If you’re confused by the waterfall of conflicting reports on what to eat to stay healthy, here’s a thought from Altaf Darvesh, Ph.D., who teaches the nutraceuticals (food-derived nutrients) class at NEOMED: Eat color!

Brightly colored fruits and veggies, like blueberries, raspberries, red bell peppers or carrots, are dense with flavenoids—intensely colored compounds that are antioxidants. Why do we need antioxidants? Because oxidative stress and inflammation can be found anywhere you find disease. That’s why anti-oxidants like fish oil, with its Omega3 fatty acids, have become so popular in fighting back. So, if you’re thinking fish oil, ugh, and you also reject the solution of eating polar bear livers (that’s what North Pole explorers did to stay healthy), Dr. Darvesh’s advice is a lot more palatable.

Berries are nature’s powerhouse, says Dr. Darvesh, who is an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and assistant professor of psychiatry at NEOMED. He says there’s a legend that in World War II, young pilots reported that when they ate bilberry (European blueberry) jam, their vision improved.

What else to eat or not eat? For those with celiac disease (about .5% of the population), avoiding gluten is useful. Otherwise, Dr. Darvesh says, “I don’t see any advantages in keeping away from gluten, because it is protein. No bread, beer pasta or bakery products?’’ he asks, with a look of cheerful disbelief.  “It may be just a fad.’’

Dr. Darvesh teaches the students in his nutraceuticals classes about safe over-the-counter uses of herbs; the history behind herbal remedies (‘’What did we use before injections? Weeds and seeds!’’) as well as sources of reliable information on them; and natural therapies, such as yoga or aromatherapy. One important reminder he always makes: people should obtain medical advice when considering dietary changes.  

Eating and living well doesn’t have to be complicated, says Dr. Darvesh, who likes to quote Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’’

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