Superfoods alone are not enough to prevent disease; lifestyle factors must also be considered.

If you are a visitor to Facebook, subscribe to natural health websites, or receive emails from health gurus, I’m sure you’ve seen scores of articles telling you that this food or that can prevent cancer, heal your blemishes or keep your arteries from clogging. But there’s a major piece of information missing from all of these articles that you need to keep in mind; otherwise you’re likely to be disappointed in the results. Fundamentally, miracle superfoods won’t make a difference if you’re offsetting their effectiveness with an abusive diet, problematic lifestyle and/or toxic environment.

I recently read a post on Facebook by a woman who stated that she had a good, organic diet, exercised regularly to the point of fitness, and stayed away from toxic personal care products but she ended up with breast cancer. While it is unwise to second guess the reasons why this happened, it is easy to say that there are more factors needed to foster good health than just the basics. I have been with many people who claim to have toxic-free lives but I find out that they eat out frequently in restaurants, have problems coping with stress, binge on organic cookies and ice cream, and drink (and/or bathe in) water that’s fluoridated and chlorinated.

And what about nutritional deficiencies? Eating a “pure diet” is often not good enough, because it is possible to still be lacking in essential nutrients needed for immune function and an array of vital cellular functions. For instance, it is common in our modern diet to be lacking in iodine. While the medical institution suggests only enough daily iodine intake to maintain thyroid function, it ignores the need for iodine for every cell in your body. The National Institutes of Health clearly states, “Iodine is needed for the normal metabolism of cells.” Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy. That’s a big order to fill beyond the requirements of a healthy thyroid.

Iodine is needed when cancer is present, as well as to prevent it. Stephanie Buist, ND, writes, “Iodine is absolutely critical for something called P53 gene which is known as the ‘keeper of the genetic code’. Without iodine and selenium it will not function to eliminate abnormal cells from the body such as cancer.”

One of the biggest obstacles to iodine deficiency is the continual consumption/absorption of halides such as bromide, fluoride and chloride. These three substances compete with iodine for receptors within cells. Essentially, this means that iodine cannot get into your cells if these other halides get there first. And as we all know, fluoridated water is everywhere, and chlorine is used by cities to purify their water supplies. Bromide is a common ingredient in processed foods and breads.

But iodine is just one example of an element needed for optimum health. Another recent article touting the benefits of tomatoes, found on the website of Joel Fuhrman, MD, states, “Many observational studies have made a connection between higher blood lycopene and lower risk of heart attack. For example, a study in men found that low serum lycopene was associated with increased plaque in the carotid artery and triple the risk of cardiovascular events compared to higher levels.” This is great news, but tomatoes alone cannot save your heart. Your body needs more support. The heart and cardiovascular system need many other nutrients — from magnesium to vitamin C and beyond — as well as exercise, clean air and stress management.

Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to kill cancer cells. Shiitake is known for its polysaccharide lentinan, which helps increase the survival rate of cancer patients. Scientists at Harbin University, China (2008) found that lentinan was “beneficial in terms of increasing mean survival duration, tumor necrosis and reducing the recurrence rate.” Still, we can eat all the Shiitake mushrooms we want, but they can’t prevent or cure cancer when you frequent fast food joints, drink diet soda, consume strawberries dipped in the pesticide methyl iodide, or if you are deficient in much-needed nutrients that are not finding their way into your diet.

And what about stress? Stress is a not-so-silent killer. The effects of stress on our bodies are severely underrated and mostly ignored by modern medicine. Yes, physicians prescribe antidepressants or drugs willy-nilly to help people sleep or relax, but these palliative measures do absolutely nothing to resolve either the stress itself, the source of stress, or the deleterious and multitudinous effects that it causes. Stress leads to a cascade of hormonal reactions that take their toll on our bodies, creating chronic inflammation, chronic exhaustion, and severe-to-moderate emotional issues, among other effects. And stress wears out the adrenal glands, causes headaches, restricts blood flow, creates heart attacks and interferes with breathing. It has been argued as well that stress can lead to cancer and/or its metastases

Stress leads to inflammation, and so does a nutrient deficient and synthetic chemical diet. Inflammatory reactions lead to diseases. Even modern medicine now admits that inflammation plays a major role in cardiovascular disease. So, the recommendation to eat a lot of lycopene-rich tomatoes to prevent heart disease becomes a bit of a joke if you’re under constant stress. And you can take optimum levels of iodine and still end up with breast fibroids because the stress is overpowering your body’s attempts to reach homeostasis.

The next time you see an article claiming that grape seed extract helps balance female hormone levels, Chaga mushrooms kills cancer cells, or apples keeps the doctor away, consider that you are a whole entity. As such, you need to cover all the gaps in your diet and lifestyle. Go ahead and eat the healthful super foods, but keep in mind that there’s other work that needs to be done to keep you healthy and disease-free.
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