Key Facts: 40% of people in the United States are obese. Out of this, almost 1 out…
A healthy diet is a solution to many of our health-care problems. It is the most important solution. – John Mackey.
I could not agree more. What you eat has a powerful effect on your health. That goes to say that your diet can predispose you to cancer.
By definition, cancer is a group of diseases typically characterized by abnormal growth of cells anywhere in the body.
Generally speaking, an anti-cancer diet should be low in red meat and processed meat, processed and fried foods, sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. This diet should, however, be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and nuts.
Many foods contain beneficial compounds that prevent as well as help decrease the growth of cancer. Below are some of these compounds and their sources as well.
Carotenoid Rich Foods
Carotenoids are plant pigments that are responsible for the bright red, yellow, and orange color. There are many types of carotenoids, but the most prevalent in the human diet are the alpha and beta carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.
Carotenoids prevent cancer through 3 main ways:
Through the retinol process, carotenoids help regulate cell growth and differentiation, thus preventing abnormal growth cells and enhances the immune system.
Through the antioxidant actions, carotenoids protect the body against free radicals, which are substances that can lead to cell-damaging resulting in cancer.
Through cell signaling and communication functions, carotenoids can destroy any carcinogen (cancer-causing substances) in the body.
One of the readily available carotenoids is lycopene, which is richly available in tomatoes, covering 80% of lycopene in the U.S. diet.
Other foods that contain high contents of carotenoids are color-rich fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach, berries, cherries, watermelon, papaya, carrots, grapefruits, oranges, broccoli, apricots, squash, red and yellow peppers just to name but a few.
The best source for the astaxanthin carotenoid is aquatic animals such as crab, shrimp, and lobster. Go ahead and try these carotenoid-rich foods to lower your cancer risk.
Polyphenols Rich Foods
Polyphenols are nutrients mainly found in plant-based foods. Polyphenols are very potent antioxidants and also have anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are essential factors in cancer prevention.
In addition to reducing cancer risk, polyphenols have other health benefits. For instance, polyphenols prevent blood clots, lower your risk of heart diseases, reduce blood sugar levels, promote brain functions, and promote healthy digestion.
Some of the best sources of Polyphenols include turmeric and cinnamon, herbs, tea, chocolate, coffee, nuts, berries, beans, soy, and vegetables.
Allium Compound Rich Foods
The allium food family is maybe the most humble group of foods. It’s sad many people taken the foods for granted, yet they offer essential health benefits.
Allium compound rich foods include onions, leeks, chives, garlic, and scallions. They contain compounds that have strong tumor-inhibitory properties.
Foods containing allium compounds help prevent cancer, thanks to potent anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content. They also contain allicin, a compound that kills cancer cells. In other words, alliums block the formation of nitrosamines, a carcinogen that targets several body parts.
Regular consumption of allium compound rich foods is linked to the prevention of cancers such as gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, and prostate cancer.
So, go ahead and include this group of foods in your diet because it has many other health benefits.
For maximum benefit from alliums, allow your chopped onions, garlic, leek, or other alliums to sit for a few minutes before cooking or adding ay other ingredients.
Dietary Fiber-Rich Foods
Dietary fiber is plant-based carbohydrates that have several advantages compared to other carbohydrates.
The main body organ that benefits from foods that are rich in fiber is the colon. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) estimates that 45% of bowel cancer is preventable through diet, physical activity, and weight management. Additionally, dietary fiber helps you to fight off ovary cancer, endometrial cancer, and gastrointestinal cancer.
On top of that, dietary fiber contributes to a healthy microbiome.
Besides that, fiber adds bulk to stool, thus causing it to move quickly through the digestive system. Research has also attributed dietary fiber to changing carcinogens, making them less harmful. All these factors are responsible for the cancer risk-reducing property of dietary fiber.
Foods rich in dietary fiber include vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, melons, carrots, pears, oranges, and berries; legumes and pulses such as beans, lentils, and peas; whole-grain bread and pasta; whole grains, nuts, and seeds such as pomegranate seeds, almond nuts, oats, and corn.
When choosing fruits and vegetables, remember that the richer/darker the color, the higher the fiber content.
A healthy anti-cancer diet is incomplete without antioxidant-rich foods.
Oxidants are free radicals that cause cell damage in the body. Oxidants occur naturally and can be caused by environmental factors such as pollution or cigarette smoking.
Antioxidants protect the body against oxidants, which are substances that can lead to cell damage. This cell damage can lead to abnormal growth of cells resulting in cancer.
There are many examples of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and tannins, just to mention but a few. Good sources of antioxidants include seeds, nuts, herbs, spices, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Green tea and seafood are also good sources of antioxidants.
Plant-based sources of antioxidants are the best because fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are typically rich in fiber content. They are also good sources of minerals, saturated fats, and cholesterol, all of which are essential factors in lowering your cancer risk.
Eat Your Way to Low Cancer Risk
In a nutshell, a diet that can prevent or/and fight cancer does not look very different from the healthy foods you should be eating. Studies show that people who eat whole grain, lean meat or fish, fruits, and vegetables have a lower risk of cancer.
Such foods offer you phytochemicals that prevent cell damage and mutation.
They also enhance your immune system and protect your body from many diseases, not just cancer. On top of it all, these foods also help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Achieving and maintaining healthy body weight is vital because several cancers such as bowel cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, esophageal cancer, and postmenopausal breast cancer are associated with being overweight and obese.
Ultimately, as you look into your diet, consider foods that are organic, free of GMOs, and pesticides for your diet. Whereas some cancer risk factors such as genetics and environment are beyond our control, adopting a healthy anti-cancer diet can play a vital role in preventing and fighting cancer.