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.

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