A few days of stress, poor sleep and skipped meals won’t just leave you vulnerable to catching a cold, it could put you at risk of life-changing diseases.
That’s because your immune system is one of the body’s five key defence systems — immunity, stem cells, gut bacteria, blood vessels and DNA protection — and when any are weakened, it can open the door to myriad health problems.
All this week we have been serialising a groundbreaking new book, Eat To Beat Disease, by U.S. doctor and scientist Dr William Li. It explains how each of the body’s defence systems work, and shows you the sometimes surprising foods that can be added to your diet to support these systems and help your body stay healthy.
In today’s pullout — part of the Mail’s Good Health for Life month — he explains how to incorporate the important information given throughout this series into your diet, and pick the foods that will help you fight specific conditions and diseases.
He also reveals the importance of the immune system, and the foods that can make it more effective — and those that slow it down when it runs amok and starts to cause illness itself.
When it’s on top form, your immune system protects the body from any invasions by viruses, bacteria and parasites through an ingeniously designed system of pattern recognition.
This allows your immune cells to identify and destroy threats while leaving healthy cells alone.
It is (or should be) a system on perpetual standby, like the fire brigade, ready to leap into action when an alarm is sounded.
A healthy body automatically knows whether to turn up or turn down its immune response. Neither inactive nor overactive, it operates from a point where all forces are carefully balanced and constantly alert. But the stresses and strains of modern life can render it weak. Obesity puts you at risk of this, as does diabetes, malnutrition (which includes an unhealthy diet, as well as insufficient food) and too much alcohol. A weak immune system doesn’t just let rogue infections slip through the net, it can also cause it to become confused and start attacking its own harmless cells. These exaggerated immune responses are seen in allergic reactions, where the immune system adopts an overkill response to an otherwise harmless allergen, such as pollen or a certain food. The same reaction can lead to asthma.
Immune system overactivity can also manifest as serious autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes, lupus (a condition causing inflammation of the joints, skin and organs), multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. These are all the result of damage to cells caused by a trigger-happy immune system viewing something innocent as a foreign invader. Regular exercise, proper sleep, and lowering and managing your stress levels will all help your immune system stay healthy. But recent discoveries have changed our understanding of the immune system. The study of food compounds has advanced significantly in recent years, and we know that what we eat and drink can turn the two arms of immunity — the under-performing immune system and over-functioning immune system — up or down to defend our health. You can boost your body’s resilience with foods that support our immune defences, and foods that can calm it when it becomes overactive.
Turn to the back page to read about the specific foods that can fine-tune your immune system and help you thwart disease. And, overleaf, discover how diet changes can be used to fight serious diseases. Strengthen defences to tackle cancer We have always blamed genetics, smoking, the environment, a bad diet, and other external factors for cancer. But the truth is that, regardless of its cause, cancer only becomes a disease once malignant cells escape being destroyed by the immune system. Normally, when the earliest signs of cancerous growths are spotted by first-responder immune cells, they send out cancer-killing cells. Sometimes, cancer cells use camouflage to dodge this process, and wrap themselves in some friendly proteins to fool immune cells into thinking they are normal. By hiding like this, these cancer cells are able to grow. If your immune system is weakened, cancer cells can be missed, and are able to multiply freely without fear of attack.
A staggering one in two people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lifetime, and its toxic treatments are often feared as much as the disease itself. If you’ve got it, had it, or you’re worried about getting it, then it is important to shore up your defences and help your body destroy the cancer cells — or support it through treatment. When working well, your own immunity is so powerful it can protect you against cancer. Indeed, some of the most revolutionary cancer treatments are now aimed at activating the immune system. If you have cancer, you need to protect your immune system —especially if you receive high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation, both of which deliver a smackdown to immune defences. If you are receiving one of the new cancer immunotherapies, which rely on your immune system to wipe out cancer cells, it’s critical to get it into prime shape. The food you eat will play a role in this goal. You’ll get extra cancer-fighting support if you call in your body’s other defence systems, too. That’s because all cancers depend on weaknesses in angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels) to grow; have rogue stem cells that need to be destroyed; are riddled with DNA mutations; and can be wiped out by your body’s immune system defences.
I recommend that you eat:
Foods with ‘anti-angiogenic’ properties — rogue angiogenesis feeds the cancer — that can starve a tumour by cutting off its blood supply, such as tomatoes and blueberries.
Foods that help get rid of tenacious cancer stem cells, such as purple sweet potatoes, which improve the odds that the cancer won’t come back following treatment.
A diet that activates the immune system (see back page) and foods that promote a healthier microbiome (the community of bacteria in your gut), which can assist in cancer control and elimination (look out for these in tomorrow’s pullout).
Foods that protect DNA (oysters, oyster sauce, or herbs) so your body can both shield you and repair any errors in your DNA that could lead to cancer.
