
I’ve always taken a natural food-based approach, and much of my diet is inspired by a unique blend of two of the world’s greatest food cultures: Mediterranean and Asian. I call it the “MediterAsian” diet.
The Mediterranean region and Asia have areas known as blue zones, where people age better and are healthier overall.
Here are six staples of the Mediterranean diet that can help you boost your immune system and stay healthy:
Broccoli: Broccoli is potent in sulforaphane, which protects stem cells, improves gut health and metabolism, and boosts immune responses.
Soy: Soy is eaten in seed form, made into tofu, fermented, and can even be made into wine. It has been associated with a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20% and diabetes by 23%.
Carrots: An ancient root vegetable native to Southwest Asia, carrots are a good source of dietary fiber for gut health. Half a cup of grated carrots contains 2 grams of fiber.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain a soluble fiber called beta-D-glucan, which stimulates defenses to grow new blood vessels needed for wound healing. At the same time, it can prevent harmful blood vessels from feeding cancers.
White beans: Beans are a nutritious food that can help reduce cardiovascular risk factors by lowering blood cholesterol levels. They also contain valuable nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium and folate.
Lenses: Lentils are a classic legume in Mediterranean cuisine. Half a cup of dry lentils contains 18 grams of fiber, more than half the recommended daily intake for men and women.
4. Bottles and jars
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): EVOO is the most desirable form of olive oil. “Extra virgin” refers to oil that is unrefined and therefore contains tiny pieces of ripe olives. The oil and chunks are the source of powerful polyphenols that activate health defenses.
When I buy EVOO, I scan the label on the bottle to identify the olive varieties used. Many are made from a variety of olives, which can be quite palatable, but I prefer the monovarietal oil, which is less likely to be diluted with cheaper oils.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Studies have shown that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar reduces body fat, improves insulin sensitivity, and lowers blood sugar.
Fermented bean paste: Walk through the middle aisles of any Asian grocery store and you’ll see many types of fermented bean paste. Made from fermented soy, they contain bioactives that fight fat cells.
Salmon: Salmon is rich in omega-3s, which are absorbed into fat cells and metabolized. Then they create proteins that are released like cellular firefighters into the surrounding fat mass to extinguish the inflammation caused by the fat.
Deer: If you’re exploring unique tastes, you have to try the roe (eggs) of certain seafood. Roe is naturally high in omega-3s, so it takes very little to get a healthy dose of healthy fats.
Sardine: Sardines are an age-old Mediterranean seafood. They contain bioactives that can improve metabolism and lower blood cholesterol.
Get CNBC for free Warren Buffett’s Guide to Investingwhich wraps up the billionaire’s top advice for regular investors, dos and don’ts, and three key investing principles in one clear and simple guide.