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Can Food Fight Cancer?

Can Food Fight Cancer?

IMG_0069      DSCN3175     "Union Square Farmer's Market"

Can food fight cancer?  Yes, apparently.

In November 2007 the American Institute for Cancer Research, along with the World Cancer Research Fund published the most comprehensive report on diet and cancer to that date.  It took 6 years to produce and was thoroughly reviewed.  Based on the data it was estimated that for the 12 most common types of cancer, approximately 35% of cases in the US were preventable through healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight!  Isn’t that astonishing – 35% fewer cancer cases in the US.  Just think of all the pain and suffering that could be avoided.  There have been many studies since then to corroborate the findings.

So, you ask, what must one do to embrace this cancer fighting diet/lifestyle?  Surely it will be difficult, tasteless, boring and expensive, and my life will be joyless.  Can’t I just take a pill?

Sorry but that’s not good enough.  Research also shows that supplements just don’t get the job done (as stated in the aforementioned study).  There are literally 1000’s of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, nutrients, phytonutrients, therapeutic polyphenols and whoknowswhatelse in whole foods which work together in combination to help the body function optimally – the better the input, the better the outcome.

A healthy diet doesn’t protect us from all disease – the report does not say that 100% of cancer cases are preventable.   But doesn’t a 35% chance of beating the odds against cancer sound pretty good?  Click here to see ten recommendations for cancer prevention, compiled as a result of the study.  Each  relates to diet, exercise and lifestyle.

Want to upgrade your diet and include more cancer fighters?  Then consider the following suggestions and discover new ways to make them delicious and exciting – it will be fun!

What to eat?

  • Fill 2/3 of your plate with plant based foods.
  • Make it colorful.  Color in vegetables and fruits indicates different nutrients.  You need a variety of nutrients to protect against different types of health risks so choose different colors throughout the day.  How many colors can you eat in a day?  This could be fun, especially for kids.
  • Make sure you get enough folate, a B-vitatmin which is particularly helpful in lowering the risk of colon, rectum and breast cancers.  Find folate in dark greens and beans.
  •  Tomatoes seem to be very effective cancer fighters.  And did you know that processed and cooked tomatoes are even better than fresh ones!  That’s an unusual feature.
  • Green Tea is another strong antioxidant and a good alternative to coffee.
  • Grapes, especially red, contain resveratrol (another potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory).  There’s no evidence to indicate that grapes (or red wine!) actually prevent or fight cancer, inflammation can cause damage which leads to cancer – so, more antioxidants please.
  • Water may dilute concentrations of potential cancer causing agents in the bladder.  It’s the healthiest drink around, drink more.
  • Beans and legumes are wonderful sources of phytochemicals which also protect against damage which can lead to cancer.  Eat more beans.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy (to name a few) provide antioxidants and good fiber  which help to lead the charge against cancer risks.
  • Dark Greens are good cancer fighters.
  • Add some flavor  to your foods with turmeric, garlic and ginger, natural anti-inflammatories.
  • Favored cooking methods are stewing, braising and steaming.  Cooking at high temperature (like grilling, broiling and frying) can create chemicals that may increase risk of cancer.  Lower, slower methods do not seem to form the same chemicals.

What to Avoid?

  • Large portions of meat.  Limit to 3-4 ounce portion and choose lean cuts (perhaps eat less meat and upgrade the quality?)
  • Skip (or limit) the deli counter.  Processed meats contain potentially harmful agents, limit intake.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.  It’s inflammatory and it adds calories.
  • Reduce sugar intake.  Also inflammatory and contributes to obesity.

Anything Else?

  • No smoking.  ’nuff said.
  • Exercise – 30 minutes per day.  No Olympic training necessary, moderate walking is fine.

For more information on specific foods, check out these American Institute for Cancer Research or WebMD, or view this video by Dr. Michael Gregor about how build a cancer-fighting meal at the salad bar.  Here’s a short video about diet and cancer from Dr. John McDougall, focus on breast cancer prevention.

Cancer’s such a scary subject, it affects many lives and often we often feel helpless against the prospects.  Knowing that there are steps that can be taken to actually reduce the risks is so encouraging.  We can’t do anything about our genes, but we can influence how genes express themselves.  Diet and healthy lifestyle can make a difference.

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