The people who founded and shopped at first-generation health food stores were, of course, on to something. It’s now common knowledge that food is an integral component to health, as important as exercise, sleep, and stress reduction in preventing and even curing disease. Here, five noted visionaries in the natural health field—experts who have long championed good eating for good health—share their personal must-have foods, as well as favorite recipes that include these nutritious ingredients.

Eat well.

Dean Ornish, MD

  • Expertise: Founder, president, and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California
  • Author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease (Ballantine, 1992) and Eat More, Weigh Less (Perennial, 2000)
  • Favorite foods: “I really enjoy pomegranates; they contain polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds that help protect against heart disease. They’re also great fun to eat. Other foods I like include walnuts, flaxseeds, and salmon, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, to help prevent against heart disease. And red grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that helps prevent some of the most common illnesses. They offer the same health benefits as red wine, without the toxic effects from alcohol.”

Dean Ornish’s Heart-Healthy Salad
Serves 4–6 / This recipe, developed by Dennis Gale Malone, Ornish’s chef and dietary lifestyle educator, combines antioxidant-rich pomegranates, heart-healthy walnuts and flax, and phytochemically blessed broccoli and blueberries. Serve it with a wild rice pilaf for a simple lunch.

2 ounces mâche or baby spinach
2 ounces butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup peeled and julienned broccoli stems
1/2 cup very thinly sliced fennel root
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 cup peeled and diced pear

2 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/3 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1. In a salad bowl, combine mâche or spinach, butter lettuce, broccoli, fennel root, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, ground flaxseed, and pear.

2. In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients and purée until smooth. Toss dressing with salad just before serving.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 117 calories
% fat calories: 43
Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 15g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 23mg

James A Duke, PhD

  • Expertise: Ethnobotanist, researcher, and speaker
  • Author of more than 30 books, including The Green Pharmacy (St. Martin’s, 1998) and The Green Pharmacy Anti-Aging Prescriptions (Rodale, 2001)
  • Favorite foods: “If I had to choose one spice or herb as my favorite, it would be garlic for its cardiovascular and immune-boosting effects. Garlic has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure; it also normalizes blood sugar, which is important in cardiovascular health, since we now know that diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. I also eat celery to prevent gout, a type of arthritis caused by deposits of uric acid crystals. Celery contains anti-inflammatory compounds and a lot of fiber. Curry is also a favorite of mine: It contains curcumin, a cox-2 inhibitor [which blocks hormonelike prostaglandins that cause inflammation, fever, and pain] and is a natural alternative to arthritis medications. And nuts are good for the prevention of prostate problems, especially Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds.” Stock up on these heart-healthy nuts and seeds, rich in good fats, selenium, zinc, and amino acids.

Jim Duke’s Curried Celery
Serves 4 / “This is a very simple dish, great for treating arthritis,” Duke says. “The black pepper is important because it increases the uptake and activity of curcumin, one major active ingredient in curry and mustard.” Serve it as a side dish with any meal; it’s especially nice with roasted chicken and braised spinach.

2 fresh cloves garlic, minced
8 medium celery stalks, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

1. Place garlic, celery, and onion in a medium skillet in about 1/2 inch of water. Bring to a boil; stir in curry powder, mustard, and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 5–7 minutes, or until celery is tender. Season with salt and red pepper flakes, and serve hot


Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 33 calories
% fat calories: 16
Fat: 1g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 1g
Carbohydrate: 6g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 169mg

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

  • Expertise: Specializes in weight loss, cleansing diets, and hormone-replacement therapies
  • Author of The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet (Morgan Road, 2005) and Hot Times (Avery, 2005)
  • Favorite foods: “One favorite is flaxseeds; they help keep hormones level, they’re high in fiber, and the lignans act as estrogen modulators. And they’re delicious; I grind them and add them to nearly everything. I also love eggplant—it’s meaty and filling, and is a good source of gold, a rare trace element that is thought to protect against arthritis. When I need a good vegetarian source of protein, I eat tempeh. I also use aromatic spices, not only for their flavor but also for their therapeutic benefits: Cumin is an anticancer spice, cloves are antibacterial, fresh cilantro helps remove mercury from the body, and oregano is a marvelous antimicrobial.”

Ann Louise Gittleman’s Spicy Tempeh Chili
Serves 6 / “This recipe contains protein-rich tempeh and tomatoes, which are high in lycopene,” Gittleman says. “It’s also rich in therapeutic spices.” If you find this recipe too spicy, add a dash of stevia to take the heat down. Serve with a simple green salad and whole-grain tortillas for a complete meal.

