Krystine T. Nguyen, NMD, RD
Did you know that at any given moment, environmental factors can alter
the way our genes are expressed, resulting in millions of our cells undergoing
some form of DNA damage that favor cancer development? The statistics
from the National Cancer Institute reports that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3
women will develop cancer at some point in their lives. According to the
2013 statistics from the American Cancer Society, it is projected that
1,660,290 new cancer cases will be diagnosed, and estimated that about
1,600 people per day are expected to die of cancer this year, accounting
for 1 in every 4 deaths in the US. While the statistics are alarming, there are proactive approaches that
you can take to avoid becoming a statistic. The World Cancer Research
Fund estimated that one-third of all cancers are due to poor nutrition,
physical inactivity and excess weight, which could be prevented. As you can see, dietary choices and physical activity play significant
roles in cancer prevention.
What you eat can influence the nutrition your cells receive. Therefore,
food variety and types of foods you consume can significantly lower your
risk of getting cancer., Over 200 studies have documented that people are less likely to get cancer
when their diets are composed of colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods
that are rich in color are often high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are
"electron donors" that protect cells from the damage caused
by unstable free radicals known as "electron thieves" that steal
the electrons in a cell membrane to destabilize that tissue. Free radical
damage can lead to cancer. Dr. William Li, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation,
proposes a new way to defeat cancer by consuming foods that have anti-angiogenic
effect on cancer cells. Angiogenesis refers to a process through which the body creates new blood
vessels under specific conditions as part of the healing process for an
injury. However, when this natural system of checks and balances to regulate
the growth of blood vessels malfunctions, it opens the door for cancer
cells to take over and use our blood vessels to supply the cancer cells
with nutrients for their growth and survival at our own bodies' detriment.
It has been reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research and
Dr. William Li's research findings that certain fruits, vegetables
and spices have properties that can considerably prevent cancers and reduce
the growth of cancers.
broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower - contain indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which have shown to protect
DNA, inhibit tumor formation, and enhance detoxification of toxins in
the body. When these vegetables are slightly cooked, the anti-cancer effect
of sulforaphane is more potent. Be sure to incorporate steamed cruciferous
vegetables into your meals daily.
blue berries, black berries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries and
dark cherries - contain bioflavonoids – anthocyanidins, and ellagic acid, which
have been shown to have anti-angiogenic effect on tumors. They also cause
cancer cells to self-destruct (apoptosis), provide immune enhancement,
increase antioxidant status, and enhance detoxification. These colorful
berries make a wonderful fruit dessert, so be sure to incorporate them
in your diet daily.
Pomegranate: contains polyphenol antioxidants, flavonoids - ellagic acid, which studies
have shown to have anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells along with suppressing
the proliferation of cancer cells in breast, prostate, colon, bladder
and pancreas. Think about adding pomegranate to your salad, or juicing
it to enjoy the health benefits of this powerful super-food.
Garlic and onions: contain allicin, S-allyl cysteine, selenium, flavonoids (quercetin),
which have shown to block formation of cancer-causing agents, prevent
tumor growth, and provide anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells., These foods also provide immune enhancement and antioxidant function.
onions enhance the flavor of any dish. Ideally, eat them raw or can lightly sautéed
to prevent the heat from destroying their anti-cancer properties.
Maitake, Rei-shi, Shiitake, Agaricus brasiliensis mushrooms are potent anti-cancer foods. They contain beta-glucan, which
stimulates the immune system and even lowers blood pressure. Researchers
in Australia reported that women who ate 10 grams of fresh mushrooms or
4 grams of dried mushrooms daily decreased their risk of breast cancer
by 64% and 47% respectively compared to those who ate no mushrooms. Mushrooms
are versatile ingredients, you can add them to soup, or sauté them
to make a tasty side dish.
turmeric, rosemary, ginger - contain carnosol, curcumin, flavones, which have shown to inhibit tumor
formation, enhance the immune system and assist with detoxification, provide
antioxidant function, anti-inflammatory, apoptosis and anti-angiogenesis
effect on cancer cells (turmeric), and anti-nausea (ginger). Add these
spices regularly to your favorite dishes for the flavor
and the health benefits.
Green tea: contains polyphenols (EGCG- epigallocatechin-3-gallate) with powerful
antioxidant function along with anti-angiogenesis effect on cancer cells,
which have shown to interfere with the signaling for tumor growth, inhibit
tumor formation, and prevent genetic damage and cancer formation. Green
tea makes a refreshing beverage, so drink it daily for health benefit.
Celestial Seasons green tea contains the highest amount of EGCG, whereas
decaffeinated contains no EGCG.
The basic guidelines for cancer prevention are to eat a whole-foods diet
and a variety of colorful foods with emphasis on plant-based diet, and
to eliminate refined, processed and packaged foods. Buy organic foods
if affordable. Consume sufficient calories to maintain healthy weight,
and engage in regular physical activities.