Anti-cancer round up…

I’m still in bed… but that’s the joy of the laptop… it’s here with me.

Even though I’m not eating my veggies today (I’m not eating much of anything), in giving up cancer for Lent I have learned some interesting tidbits about some of the foods we can include in our diet to make us healthier. On their own, none of these foods are going to prevent cancers but they do have curative and/or preventative properties. Adding them into an already healthy diet is just a good practice to get into… plus it can be a good excuse to eat some really great things!

  • Coffee doesn’t cause cancer! What a relief to learn. There is even some evidence (though nothing conclusive) that it has come preventative properties.
  • Garlic: no surprise here, garlic has lots of healthy properties, including anti-cancer ones. In fact, the whole Allium family (onions, leeks, garlic, chives, etc) has been shown to slow the development of cancer by protecting against the damage caused by carcinogens, it can also prevent the growth of cancer cells as well. The best method for releasing these properties is crushing, chopping or chewing (this one seemed pretty self-explanatory, I include it merely for humour value). Freshly crushed garlic is the best source of the anti-cancer compounds (better than supplements). Evidence shows a high onion diet can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 50%.
  • Cabbage: All members of the cabbage family seem to slow the development of cancer by preventing damage caused by carcinogens. This includes cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens and cauliflower (which, interestingly, is probably a descendant of broccoli and is white because it grows wrapped under a thick layer of leafs and is, therefore, deprived of chlorophyll). Broccoli and brussels sprouts are the best sources of the anti-cancer properties. Sauerkraut is especially good for your because the fermentation process apparently produces cancer fighting properties, in addition of what is already found in the cabbage (my dad would have loved that).
  • Brazil nuts: these are high in selenium, a trace mineral that actually convinces cancer cells to self-destruct. The nuts have an unusually high content of selenium so should be be eaten only occasionally (too much selenium can be toxic). Other sources are tuna, meat and breads, though in much lower quantities.
  • Fruits: The big ones we all hear about are blueberries and cranberries. They are rich in anti-oxidants which neutralize free radicals that damage cells and lead to cancer. Kiwi is another great fruit loaded with anti-oxidants. Citrus fruits are also potent anti-cancer foods. A daily dose may cut the risk of mouth, throat and stomach cancer by half.
  • Turmeric: used extensively in food preparation in India, turmeric is attributed by some to be the reason for the large difference in cancer rates between that country and North America. It’s principle active ingredient, curcumin, possesses numerous anti-cancer properties. The presence of pepper is believed to boost the absorption of curcumin. This may be why curry is considered to such a great cancer fighting food.
  • Grapes: contains resveratrol, a great cancer protecting compound. This is why red wine is so healthy. Grapes provide the same benefit, without the harmful effects of alcohol.
  • Omega-3: again, no surprise. It’s one of the only fats that is good for you. Flax seeds and walnuts are an excellent source, as are fatty fish like salmon, sardine, herring and mackerel. Whole foods are a much better source than supplements because its natural instability.
  • Tomatoes: contain the compound lycopene which scientists have shown reduces the risk of developing prostate cancer. The anti-cancer activity is maximized by cooking tomatoes with vegetable fats. Tomato paste is a particularly high source of lycopene. Scientists are even developing an anti-cancer tomato (it has a purple skin).

On the other hand, evidence shows certain methods of preparing foods can create cancer causing properties.

  • BBQ: grilling meat can create carcinogens. Coating meats in a thick sauce prevents direct contact with charring flames reduces exposure, as does starting the meat in the oven and finishing them on the BBQ.
  • Smoked, pickles and heavily salted foods: this is connected, particularly, to an increase in stomach cancer. As we’ve already discussed, smoked and cured sandwich meats contain nitrates which are linked to a lot of cancers.
  • Foods cooked at high temperatures: frying, baking and roasting food creates a chemical change resulting in acrilimides which have been liked to cancers of the stomach, colon, pancreas and breast.
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