Top Foods to Fight Cancer
Happy Valentine’s Day (weekend) everyone! Here are some tips on what types of foods you can begin to incorporate into your diet to help prevent cancer, reduce recurrence, enhance your immune system and give your body some extra love and nourishment. As some of you know, for the past several months, I have been working at a clinic in Montana, where my focus has been Naturopathic Oncology. I wanted to share some tips that I have learned, in hopes of enriching and informing the many choices you make each day. Enjoy!
Eat the rainbow! A diet that contains over 5 servings a day of fruits and veggies is a simple and delicious way to help protect against cancer.
Green leafy veggies contain chlorophyll, which inhibits lipid peroxidation. They also contain beta-carotine, a form of Vitamin A, which, if found in the diet (NOT recommended as a supplement), is associated with reduced risk of various cancers. They are also a great source of antioxidants, as well as folate, which has been shown to work as a preventative factor against colorectal cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussel sprouts, are rich in antioxidants, anti-microbials, Indole-3-Carbinol, glucosinolates, and sulforaphanes. The later 3 compounds can slow cancer growth and development, and are known to modulate hormone metabolism in the body.
Legumes and beans are a source of lignans, phytoestrogens, genistein, and isoflavones, which can block estrogen receptors on cells. This can be helpful in preventing and treating hormone based cancers. Lignans also increase liver output of sex-hormone binding globular proteins, which inactivate excess hormones. Beans also contain fiber, which is known to decrease the incidence of digestive cancers. They are also a source of iron and protein. My husband picked up these beautiful beans at the farmers market in Seattle, they were so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat them!
Spices have been used for thousands of years to treat a myriad of medical conditions. Turmeric, shown above, is potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory spice, often used in curries. Spices can also enhance the immune system, GI health, and detox pathways, so next time you cook – spice it up!
Citrus fruits, like lemon, grapefruit, and orange, are rich in Vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids and ellagic acid. The components are antioxidants, and can enhance detoxification and the immune system. High intake of Vitamin C is associated with a decreased incidence of intestinal cancers and Vitamin C can block the formation of cancer-causing compounds.
Members of the garlic and onion family contain: flavonoids, allicin, cysteine, and selenium, which can block the formation of cancer causing agents and slow or stop tumor growth. They also contain anti-oxidant and anti-microbial components, so are great used in soups during cold and flu season.
Olive oil contains oleic acid and oleocanthal, and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These components are anti-inflammatory and oleocanthal works as a COX inhibitor (which means they can reduce inflammation in the same biochemical pathway by which aspirin works).
Mushrooms have long been used as immune tonics, especially when extracted in hot water, such as tea or soup. Mushrooms are known for their high levels of beta-glucans, a type of polysaccharide known to activate certain immune cells. Reishi and Turkey Tail are two types of mushrooms especially used in cancer treatment.
Cold-water fish, such as salmon (shown above), are a great source of vitamin D and essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs reduce inflammation, enhance immune function and inhibit tumor formation in the body.
Nuts and seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber. They can play a role in hormone receptor modulation and are a rich source of antioxidants.
Got carb-aphobia? Well, eat up. Whole grains contain a variety of anti-cancer compounds, such as fiber, antioxidants, lignans, selenium, zinc and vitamin E which support elimination and detoxification pathways in the body while enhancing the immune system.
Dark berries and Grapes contain flavonoids (anthocyanidins and ellagic acid), which are cancer-fighting compounds. Resveratrol, found in red or purple grapes, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, thought to prevent cell damage before it begins, preventing tumor formation.
Green Tea contains polyphenols, like epigallocatechin-3-gallate (commonly known as EGCG), which has been shown to suppress the growth, and even development of some cancers. A protective amount of green tea is 5 or more cups daily, so talk to your health care provider about finding an encapsulated form of green tea … and in the meantime drink up!
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and to fight prostate cancer. I love the colors in the heirloom tomatoes pictured here. They tasted as good as they look!
The Definitive Guide to Cancer, by Lise Alschuler, ND and Karolyn Gazella
Naturopathic Oncology, by Neil McKinney, ND