Along with the religious activities Ramadan also offers Saudis some of the tastiest food they will eat all year as restaurants seize the chance to introduce creative combinations and flavors. The process of developing mouth-watering flavors was highlighted by Melted, a Jeddah bakery that is winning a growing army of fans with a single product — brownies. “We wanted to bring the Ramadan spirit to our famous Oh fudge, so we created the Arabic coffee brownie, which is a delicious combination between the finest chocolate brownie and the famous Arabic coffee,” said Al-Anoud Al-Braikan, a joint owner of the bakery. Melted’s brownie delivers a kick of cardamom infused with decadent chocolate. “It’s the first of its kind and we are super-proud of it,” she said. Haya Al-Jamal, the other owner, told Arab News that the brownie started as a “seasonal offering during Ramadan two years ago, but it was so popular that we decided to keep it on the menu.” “We would like to experiment with different flavors in the future, but we promise we will stay true to our roots with what we bring to the table,” she said. Meanwhile, Jeddah restaurant Vines and Leaves has gained a reputation for selling the healthiest food in the city, serving up fresh sandwiches, salads, snacks and juices. “Our aim is to encourage healthy eating habits as well as catering to most costumers’ needs from regular to vegan options,” Mohammed bin Laden, the managing partner, told Arab News. “We combine healthy eating with traditional Ramadan dishes, such as our carb and gluten-free sambosa options made purely from almond flour.” The restaurant is constantly introducing new items on its menu, “especially during Ramadan when we educate and raise awareness about healthy substitutes and eating habits as opposed to the unhealthy diet patterns a lot of people find themselves in once the holy month starts,” he said. A food truck named Nine Soft Serve has also played its part, whipping up Ramadan flavors in its ice-cream. “Our Ramadan flavors are inspired by traditional Arabic sweets such as baklava and atayaf,” Abeer Al-Hashim, the owner, said. “Ramadan is a competitive month that makes us work harder to turn our most common homemade desserts into professional desserts to catch up with the market and our customers’ desires.” Ramadan is a challenge for the ice cream truck since people are more inclined toward home gatherings rather than heading out. “Based on that, we created our Ghabagh menu to let people enjoy Nine Soft Serve at home. It is a box to go. People can pre-order and have their boxes delivered to complement their gatherings.”continue reading
This restaurant is designed to give you a luxurious experience of Indian cuisine in the heart of Dubai. It is located in Taj Dubai in the Downtown area, and you can feel the level of luxury from the moment you enter Bombay Brasserie. Dimly lit hallways lead you to the wooden tables and colorful furniture. Some of the walls are even decorated with hand-drawn historic images of India. The open kitchen allows visitors to see the chefs cooking dishes right in front of them. The food is brought to you in a tray, with a small portion of each selection on the menu. The smoky, tender Murgh Angara tandoori smoked chicken, was exceptional as were the spicy fried prawns, Kariveplai Prawn Varuval. The lamb dishes, though, such as the Siri Paya lamb head soup or the Jarees lamb meat, cooked with wheat and caramelized onions, were overly salty. The presentation of the food at Bombay Brasserie is exceptional, with some of the dishes were adorned with edible gold leaves, whilst the staff at the restaurant are friendly and attentive. Even the chef came to ask us if we had enjoyed the experience. Prices run on the higher end, with the set menu at $53 per person. That said, there is free valet parking, and dates and other iftar treats are included for Ramadan.continue reading
For a warm and cozy iftar, head to the buffet at the Daily in any of the Roves across Dubai. The branch at Trade Center has a variety of starters and sweets, most of the options from Arabic cuisines. The lentil soup was delicious, combining the right amount of spices for a perfect flavor. One of my favorite starters was their tabbouleh, a parsley salad with burghul and tomatoes. There was also variety of main dishes, such as couscous, samaka harra and chicken biryani. The samaka harra was delicious, coated in a tomato and chili sauce while remaining juicy inside. However, the desserts were the most notable part of this iftar. The Umm Ali, which is similar to bread pudding, was creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. Another Arabic dessert, Halawet Jubn, or Arabic cream rolled in a cheese dough, transported me right back to when I used to eat it in Syria. Coffee and tea are also offered at the buffet. For this Ramadan, the Daily is giving a free iftar coupons for every purchased meal, to highlight and support the spirit of giving the holy month is famed for. Guests in turn are welcome to share their coupons with their friends, or even strangers. The staff were attentive and friendly, and the ambience was welcoming. There is an enjoyable outdoor terrace, where visitors can enjoy pleasant weather, but the indoor space can get a little cramped. The buffet is priced at $27 per person, and the Rove has various locations across Dubai, including Downtown, the Trade Center and the Marina.continue reading
A Saudi food bank has teamed up with a delivery app to nourish the needy during Ramadan. Itaam, a nonprofit initiative set up by entrepreneurs from the Eastern Region during the holy month, signed an agreement with the food-delivery app Hunger Station to launch the new service, Otloblhom. Muslims are encouraged to help the needy, especially during Ramadan, with charity campaigns facilitating the process of feeding those who are less well off or who are unable to fast because of health problems. The Itaam initiative aims to spread the idea of professionally managed food banks in the Kingdom that protects the privacy of both donors and recipients. Itaam began operations on the first day of Ramadan, allowing people to order iftar meals at a symbolic price. Meals are then delivered through Hunger Station. Charitable activities used to be carried out randomly in the street, with people distributing food in areas where the poor and homeless lived. Now, however, a number of campaigns, volunteers and phone apps help to provide the same service. Through their agreement, Hunger Station and Itaam aim to perform a valuable social role during the holy month. To order, open the application, press “Otloblhom,” select the restaurant and number of meals, and pay by credit card. Other charitable apps are active not only at Ramadan but also throughout the year. These include Faed and Khair Alsaudia, which help to distribute clothes, food, furniture and household appliances.continue reading