Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cancer Prevention: Nutrition's Role

        No one food or combination of foods, will eliminate our risk of getting cancer 100%. But, there are foods that can help create an environment within our bodies, that makes it harder for cancer to develop. Some of the most potent compounds and vitamins that help fight cancer are: Folate, antioxidants**, phytochemicals and fiber. They help protect cells from damage, reduce inflammation and reduce the amount of Estrogen and other hormones, which encourage some tumors to grow.  There are also some foods that can increase our chances of developing cancer and these foods should be eaten rarely or not at all.

                                           FOODS TO AVOID
  There is a lot of evidence that alcohol is associated with an increased risk for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, colon and rectum.
Important news for women:
  Strong evidence shows that if you want to decrease your risk for breast cancer, you should severely limit or avoid alcohol.  1 drink a day, increases our risk by 10%, 2 drinks a day by 20%. It is believed that alcohol increases our risk because it increases Estrogen levels (which tumors feed on to grow), hurts our immune system and inactivates Folic Acid, which helps fight tumor growth.
Decreasing the amount of alcohol you drink, may be the most important nutritional change you make!

Processed Meats/Red Meat:
Cutting back on processed meats and red meat, will decrease your risk of colon and stomach cancer. Save these foods for special occasions only. Also cooking meat at a high temperature, over 350 degrees, can cause chemicals to form that promote cancer. 


1. Green tea: Studies have shown that drinking 3 cups of green tea a day may help prevent breast cancer by as much as 50% because of its high EGCG antioxidant content. You can put a little lemon juice into your tea and increase the antioxidant power 10 times.

2. Garlic: Garlic is an immunity booster and also has anti-inflammatory properties. You can add this to any veggie dish for a super cancer fighter meal!

3. The Cabbage family/Cruciferous Veggies
  Veggies with lots of color, such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale spinach, carrots and Swiss Chard have been shown to be great cancer fighters. Try to eat some raw,  because phytochemicals can be destroyed by heat. The green leafy ones bind estrogen in your GI tract and reduce tumor stimulation. They also help detoxify your liver.

4.  Blue, Red and Purple Fruits and Veggies:
 These delicious fruits and veggies are packed with Flavonoids.  Flavonoids are responsible for the rich purple and red colors. They have strong antioxidant properties which fight damage done by free radicals. Red cabbage is the vegetable with the highest amount of flavonoids . Blueberries, Strawberries, Cranberries, Pomegranates and Cherries are all packed with antioxidants and great cancer fighters. You can put them on cereal or make a frozen fruit smoothie with yogurt.

Grapes and Grape juice are rich sources of resveratrol, a natural phytochemical that belongs to a much larger group of phytochemicals called polyphenols Researchers found that not only does Resveratrol  suppress cell proliferation, it also activates caspase-3 the  “cancer-executioner protein”  which starts cells destruction of cancer cells, but inflicts no cellular damage to healthy cells. Resveratrol is especially potent against Colon Cancer.

5. Oranges:
 Oranges are high vitamin C content. They are also rich in many other anticancer compounds, including over 170 phytochemicals. Oranges are also rich in compounds known as limonoids, which have been shown to be highly effective anticancer compounds.

6. Tomatoes:
Tomatoes have Lycopene in them which has been shown to lower the risk of certain cancers such as Prostate Cancer. Cooking tomato products has been shown to increase their cancer fighting power. Some great yummy tomato foods are pasta sauce, salsa and tomato juice.

7. Monounsaturated fat:
   Monounsaturated fats like those found in Olive oil, Salmon, Borage Oils and flaxseed can help suppress tumor activity.

8. Turmeric and Cinnamon
 Turmeric is a delicious orange spice that tastes like curry, but a bit earthier. Turmeric is a fantastic cancer fighter because it helps decrease Estrogen. Studies have found that 1 teaspoon a day may reduce tumor growth. You can sprinkle it on Salmon (for a 1-2 punch), put it in salad dressing, rice or vegetable dishes. Cinnamon has also been shown to decrease inflammation and help fight cancer cells. Sprinkle some on apple slices or oatmeal.

9. Beans  
   Beans have many important compounds, including phytochemicals and protease inhibitors. Protease inhibitors are known to make it more difficult for cancer cells to gain a foothold in the body. They also have lots of fiber which has been shown to fight Colorectal Cancer.

10. Whole Grains:
Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and hundreds of phytochemicals, antioxidants, phenols, lignans and saponins. They are a great source of Folate which is a key cancer fighter. Substitute all white processed bread and pastas for whole grain choices.

A word about water:
  Drinking plenty of water has been shown to decrease our risk of bladder cancer. Substituting water for soda or other sugary drinks, will also decrease your caloric intake; which can help you lose or maintain your weight. (another important way to fight cancer.)

  The great thing about all of these foods is that they do more than just fight cancer! They are all part of a healthy diet that will help you loose weight, fight heart disease,  lower high blood pressure and reduce your chances of developing diabetes. And they are delicious! 

 For each meal divide your plate into 2/3 plant based food and 1/3 animal protein.
 There are other vegetables and fruits that contain these important cancer fighting ingredients. So, aim to eat a rainbow of food everyday to ensure your diet is full of cancer fighting compounds !

