Contrary to the passive connotation to the word ‘vegetate’, vegetables are packed with a large variety of active ingredients that make them anticancer warriors. In my previous posts we discussed how 90 to 95% of cancers are not hereditary and how we are surrounded by hidden carcinogens in our day to day lives. In this post, we will see how our eating habits can affect our odds of getting cancer and how we can mitigate that risk.
Cancer Prevention and Eating Patterns:
The 2020 American Cancer Society Guideline on Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention include the following recommendations on eating patterns (1):
A healthy eating pattern
Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
As discussed previously, being overweight or obese increases the risk of at least 13 different cancers and is responsible for 11 to 20% of cancer related deaths. Maintaining a healthy body weight by eating right can therefore prevent the development of cancer. Healthy body weight ranges between a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 and 24.5 kg/m2 which can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters….or just simply click here :)
A variety of vegetables—dark green, red, and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others.
Fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors
Vegetables and legumes are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and biologically useful chemicals (carotenoids, flavonoids, etc) that prevent cancer. In addition, cruciferous vegetables are a special group that are rich in glucosinolates (the stuff that makes them taste pungent/bitter). These compounds have the ability to prevent cancer by limiting damage to our cells and even by inactivating carcinogens that surround us. Cruciferous vegetables include arugula, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, radish, turnip, watercress, wasabi… Colors in fruits and vegetables are due to the presence of phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants that are protective). For example, the role of curcumin in turmeric (haldi) in cancer prevention and treatment has been researched extensively with recent studies suggesting its use as a part of chemotherapy (2). Some other examples of phytochemicals include:
Approximately 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits per day are recommended as a cancer prevention dose.
According to the Whole Grains Council “Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.” (3)
Amaranth, barley, oats, wheat, millets, rye, sorghum, wild and brown rice, quinoa, corn, etc. are just some examples of whole grains….leaving no reason to include refined flour in one’s diet!
A healthy eating pattern
LIMITS OR DOES NOT INCLUDE
In addition to sodas, beware of fruit juices that camouflage their sugar content through vitamin C advertisements in large fonts! Eat your oranges instead and get some fiber along with that vitamin C.
Highly processed foods and refined grain products
Why have these when we have so much to choose from!
Include: A variety of colorful vegetables and fruits in your daily regimen in the form of a rainbow colored plate along with whole grain foods to not only protect you against cancer but also slow down tumor growth if you have already been diagnosed with cancer.
Exclude: Foods that are processed, refined or sugar-sweetened.
It’s that simple!
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Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, Gapstur SM, McCullough ML, Patel AV, Andrews KS, Bandera EV, Spees CK, Robien K, Hartman S, Sullivan K, Grant BL, Hamilton KK, Kushi LH, Caan BJ, Kibbe D, Black JD, Wiedt TL, McMahon C, Sloan K, Doyle C. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020 Jul;70(4):245-271. doi: 10.3322/caac.21591. Epub 2020 Jun 9. PMID: 32515498.
Giordano A, Tommonaro G. Curcumin and Cancer. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 5;11(10):2376. doi: 10.3390/nu11102376. PMID: 31590362; PMCID: PMC6835707.
Definition of a Whole Grain, The Whole Grains Council. Available from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/definition-whole-grain, September 2022.