Fight Cancer with Healthy Foods
Recent data from the National Cancer Institute suggests that over the course of a lifetime, the risk of developing cancer is one in two for men and just over one in three for women.
And, according to the American Cancer Society, one-third of fatal cancer cases could be prevented by being more active, losing weight, or eating a more nutritious diet.
We are often told to follow a nutritious diet, but what exactly does that mean? Picture a rainbow on your plate made of beans, peas, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (similar to the Mediterranean Diet).
A cancer-preventative diet is one that is rich in all these foods and low in red meats, processed meats and dairy. The Mediterranean Diet unlike the typical brown and white Standard American Diet (SAD), focuses on brightly-coloured produce, legumes and fresh herbs.
This type of diet offers plenty of nutritional foods that actually taste very good, which is great because we all know that if the food doesn’t look and taste good, we won’t eat it.
To simplify things, let’s break down cancer-fighting nutrition into three groups of foods you can add to your diet to help decrease the chance of developing cancer:
- Beans, Peas, and Lentils (Legumes): Legumes are not only rich in fibre and antioxidants, they are also void of unhealthy saturated fats, trans fats, and nitrates typically found in fatty red and processed meats. The research is plentiful when it comes to eating more plant-based meals to help reduce the risk of cancer. Swap out the beef in your burger for a bean patty or use beans or lentils in your taco instead of meat.
- Kale and Cauliflower: Cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, rutabaga, turnips, radishes, swedes, and broccoli all fall into the category of cruciferous vegetables that are some of the most nutrient-dense on the planet. They also contain compounds that may prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. Add fresh greens to your morning smoothie, mix bok choy into your stir fry, or roast diced rutabaga with a drizzle of pure maple syrup for a simple side dish.
- Tomatoes, Watermelon and Apricots: Research indicates that diets rich in tomatoes, an excellent source of lycopene, may offer protection against prostate, lung and stomach cancers. Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes, watermelon, apricots and guava their vibrant colors. It is also believed to provide health benefits and reduce your risk for cancer. The next time you are craving Italian, cut your pasta with zucchini noodles, extra virgin olive oil, and a hearty splash of tomato sauce for a delicious meal to stave off cancer.
Your daily food choices can make a big difference in helping reduce your risk of cancer, so incorporate more of these veggies into your daily meal plan; even if you only add them occasionally, you will still help to reduce your risk.
The three important things to remember: Swap out red meat for beans or lentils, eat leafy greens daily, and top your vegetables at dinner with a hearty tomato sauce for a cancer-fighting meal.
There are in excess of 100,000 disease-fighting phytonutrients in our food and while one may find one or two of them in a pill, the synergistic effects of such micronutrients work far differently when isolated in a pill rather than being consumed via fresh food.
When beta carotene supplements were provided to help reduce cancer risk, the outcome was just the opposite; the risk of lung cancer actually increased among smokers. The bottom line is this: food first. If we don’t know the specific phytonutrients or how they work synergistically with other components within that food, how can we replicate the holistic effects with a supplement?
SO the take-away from this is that your mother was right all along – you need to eat your veggies 😀