2 8-ounce packages tempeh, crumbled
2 14-ounce cans organic diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeño peppers
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
8 ounces mushrooms, diced

1. Combine all ingredients except mushrooms in large soup pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. When vegetables are fork-tender, add mushrooms and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Taste and adjust spices as needed.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 205 calories
% fat calories: 22
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 16g
Carbohydrate: 26g
Fiber: 9g
Sodium: 242mg

Neal Barnard, MD

  • Expertise: Nutrition researcher and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
  • Author of Turn Off the Fat Genes (Three Rivers, 2001) and Breaking the Food Seduction (St. Martin’s, 2003)
  • Favorite foods: “In the town where I grew up, there was a Mexican restaurant that served the hottest burrito you could imagine, made with pinto beans and jalapeños in a tortilla with tomato gravy. It didn’t even need cheese. I think that was my earliest introduction to how delicious a vegan diet could be. Now I know that it was also loaded with healthy compounds, especially beans, which are high in protein, low in fats, and loaded with fiber. I also love broccoli; it’s high in fiber and cancer-preventive compounds, low in fat and cholesterol, and contains lots of calcium in an easily-absorbed form. I also like short-grain, organic brown rice. And because the thinnest people on the planet eat abundant quantities of rice, it perfectly disproves the notion that people who eat carbs somehow get fat.”

Neal Barnard’s Jalapeño Burritos with Red Chili Gravy
Serves 10 / To shorten future preparation time, make extra gravy and freeze for up to three months.

Bean Filling
2-1/2 cups dried pinto beans
6 cups water
2 onions, diced
Pinch of salt (optional)
2 jalapeño peppers, minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2-3/4 cup chopped onion
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
2 cups corn kernels

10 flour tortillas
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Red Chili Gravy
2 teaspoons minced chili pepper (jalapeño or serrano)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt, to taste

1. To make bean filling, place beans in a large pot, cover with water, and soak overnight. Drain soaking water; rinse beans well and return to pot. Add 6 cups water, onions, and a pinch of salt, if desired. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, adding more water if necessary, until beans are soft, about 3 hours. Drain and mash beans with a potato masher or electric mixer. Stir in jalapeños, garlic, onion, spices, and corn kernels. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep warm.

2. To make gravy, combine minced chili pepper, spices, cilantro, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine flour and vegetable oil, mixing until smooth. Whisk slowly into gravy mixture; return to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens. Salt to taste.

3. Warm tortillas one at a time for a few seconds over a hot burner. Place a small amount of beans in the center of each tortilla and roll up. Cover with Red Chili Gravy and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (1 tortilla, 2/3 cup filling, 1/4 cup sauce):
Calories: 464 calories
% fat calories: 18
Fat: 10g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 19g
Carbohydrate: 81g
Fiber: 16g
Sodium: 550mg

Christiane Northrup, MD

  • Expertise: Board-certified ob-gyn and women’s health expert
  • Author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (Bantam, 1998); The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam, 2001); and Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health (Bantam, 2005)
  • Favorite foods: “Wild Alaskan salmon; it’s satisfying, and it’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. When I eat it, I know I’m feeding my brain, my heart, and my blood vessels. It’s also a great source of protein. You really need some protein at every meal and snack to keep blood sugar stable and prevent weight gain. It’s important to try to eat only organic meat and dairy. I also adore seasonal greens. They’re loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help ensure eye health, and they’re rich sources of folic acid, important for heart health. And I love sweet potatoes; they’re a great source of fiber and antioxidants, and they satisfy a sweet tooth without raising blood sugar.”

Christiane Northrup’s Salmon and Greens
Serves 2 / “This is a simple, colorful, complete meal that’s easy to put together and is rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and healthy fats,” Northrup says. With its pleasing combination of flavors and textures, this dish is also elegant enough for entertaining; simply double the recipe here if you have company coming. To round out the dinner, offer a delicious, healthy dessert. “I’d serve organic blueberries with a dollop of crème fraîche or organic vanilla yogurt,” says Northrup.

1 sweet potato, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 6-ounce wild Alaskan salmon steaks
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
1 large bunch bok choy, cut crosswise into 1-inch segments
3-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Black pepper and sea salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place sweet potato, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake until soft, about 25 minutes.

2. While sweet potato is cooking, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Rinse salmon steaks, pat dry, and season with tamari. Place salmon in skillet and brown for about 4 minutes on each side, or until just opaque throughout. In a second skillet or wok, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add bok choy and toss to coat; cover and cook over medium heat until bright green, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.

3. Place 1 salmon fillet on each of two plates. Arrange bok choy and sweet potato halves on plates. Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt, and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 533 calories
% fat calories: 54
Fat: 32g
Saturated Fat: 6g
Cholesterol: 112mg
Protein: 40g
Carbohydrate: 21g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 666mg

Food and nutrition writer Lisa Turner has written five books on health and healing, is a certified yoga teacher and Shiatsu practitioner, and has studied naturopathy and Chinese medicine.