The Anti-Cancer Diet
Wellness For Life / November 15, 2014
Cancer is challenging and takes a toll on the patient and family members. It is not easy to go through by anyone. Cancer can be of many kinds and types. Cancer is essentially caused by uncontrolled cell division. Our healthy cells are programmed to follow a growth, division and death cycle (also known as apoptosis). When this process fails, cancer begins, where the cells do not die, instead continue to grow and divide. This can then result in a growth or mass, which is classified as a tumor. Tumors can stay in one location, or spread (i.e. metastasize) to other parts of the body. This is how cancer spreads throughout the body, at later stages. A variety of techniques such as ultrasounds, CT scans, MIR’s, PET’s, X-rays, biopsies, etc. are used to diagnose cancers. Treatment is usually a combination of therapies, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy or gene therapy.
The cause of cancer is the real issue. According to the National Cancer Institute, a collection of factors play a role in the development of cancer, spread over many overs. Factors include lifestyle, behavioral, and environmental. Lifestyle choices such as diet and physical activity contribute to overall health. Behavioral preferences such as smoking and using sun protection also play a role in cancers such as lung and melanoma. Environmental hazards such as harsh chemical exposure (i.e. industry toxins, pesticides, and second hand smoke) and known carcinogens, considerably increase your cancer risk.
Though there are many variables, diet and nutrition play a very important role in cancer prevention, and giving you a robust immune system. There is tremendous amount of research linking cancer-related deaths to improper diet, excessive smoking, drinking, and lack of physical activity. In this article we will target the diet, as a means of decreasing your risk of cancer, and protection against it. In the meantime, remember that avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and increasing physical activity are all part of the package to good health.
Diet for different cancer varies, and there are different factors to be considered during, and after the treatment. Here are some of the general tips to prevent risk factors associated with cancer.
Diet Considerations to Lower Cancer Risk
Fats are of many varieties. They can be good or bad depending on the kind, but roughly ten percent of our diet should consist of the healthy fats. So, let’s look at the different classifications of fat.
The unhealthy fats are the saturated and trans fats. These would be found in oils such as palm, kernel, coconut, and cottonseed oils. These are also called hydrogenated fats or partially hydrogenated, and typically have a long shelf life. These can be found in cookies, potato chips, crackers, doughnuts, packaged foods, salad dressing, shortenings, margarines, and are widely used in fast food restaurants. These fats are harmful to health and act as carcinogens, as they have an extra hydrogen molecule added to the fat molecule, which interferes with cell metabolism.
On the other hand, healthy fats can act as cancer-fighting agents. Healthy fats are classified as unsaturated fats, which are plant based, and liquid at room temperature. Good sources of such fats include olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados, legumes, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in nuts, seeds, and some oils) have anti-inflammatory properties, which are heart and brain healthy. Other oils that are healthy are walnut, pumpkin seed, safflower, sunflower, sesame, and extra virgin olive oil. It is best not to overheat these oils, as they will burn and become carcinogenic.
It is always a good practice to limit fat in our diet, but to include what is necessary for normal bodily functions. Too much fat leads to obesity, which is a factor for cancer, as unwanted hormones are produced via excess fat in the body, creating inflammation, and disrupting normal cell function. Obesity is a known risk factor for colorectal and breast cancers. So, limit your fat intake to only what is required and that too from healthy sources.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are no doubt nature’s best defense against disease, including cancer. Innumerable studies show reduced cancer risk attributed to consumption of fruits and vegetables. There are five distinct groups of compounds found in fruits and vegetables that help fight cancer, which are: phenols, indols, flavones, cumines, and isothiocyanates. They serve as a neutralizing factor that prevents the carcinogens from getting to the intended cell sites. Other compounds such as sulforaphane, found in some vegetables increase immunity and inhibit carcinogens into the cells.
Some antioxidant rich fruits would include (but are not limited to): raspberries, apples, pears, strawberries, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, mango, apricots, citrus fruits, dried fruit, prunes, and raisins.
Some antioxidant rich vegetables would include (but are not limited to): broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, spinach, dark green leafy vegetables, peas, artichokes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes.
Diet Rich in Antioxidants can Lower Cancer Risk
There is enough evidence and research to show that antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals that are formed in our bodies, through various reasons, that wreak havoc on all systems of the body (mainly by causing inflammation and reducing immunity). In the case of colorectal cancer, antioxidants protect the membrane of the intestinal cells, as well as block cell metabolism malfunction. Let’s look at these a little closer.