 **An important note about Antioxidants and Cancer Treatment: If you are currently undergoing treatment for Cancer, you should check with your Doctor before increasing your daily intake of antioxidants. Many therapies that fight cancer such as Chemotherapy and Radiation do damage to the cancer cells in order to kill them. If you are taking antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage, you may be lessening the effect of your treatment.

**Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cancer: What your weight and exercise has to do with it.


                                            THE SOBERING STATISTICS

   Cancer does not discriminate. It effects the very young to the very old. No one is immune from the possibility of developing it at some point in their lifetime. The average age of diagnosis is over 55 and the risk of contracting cancer increases with age.  Our current lifetime risk of either contracting or dying of cancer is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women.
   There are currently 12 million Cancers survivors (people who are being treated and those who are finished with treatment) living in the United States today.  About 1,596,670 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2011 and about 571,950 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year, which figures out to be more than 1,500 people a day. Although researchers are making great strides in the fight against Cancer, there is still a long way to go until there is a cure.
                                                  PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

    New evidence is showing that 1/3 of our yearly 550,000 cancer deaths could be avoided if Americans maintained a healthy weight, engaged in daily exercise and ate a healthy diet. Very strong evidence is now available showing that being overweight/obese also increases your risk of cancer recurrence and mortality after you have been treated for it. In other words, if you are diagnosed with Cancer, losing weight  and becoming or staying physically active is extremely important to help you live a long and healthy life. For women, the risk of death from all cancers increases 88% if their BMI is >40. For men, their risk of death from all cancers increase 52% when their BMI is > 40.

  Click here to find out what your BMI is.

The American Cancer Society's nutritional guidelines for cancer prevention are the same recommendations that have been issued to decrease people's chances of contracting  other diseases, such as Cardiac Disease, Hypertension and Diabetes:
 Most importantly:
Eat foods and have your total daily calories at a level that will allow you to maintain (or lose weight to get to) a healthy BMI of <25.

 General Guidelines:

  Eat a diet that is mostly plant based.
  Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  Eat whole foods, not processed foods.
  Eat whole grains instead of processed (refined) grains.
  Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  Eat lean protein.
  Avoid fried foods and foods with saturated fat.
  Drink plenty of water
  Limit or avoid alcohol.
     The American Cancer Society's statement on alcohol:
   "Alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and breast. For each of these cancers, risk increases substantially with the intake of more than two drinks per day. Even a few drinks per week may be associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer in women. The way alcohol increases the risk for cancer isn't 100 percent certain but the theory is that it may be due to alcohol-induced increases in circulating estrogen or other hormones in the blood, reduction of folic acid levels, or a direct effect of alcohol or its metabolites on breast tissue. If you have a high risk of breast cancer you might not want to drink any alcohol at all." 

 Engaging in daily physical activity is believed to reduce cancer risk by helping to maintain a healthy weight and by decreasing circulating hormones such as estrogen, insulin and insulin like growth factors. Physical activity after treatment, can decrease your risk of recurrence and dying of cancer. It can also give survivors a better quality of life, by helping them regain strength they may have lost during treatment.

 The American Cancer Society's recommendations for Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention:
     Adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above their usual activities, on 5 or more days of the week.
    *45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity are preferable for disease prevention.
    *Strength train 2 times a week to increase muscle strength and maintain weight loss. Strength training has also been shown to aid people undergoing cancer treatment. It allows them to tolerate the physical demands of chemotherapy, better than those who didn't strength train previously.
    * Vigorous exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer

                                                  A MAGIC BULLET?
          No, unfortunately there is no magic bullet. Despite all of the positive ways physical activity and weight management can help decrease our risk for Cancer, get through the treatment and live well after it, there is no guarantee it will prevent it from every occurring. As we know, there are many very healthy, athletic people that have had Cancer. Even professional athletes such as Mike Lowell, Bill Rodgers, Grete Waitz, Scott Hamilton and most famously Lance Armstrong, all  have had cancer, despite their superior level of physical fitness. 
  Therefore, it is very important to remember that if you do get Cancer, it isn't because you didn't do everything right. It isn't because you didn't eat all the right foods or because you spent a few years not exercising enough.
                      There is no blame. Cancer is still a mystery. Cancer sucks.
  However....despite the unpredictability of Cancer, more and more studies indicate that regular exercise and eating a healthy diet can help prevent many types of Cancer. Strong evidence also shows this healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of dying from Cancer after an initial diagnosis. There are many risk factors for Cancer that are beyond our control such as; age, genetics and environmental factors, but there are things we have know for a while that we can do such as,  stop smoking and wear sun protection.
   Now we also know that getting down to and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 5 days a week and eating a healthy diet can help prevent cancer.

 Having this information is about empowerment!  Until there is a cure, let's not give up without a fight!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month I will be blogging all October about different aspects of exercise and nutrition and their role in the fight against Cancer.

Here are some great websites that have more Cancer prevention and wellness information .
American Cancer Society
Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
The National Lymphedema Network