Diets That Prevent Disease

Want a diet to fight breast cancer? Foods to lower cholesterol? Prevent chronic disease? We've got the eating plan for you

by Meryl Davids Landau
diets that prevent disease
Photograph: Illustrated by Aad Goudappel

A group of doctors and dietitians at the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) wanted to create a diet plan that spells out for Americans which foods are best, when they should be eaten and in what combinations. “We believe the government’s latest recommendations overemphasize dairy products and starchy foods,” says Elizabeth W. Boham, MD, RD, a physician and dietitian at the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. (Starchy foods include white rice, potatoes and bread; these boost blood sugar quickly.) So IFM developed the Core Food Plan, which combines healthful options, including low--glycemic foods (these maintain even blood sugar levels, which help prevent type 2 diabetes); a balance of soluble and insoluble fiber (providing possible protection against cancer); a ton of micronutrients known as phytochemicals (ditto); and adequate potassium (reducing risk of high blood pressure).


Plan the bulk of your meals around veggies “because you get many more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals per calorie here than from any other foods out there,” explains Boham, who helped develop the program. Toss them into morning omelets, have vegetable soups or salads with lunch and make sure veggies are on your dinner menu. Your goal: four or more daily half-cup (cooked) servings of nonstarchy veggies (such as green broccoli, collards, red peppers and purple eggplants); another two of highly colored starchy veggies (e.g., sweet potatoes rather than white ones; the pigment means you’re getting phytochemicals); plus two of fruits.

The Evidence 

The plan was created after a careful review of major dietary health studies, says Mary Willis, a registered dietitian in Overland Park, Kansas, who helped develop it.

For more information and menu plans go to

A day on the diet

*Drink purified water throughout the day.


Omelet made with 2 eggs, 1 ounce smoked salmonand ½ cup spinach

1 cup blueberries

1 cup rooibos herbal tea(a red tea from the legume family) mixed with rice milk


1 cup sliced yellow pepper stripsand 1 cup jicama sticksdipped in ¼ cup hummus


Chicken saladmade by combining 2 cups baby spinach leavesor mixed greens, 3 ounces grilled or baked chicken breast, 1 cup black beansand 12 to 15 crumbled blue corn tortilla chips, and dressed with ¼ cup salsa and 1 tablespoon olive oil–based dressing


1 small apple

¼ cup almonds

1 cup 1% kefir yogurt drink


3 ounces grilled salmondrizzled with 2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/3 cup quinoamixed with ½ cup baked sweet potato cubes

1 cup steamed broccolimixed with 1 tablespoon pesto

6 ounces low-fat blueberry Greek yogurt (for dessert)

This meal plan was created by Mary Willis.


Goal: Reverse Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In brief | Cut out sugars that may cause distress in the lower digestive tract.


First published in the November 2012 issue

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