It gets frustrating when new studies declare a certain food healthy, and overnight is determined to give us cancer. How are we supposed to know what to do?
This is a question I get on a daily basis. People are confused and frustrated by the seemingly contradictory nutritional information we receive from those in-the-know. In this article, I will give you some easy guidelines from which you may base your nutritional choosings.
Cancer is not the #1 killer in the United States, cardiovascular disease is. This week, I'm focusing on foods that fight cancer for these two reasons:
- Cancer is scarier and harder to treat than cardiovascular disease, and
- If you follow these guidelines, your cardiovascular disease will likely improve as well.
Taste the Rainbow
Mother nature has spent millions of years creating and designing wonderful foods that are not only delicious but can prevent diseases, including cancer. As we elaborate the various foods and their colors, keep in mind that we are designed to get our nutrients from a variety of sources. Each of the following colors are beneficial, but optimal health lies in accumulation of colorful foods.
White: Garlic, Cabbage, Cauliflower
Not only does garlic repel vampires, bacterias and viruses, it is beneficial for fighting cancer as well. Researchers found that although limited, the evidence “supported a relation between garlic consumption and reduced risk of colon, prostate, esophageal, larynx, oral, ovary, or renal cell cancers.”
Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that blocks the enzymes that trigger cancer. Therefore, not only is cabbage wonderful to heal the stomach after ulcers and gastritis, but it contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, making it a potent cancer preventer. Cauliflower comes from the ever healthy cruciferous vegetable family and has been linked to preventing the following cancers: bladder, breast, colon, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Green: Green Tea, Broccoli, Kale, Celery, Parsley
Green tea contains an antioxidant compound called polyphenols which clean up free radicals that can damage DNA and therefore preventing cancer. Broccoli and kale (along with cabbage) are also in the cruciferous vegetable family. The American Institute For Cancer Research describes in detail the benefits of cruciferous veggies and how they can be beneficial in preventing cancers of the breast, endometrium, lung, colon, liver and cervix.
Interestingly, broccoli sprouts contain much higher levels of these cancer fighting chemicals and therefore may be even better. For the benefits of celery and parsley, please refer to one of my previous posts.
Red: Tomatoes, Raspberries
While some of us were break-dancing in the 80’s, cancer researchers were discovering a red pigment in tomatoes that fights cancer. The pigment was lycopene and studies have shown it to fight many types of cancer but it is most famous for protecting against prostate cancer.
A good tip: Cook the tomatoes first, this liberates more of the cancer fighting properties. We already know that antioxidants squash free radicals that lead to cancer but Clemson University found that raspberries contain a particularly strong antioxidant called ellagic acid which could be anywhere from two-to-eight more powerful than most antioxidants.
Every living being on the planet has a way of defending itself. Grapes use a chemical called resveratrol. While resveratrol may help keep pathogenic bugs away, it seems to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in humans. The National Cancer Institute reports that in animal studies “this anti-inflammatory compound [resveratrol] may be an effective chemopreventive agent in three stages of the cancer process: Initiation, promotion, and progression.” Specifically, it could help in preventing leukemia, skin, breast, and prostate. Resveratrol is found in high numbers in the skin of grapes, especially red grapes which means that eating delicious organic red grapes is a great way to fight cancer. After grapes, red wine has the most resveratrol.
Yellow: Turmeric, Onions
Out of Asia comes a delicious spice called turmeric which packs a double-punch against cancer cells. First of all, it reduces cancers ability to begin with its anti-inflammatory properties and second, it contains curcumen which is a powerful cancer fighting antioxidant. Bad breath prevents many things, unfortunately cancer isn’t one of them. Unless its because you’ve been eating onions. Researchers at Cornell University found that along with never getting a date, people who ate yellow (and red) onions were protecting themselves against cancer. Just like the grapes using resveratrol to protect against pathogenic microbes, yellow onions produce defensive phytochemicals that “have potent antioxidant and antiproliferative activities” against cancers.
Blueberries possess that dark rich blue coloring that is full of antioxidants. While this quality may be useful in fighting various types of cancers, California researchers in the City of Hope found that blueberries have “the ability to control tumor growth, decrease metastasis and induce cell death in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells.” In other words blueberries may be useful in fighting more aggressive cancers.
Even though I have only highlighted a few of the cancer fighting natural foods, there are many more. I predict that as science catches up with nature, it will prove that most real, natural, unprocessed foods on the planet prevent or fight cancer in one way or another, as well as all major illnesses. So let’s just cut to the chase and focus on eating three balanced meals containing healthy protein, cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables and limited grains.