Cancer Prevention Diet and Nutrition
Specific foods that have the most powerful preventative effect
Certain foods have come to the forefront in the past few decades of cancer research as heavyweights in the battle against cancer. The National Institute for Cancer Research presents an all-star line up of foods known for their effective cancer-fighting properties:
Beans (or legumes), which include lentils and peas, are rich in fiber and contain several chemicals that boost immunity to cancer. Saponins have shown the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in different tissues; protease inhibitors slow down cancer cells from multiplying and suppress proteases, potent cell destroyers; and phytic acid slows the growth of tumors. A study of 3,237 men of different ethnic backgrounds showed that the risk for prostate cancer was 38 percent lower in those who ate the most amount of beans, as compared to those who ate the least amount.
Berries are good sources of vitamin C and fiber, as well as a wonderful substance called ellagic acid, which has been found in laboratory studies to prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast. Strawberries and raspberries are particularly high in ellagic acid, and blueberries are loaded with a class of anti-oxidants as powerful as any seen. So splurge on berries in your morning cereal.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Substances in these vegetables have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells in laboratory studies, particularly by regulating a complex system of enzymes that provide a good line of cancer defense. High consumption of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a decreased risk for lung, stomach and colorectal cancers.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuces, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and Swiss chard all contain high amounts of fiber, folate and a wide range of anti-oxidants which attack and remove hazardous free radicals from the body. Researchers have found that carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables are effective in inhibiting the formation of breast and skin cancer tumors, and preventing lung and stomach cancer. High folate levels in men who ate diets rich in green leafy vegetables have been correlated with a reduced risk of lung cancer, particularly among men who smoke. Results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study showed a 44%lower risk rate for breast cancer in women who ate the most green leafy vegetables, as compared to those who ate the least.
Flaxseed is the best known dietary source for a substance called lignans, which appear to replicate the action of estrogen in the body. Flax oil does not contain lignans, though they are often added by the manufacturers. In some short-term human studies, flaxseed consumption modified estrogen metabolism such that there appeared to be a possible protective effect against breast cancer. It has also been shown to inhibit the formation of colon, breast, skin and lung tumors in more than one laboratory study. Flaxseed is also high in omega-3 fats essential fatty acids.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic and immune system enhancer, a free radical attacker, and it increases the enzymes that break down carcinogens in the body. Ample research has shown garlic to be one of the best foods to eat for cancer prevention, linking its consumption with slowing or stopping the growth of tumors in prostate, bladder, and stomach tissue, and preventing cancers of the skin and lung. The evidence is particularly compelling for garlic as a preventative agent against prostate and stomach cancers. The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that women who regularly ate garlic had a lower risk for colon cancer. Eat as much of this mighty food as you can stand!
Grapes, especially red and purple varieties, contain high levels of resveratrol, which belongs to a classification of plant chemicals called polyphenols. Resveratrol has been shown to slow the growth of cancer cells and inhibit the formation of tumors in lymph, liver, stomach and breast cells.
Green Tea is the best source of catechins in the human diet, containing about three times as many catechins as there are in black tea. The catechins found in tea selectively inhibit specific enzyme activities that lead to cancer and may also repair cellular damage caused by free radicals. Green tea has been shown to inhibit or block cancer development in colon, liver, breast, and prostate cells. Studies done in Asia show that frequent use of green tea lowers the risk for bladder, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. It has also been shown to aid in preventing recurrence of stage 1 breast cancer.
Soy foods, which include tofu, soymilk, soybeans, soynuts, miso (soy paste), tempeh, and soy burgers, are particularly relevant in their effects on hormone-related cancer. Soy contains phytoestrogens, a plant-derived, weaker form of estrogen that some scientists believe replaces the body’s stronger form of estrogen at estrogen receptor sites in the breast, thereby reducing the probability of developing cancer. Several human and laboratory studies have suggested that soy consumption early in life may help protect against breast cancer later in life. However, according to breastcancer.org, many doctors worry that phytoestrogens in soy may increase the risk of women who have already had breast cancer. In another human study, men who said they drank soymilk more than once per day for 20 years were found to have 70% lower prostate cancer risk than men who never drank soymilk.
Tomatoes contain the phytochemical lycopene, which is also found to a lesser extent in watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit. More than 35 studies have confirmed a lower risk of cancer as a result of high lycopene and tomato intake, especially cancers of the prostate, stomach, and lung. Lycopene compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate, so its protective agency there has received the most attention. Tomatoes have the highest anti-cancer potential when taken in a processed form such as tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomato juice, because of easier absorption. The PDR website reported a study that found that people with the lowest levels of lycopene are three times more likely to get lung cancer than those with the highest levels. African Americans in the same study were found to have eight times the risk of developing cancer when lycopene levels were lowest.
Turmeric is the spice most often used in curry powder. It has an active ingredient called curcumin that has shown resistance to colon, breast,liver, oral, skin, and stomach tumors in laboratory testing on animals. (probably poor Beagles - you bastards!)
Yogurt consumed in high quantities has been linked in some population studies to reduced risks of cancer, particularly of the breast and colon.