Beta carotene boosts immunity and release a chemical called tumor necrosis factor, which wards off cancer cells. It therefore, can prevent the growth of cancer cells. This would of course have to be consumed in large amounts, roughly around 15-25mg per day (i.e. 30,000 IU). This dosage is ten times of what we get in our diets, but can be achieved without the help of supplements. Rich sources of beta carotene include (but are not limited to): sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, pumpkins, butternut and other squash, spinach, broccoli, mango and papaya. One carrot contains 4.4mg of beta carotene; one medium sweet potato contains 12 mg; and half a cup of butternut (and other) squash contain 2.4mg. Also, combining these foods with lycopene found in tomatoes increases the availability of beta carotene to the body.
Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant, with multiple benefits. Research has shown very low rates of intestinal cancers in individuals with high vitamin C intake. Apparently, vitamin C blocks potent carcinogens such as nitrosamines in the gut. Of course, another well-known benefit is marked up immunity, which will help curtail many diseases, including cancer. No doubt, fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of vitamin C. It is noted that 1000-2000 mg of vitamin C every day, can have anti-cancer effects.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, and nuts, seeds, oils, green vegetables, avocados, and whole grains are the best sources of it. Vitamin E enhances immunity and aids in production of antibodies. Studies have shown that men and women with high levels of vitamin E in their diet have a reduced risk of all types of cancers.
Raise Your Fiber Intake
Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and is the part of these that is left undigested (also known as roughage or bulk). Daily recommended intake of fiber is at least 25 grams. Fiber has many advantages with respect to the colon, and that is why there is great evidence showing reduced colorectal cancer, with a diet high in fiber. Let’s look at some of the benefits below.
- Fiber moves food out of the intestines quickly, therefore limiting the contact time between carcinogens and intestinal wall.
- Fiber also binds to potential carcinogens, again keeping them away from the intestinal wall.
- Fiber promotes the growth of healthy bacteria, which don’t leave room for the bad bacteria to grow that produce fecapentanes. Fecapentanes are the cancerous substances formed by decaying foods within the gut.
- Best anti-cancer fiber foods include: wheat bran, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, whole wheat, whole grains, legumes, prunes, vegetables, and fruits.
- Some ways to add more fiber to your diet: use brown rice (instead of white); use whole grain bread (instead of white); choose a bran muffin (over a pastry); snack on popcorn (instead of potato chips); eat fresh fruits with skin on; eat baked potato with skin (instead of mashed); enjoy fresh carrots, celery, or bell peppers with hummus (instead of chips and dip).
Other Anti-Cancer Nutrients
Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin, as it is readily made in the body with 15-20 minutes of sun exposure daily. Milk and certain other foods are fortified with vitamin D as well. With regards to cancer, it subdues the formation of new blood vessels that can nourish the growth of cancerous tumors. Studies have shown lower rates of breast, prostate, and colon cancers in places of more sunshine.
Selenium is a mineral that is a strong antioxidant. Research has shown individuals with lower levels of blood selenium are more likely to develop colon polyps. Selenium is most readily absorbed when consumed with foods high in vitamin E. Some sources of selenium are whole grains, vegetables (depending on the soil that they are grown in), brown rice, cottage-cheese, sunflower seeds and Brazil nuts.
Zinc is another mineral that helps in healing wounds, and strengthens the body’s resistance against cold viruses. It is useful for good working immune system, to ward of diseases. It can be found in whole grains, seeds, and beans.
Acidophilus is an intestinal-friendly bacteria, often found in yogurt. It has shown to have anti-cancer properties. Acidophilus encourages the growth of friendly bacteria, and reduces the conversion of bile acids into carcinogens. Good levels of these in the gut have also shown a reduction in colon enzymes that produce harmful and potential carcinogens from the deterioration of food. So, include yogurt as part of an anti-cancer diet.
Green tea contains a phytochemical called ‘catechins’, which have been shown to restrict the growth of cancer cells. Enjoy green tea with a splash of lemon juice to increase the absorption of the catechins in the body. Please note that it is not advised to consume green tea if under cancer treatment, as it can have interactions with the medical treatments being administered.
Spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, basil, rosemary, and coriander all have cancer fighting chemicals, and are great for adding flavor to any dish. So, experiment with these and other in your next meal.
Considering that a major portion of the body is made up of water, it is vital to the overall well-being. Water is a carrier for many nutrients to all of your organs, as well as a medium to eliminate waste and toxins from the body. These functions promote immunity and better health.
Many have been cured of cancer with a collective application of medical treatment, alternative therapies, and lifestyle changes. Like always, prevention is better than cure. Simple lifestyle changes can have an enormous effect on your risk of cancer and other diseases. It is clear that a vegetarian diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and legumes is beneficial in combating cancer, as it provides vital vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Include these in every meal, along with consistent physical activity, and relaxation techniques for stress reduction, for a complete healing package. JK Yog principle follows similar practice of vegetarian diet, yoga and meditation for stress relief and works on five core principles, which promote wellbeing and disease prevention.
Disclaimer: All the content in this article is meant to be an informative piece. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new regiment of physical activity, diet modifications, or alternative treatments.