Phytochemicals & the Fight Against Cancer


Children facing the demands of cancer treatment must eat healthily in order to get the nutrients that can fuel the body and aid in healing as well as assist in maintaining a healthy weight.

Special nutritional challenges are bound to arise throughout treatment because the side-effects of Childhood Cancer and Cancer Treatment Therapies such as Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy can result in changes in your eating habits and differences in the way your body uses nutrients. Nutritional needs and eating habits are affected differently depending on the type of cancer and its treatment.

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals (phyto means plant in Greek). They provide plants with colour, odour and flavour. Once we eat them, however, research shows they can influence the chemical processes inside our bodies in helpful ways.

Findings from laboratory studies have shown that phytochemicals have the potential to:

  • Stimulate the immune system
  • Block substances we eat, drink and breathe from becoming carcinogens
  • Reduce the kind of inflammation that makes cancer growth more likely
  • Prevent DNA damage and help with DNA repair
  • Reduce the kind of oxidative damage to cells that can spark cancer
  • Slow the growth rate of cancer cells
  • Trigger damaged cells to commit suicide before they can reproduce
  • Help to regulate hormones

 

A Guide to Phytochemicals

Thousands of phytochemicals have been identified thus far, and scientists have only begun to investigate their benefits.

The chart below lists some of the phytochemicals now attracting serious scientific attention, identifies food sources and outlines potential benefits.

 

Phytochemicals

Phytochemical(s)
Plant Source
Possible Benefits
Carotenoids
(such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin)
Red, orange and green fruits and vegetables including broccoli, carrots, cooked tomatoes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, winter squash, apricots, cantaloupe, oranges and watermelon May inhibit cancer cell growth, work as antioxidants and improve immune response
Flavonoids
(such as anthocyanins and quercetin)
Apples, citrus fruits, onions, soybeans and soy products (tofu, soy milk, edamame, etc.), coffee and tea May inhibit inflammation and tumour growth; may aid immunity and boost production of detoxifying enzymes in the body
Indoles and Glucosinolates
(sulforaphane)
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) May induce detoxification of carcinogens, limit production of cancer-related hormones, block carcinogens and prevent tumour growth
Inositol
(phytic acid)
Bran from corn, oats, rice, rye and wheat, nuts, soybeans and soy products (tofu, soy milk, edamame, etc.) May retard cell growth and work as antioxidant
Isoflavones
(daidzein and genistein)
Soybeans and soy products (tofu, soy milk, edamame, etc.) May inhibit tumour growth, limit production of cancer-related hormones and generally work as antioxidant
Isothiocyanates Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) May induce detoxification of carcinogens, block tumour growth and work as antioxidants
Polyphenols
(such as ellagic acid and resveratrol)
Green tea, grapes, wine, berries, citrus fruits, apples, whole grains and peanuts May prevent cancer formation, prevent inflammation and work as antioxidants
Terpenes
(such as perillyl alcohol, limonene, carnosol)
Cherries, citrus fruit peel, rosemary May protect cells from becoming cancerous, slow cancer cell growth, strengthen immune function, limit production of cancer-related hormones, fight viruses, work as antioxidants

 

Steps to Take Now

While research continues, the best bets for achieving the maximum health benefits possible include:

  • Eat a varied diet high in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans
  • Favour brightly coloured or strongly flavoured vegetables and fruits, which are often the best sources of phytochemicals
  • Stick to food sources – phytochemicals in supplement form may not be as easily absorbed as those from food.

 

 

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About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 13 April, 2017, in Blog, nutrition and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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