Combating brain disease and heart issues can be made easier with the right diet.

As a child, Dr Michael Greger watched his chronically-ill grandmother make a miraculous recovery from heart disease by following a low-fat, plant-based diet. This was the catalyst for a career in medicine and Dr Greger is now a global expert.

“Our diet is the number one cause of premature death and the number one cause of disability.”

He runs the website, a non-profit, science-based public service, and is author of the international best-seller. In this extract, he argues that there is no such thing as dying from old age.

Heart disease

As many of us know, heart disease is often caused by high cholesterol levels, leading to blockage of arteries, but research has shown that the humble Brazil nut can have impressive effects in reducing LDL cholesterol. Researchers from — where else? — Brazil gave 10 men and women a single meal containing between one and eight Brazil nuts.

Amazingly, compared to the control group who ate no nuts at all, just a single serving of four Brazil nuts almost immediately improved cholesterol levels. LDL — the “bad” cholesterol levels — were a staggering 20 points lower just nine hours after eating the Brazil nuts.

Even drugs don’t work nearly that fast. Also try legumes, avocados, fatty fish, whole grains and berries.

Brain disease

Brain diseases like strokes are the third biggest killer in the UK, but simply adding more fibre to your diet can help reduce your risk. In addition to its well-known effects on bowel health, high fibre intake appears to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and breast, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and premature death in general.

A number of studies now show that high fibre intake may also help ward off strokes.An additional seven grams of fibre is easy to add to your diet; it’s the equivalent of a bowl of oatmeal with berries or a serving of baked beans.

So how does fibre help in combating brain disease? We’re not exactly sure. We do know that fibre helps control your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, which can help reduce the amount of artery-clogging plaque in your brain’s blood vessels.

Liver disease

Our body’s largest internal organ, the liver, is integral for filtering blood, metabolising nutrients and neutralising toxins, amongst dozens of other important roles. According to the British Liver Trust, liver disease has increased by over 400% in the UK since 1970.

Start by cutting down on how much alcohol you drink.

Heavy alcohol consumption can cause a fatty liver in less than three weeks, but it usually resolves within four to six weeks after stopping drinking.

And while we’re on the topic of drinks; coffee has been proven to have an unexpected effect on your liver, too.

Back in 1986, a group of Norwegian researchers came across an unexpected finding: alcohol consumption was associated with liver inflammation (no surprise there), but coffee consumption was associated with less liver inflammation.

In the United States, a study was done with people at high risk of liver disease — for example, those who were overweight or drank too much alcohol. Subjects who drank more than two cups of coffee a day appeared to have less than half the risk of developing chronic liver problems as those who drank less than one cup.

For more health advice and healthy eating guides take a look at our health and food & drink pages.