As researchers continue to wage in the war against cancer, many have begun to focus on what could be the most promising ammunition to date – diet. Studies continue to show that eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and limiting foods high in saturated fat could make a huge difference in your health.
Certain types of foods rich in vitamins such as folate which is rich in vitamin B-complex and Vitamin D, are known to protect the body from forming cancer cells. Tea, which is known for its high levels of anti-oxidants, in particular kaempferol, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts are proving to have cancer fighting agents which show promise in reducing the risk of many types of cancer. Many of the studies on cancer and nutrition point to eating plant-based foods for their phytonutrients and other special cancer fighting compounds.
The American Association for Cancer Research recommends eating five to nine daily servings of all kinds of fruits and vegetables—especially these six.
Broccoli– All cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale contain cancer-fighting properties, but broccoli is the only one with a sizable amount of sulforaphane, a particularly potent compound that boosts the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals. A recent study on mice conducted at the University of Michigan, researchers found that sulforaphane also targets cancer stem cells—those that aid in tumor growth. Other recent studies on cruciferous vegetables show promising results against prostate and colon cancers. In mice grafted with human prostate tumors and then treated with one of these cancer-killing substances, tumors began to shrink to half their size after 31 days Sulforaphane also helps to fight breast, liver, lung, prostate, skin, stomach, and bladder cancers.
Berries – are packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients. But black raspberries, in particular, contain very high concentrations of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which slow down the growth of premalignant cells and keep new blood vessels from forming and potentially feeding a cancerous tumor. Anthocyanins help to fight colon, esophageal, oral, and skin cancers.
Helps fight: colon, esophageal, oral, and skin cancers
Tomatoes -This juicy fruit is the best dietary source of lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene has been found to stop endometrial cancer cell growth in a study in Nutrition and Cancer. Endometrial cancer causes nearly 8,000 deaths a year. The biggest benefits come from cooked tomatoes because the heating process increases the amount of lycopene your body is able to absorb. Lycopene also helps to fight endometrial, lung, prostate, and stomach cancers.
Walnuts – Walnuts which consist of phytosterols (cholesterol-like molecules found in plants) have been shown to block estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, possibly slowing the cells’ growth. The phytosterols in walnuts also help to fight breast and prostate cancers.
Garlic – Phytochemicals in garlic have been found to halt the formation of nitrosamines, carcinogens formed in the stomach and in the intestines. An Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women with the highest amounts of garlic in their diets had a 50 percent lower risk of certain colon cancers than women who ate the least. Garlic phytochemicals also help to fight breast, colon, esophageal, and stomach cancers.
Beans – A study out of Michigan State University found that black and navy beans significantly reduced colon cancer incidence in rats, in part because a diet rich in legumes increased levels of the fatty acid butyrate, which in high concentrations has protective effects against cancer growth. Another study, in the journal Crop Science, found dried beans particularly effective in preventing breast cancer in rats. Beans also help fight breast and colon cancers.
In addition, Vitamin D- a fat-soluble vitamin which helps absorb calcium to build strong teeth and bones may also build protection against cancer. Researchers suggest that vitamin D curbs the growth of cancerous cells. A report presented at the latest meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) showed a link between increased vitamin D intake and reduced breast cancer risk. It found vitamin D to lower the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50%.
Vitamin D may also improve survival rates among lung cancer patients, according to a Harvard study reported in 2005. Patients who received surgery for lung cancer in the summer, when vitamin D exposure from sunshine is greatest, and had the highest intake of vitamin D, reported a 56% five-year survival rate. Patients with low vitamin D intakes and winter surgeries had only a 23% survival rate.
Vitamin D is found in milk, as well as seafood such as cod, shrimp, and Chinook salmon and eggs. And do you know that sunshine provides the body with Vitamin D? In just 10 minutes, you can soak up as much as 5,000 IU of vitamin D if you expose 40% of your body to the sun, without sunscreen.
Tea -If you enjoy tea, you’ll be happy to know that because tea contains flavonoids, in particular, kaempferol, responsible for anti-oxidant effects; tea is a promising protective agent against forms of cancer.
A large-scale study evaluating kaempferol intake of more than 66,000 women showed that those who consumed the most of it had the lowest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Researcher Margaret Gates, a doctoral candidate at Harvard’s School of Public Health, suggests that consuming between 10 milligrams and 12 milligrams daily of kaempferol — the amount found in four cups of tea –offers protection against ovarian cancer.
A separate study showed a link between consuming flavonoids and reducing the risk of breast cancer. The study, analyzing the lifestyle habits of nearly 3,000 people, showed that postmenopausal women who got the most flavonoids were 46% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who got the least. However, flavonoid consumption had no effect on breast cancer risk among premenopausal women.
Curcumin – Curcumin is one of the main ingredients in curry powder. By sprinkling curcumin onto your favorite dishes, you could be adding much more than a little spice to your meal — you could add years to your life. Experts credit curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects for its ability to fight cancer. “Most diseases are caused by chronic inflammation that persists over long periods of time,” says Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, a biochemist at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Recent studies have shown curcumin to interfere with cell-signaling pathways, thereby suppressing the transformation, proliferation, and invasion of cancerous cells. Curcumin’s protective effects may extend to bladder and gastrointestinal cancers. Some say its effects don’t stop with these types of cancer. Among the many cancers studied, no cancer yet has been found which is not affected by curcumin.
It is not enough to only eat foods that help to prevent cancer, it is also important to NOT eat foods that consist of high amounts of animal fats or saturated fat which has been linked to obesity. Obesity is a big cancer predictor. Opt for lean protein sources such as fish, low-fat dairy, chicken, and turkey. Processed meats such as hot dogs or bacon, while they are very tasty, tend to be high in nitrites and nitrates which are preservatives that can potentially increase your risk of stomach and other cancers.
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”, try changing your diet to include more healthy foods and vitamins and do your part in fighting the war against cancer and other diseases. A healthy diet equals a healthier you.