Foods that may help prevent cancer
Nutrition is undoubtedly important when considering cancer treatment. The ability to eat adequately before, during and after a treatment is vital to help patients keep energy levels sufficient enough to endure this challenging process. Research suggests there are a number of foods that could be effective protectors against certain types of cancer, and are considered to have ‘anticancer’ properties.
The active compounds found is some of these ‘anticancer’ foods are believed to help prevent the growth of tumour cells due to their specific properties, with research continuing to investigate these possibilities. For example the high levels of vitamin A in carrots or peaches, lycopene found in tomatoes or strawberries, the indoles present in cabbages, citrus flavonoids, anthocyanins and phenols from grapes, aubergines or spinach.
Unfortunately, cancer is a disease that has affected humans for many centuries. Tumours have been found in fossils of Egyptian mummies and documented in scriptures dating back over 5,000 years, including in the ‘Egyptian medical papyrus of herbal knowledge’ or ‘Ebers Papyrus’.
Scientists say that leading a healthy lifestyle (including having a balanced diet) may help to stem the development of a number of different types of cancer. Experts say that between 20% and 25% of malignant tumours could be avoided through patients having an adequate diet.
Foods containing high levels of fat, including excessive amounts of red meat, along with coffee sweeteners or preservatives are advised to be kept to minimum consumption, to help promote general good health.
Lycopene found in fresh tomatoes, is what gives them their red colour. The lycopene in tomatoes has antioxidant properties and appears to help prevent DNA and cell damage.
Researchers say that diets rich in the antioxidant lycopene may help prevent the development of prostate cancer. It may also protect against cancers of the lungs, breasts and kidneys, but more human-based research is needed to confirm this.
Pomegranates contain elements that could restrict the movement of cancer cells according to a study from the University of California. The research suggests that pomegranates could reduce metastasis, which is the movement of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. This means they could potentially help prevent the spread of cancer within the body.ducted at the University of California.
According to a study by the University of Rutgers, USA, drinking coffee can reduce the chances of contracting skin cancer. The study suggests consuming coffee or even applying it to the skin could be an effective method to protect against this type of cancer, due to its caffeine content. Caffeine inhibits an enzyme ATR, which plays an important role in the survival of cells damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays, most commonly emitted by the sun. Inhibiting ATR can eliminate UV-damaged cells that are precancerous.
Like eggs, milk is deemed to have ‘anticancer’ properties because of its high vitamin D content. Breast milk has also been identified as an important protector against childhood cancerous tumours, because of the proteins TRAIL and ‘HAMLET’ (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumour cells) found within this milk.
According to a 2009 animal study, polyphenols found in plums and peaches may help prevent breast cancer cells from forming, and later multiplying. The evidence suggests polyphenols help kill cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells alone. This discovery may open up new opportunities with regards to chemotherapy, which could offer patients the benefits of treatment without the harmful side effects that chemotherapy currently emits.
Scientists at the Marshall University School of Medicine in the USA have demonstrated that eating a handful of nuts on a daily basis could reduce the risk of breast cancer. This is due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it contains a type of chemical called glucosinolates. This chemical, along with the other components found in cruciferous vegetables, may have cancer-fighting properties. Broccoli also contains high levels of isothiocyanates. This substance, also present in cabbage and cauliflower, removes the protein from the defective p53 gene that causes abnormal cell growth, potentially preventing cancer from spreading around the body.
According to research carried out by Long Island University, USA, one of the components of oregano, carvacrol, induces apoptosis - the process of getting rid of unneeded or abnormal cells in the body. The study demonstrated that oregano has the potential to stop the growth of cancerous cells and could help to kill them off, specifically in the prostate. Carvacrol is also known to have anti-inflammatory antibiotic properties.
Chicken eggs are good dietary sources of choline, lutein and selenium. Some studies suggest that consuming choline could be linked to a reduced possibility of developing breast cancer. In several epidemiological studies, lutein has been specifically linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Eggs are also are also a good source of vitamin D, another important nutrient, believed to support cancer prevention.
According to a recent study, men who drink around four glasses of red wine per week could reduce their risk of getting prostate cancer by 50%. This is due to the presence of the antioxidant resveratrol in red wine.
Resveratrol reduces the levels of male hormones, such as testosterone that can stimulate cancerous tumour growth. However, it is important to remember that there is scientific evidence that proves that drinking too much alcohol is associated with a higher risk of mouth cancer (specifically in the oral cavity and pharynx).
Alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer by damaging the DNA of cells.
Green tea contains high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants, meaning it is noted as a powerful ‘anticancer’ drink. Drinking green tea is said to help prevent cancer cells from dividing and multiplying, which makes this healthy beverage a good potential ally to help fight this disease.
According to the American Cancer Research Institute, cereals, such as wheat or rye, contain a number of ingredients that could prevent the onset of cancer. These foods have the ability to accelerate intestinal transit and help prevent cancer of the pancreas, stomach, colon and breast.
A number of research studies have documented that olive oil reduces the risk of breast cancer. It is the polyphenolic compounds found in olive oil that are believed to help fight breast cancer in its most aggressive phases. The properties of olive oil offer the body a wealth of antioxidants along with helping to prevent cholesterol absorption in the small intestine.
Olive oil also helps to stimulate the absorption of various nutrients (calcium, iron, magnesium, etc.). Antioxidants are needed by the body to help fight against cell mutations that are caused by cancer, meaning that eating a healthy diet with olive oil as the main source of fat could considerably lower cancer risks.
The aloe vera plant has the ability to strengthen our immune system and prevent damage to the germ phases of pancreatic and lung cancer.
They say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away… and in the case of cancer it could well be true. According to a study by researchers from the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, Italy, (published in the Annals of Oncology), regular consumption of apples could significantly reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including esophagus, ovarian, bowel or prostate. In addition, the phytochemicals in this fruit is believed to help prevent breast cancer.
In general, red fruits, but especially blueberries, provide the body with vital antioxidants and flavonoids that are responsible for fighting against free radicals in the body. It is these free radicals that are responsible for damaging cells and what can lead to cancer.
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for giving chilli its ‘heat’, could one day be turned into a therapeutic cancer treatment, according to scientific research. It is believed, this compound binds to a cancer cell and triggers changes within it. With enough of this compound present, scientists believe it could cause the membrane to breakdown, therefore essentially attacking the tumorous cells from within.
Cumin is commonly used to flavour many Asiatic dishes. This yellow spice is rich in phytochemicals, a substance that can protect you against chronic diseases, including cancer.
Flaxseed contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, compounds called lignans and dietary fibre, meaning eating flaxseeds can be particularly beneficial for overall health. They help to prevent constipation, heart disease, osteoporosis and may help to prevent cancer.
Flaxseeds provides the body with Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - a form of omega-3 that some studies say may have anti-inflammatory compounds. As inflammation is associated with increased cancer risk, the anti-inflammatory effects of this omega-3 fatty acid may help protect against cancer.
Garlic is another potent antioxidant, offering the body numerous types, including lysine and quercetin. Both these antioxidants are considered to have anticancer properties . These antioxidants are also known for helping to ward off the common cold. You can eat garlic raw, use it to flavour dishes, in salads or pasta dishes - the benefits you can reap will be the same.
Ginger is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals in our body. It also has has anti-tumour properties. Some research claims that ginger is more effective than many cancer drugs.
Ginger root is believed to help combat specifically against tumours in the prostate, according to research from Georgia State University. Their animal based study showed that ginger extract reduced the size of prostate tumours in rats by 56%.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard or lettuce contain high levels of carotenoids, an element that acts as an antioxidant for humans. Carotenoids help to absorb free radicals, preventing them from becoming harmful for the body. Spinach, it could be said, has a super ‘anticancer’ power, because it contains at least 13 different flavonoid compounds that function as antioxidants or as ‘anticancer’ agents.
Onions contain flavonoids, responsible for protecting cells. These organic compounds are said to prevent and stop the development of certain cancers.
Similar to oregano, parsley has multiple benefits associated with cancer prevention. It works as an anti-inflammatory, used to treat fungal infections, viruses and can help to reduce muscle spasms. The compound apigenin found in parsley is a flavonoid that scientists believe, shortens the life of cancer cells.
Dairy products have their pros and cons when it comes to the diet. Although they are a good source of calcium, they are often high in fat. There are conflicting research studies around the extent that dairy products could increase the chances of developing breast cancer. A recent study found that while certain types of cheese can increase the risk of breast cancer, yoghurt is said to reduce that risk.
Salmon, trout, herring, sardines and mackerel are understood to be great allies against cancer. In general, these species of oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which means they help to reduce inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are also said to be particularly beneficial in helping prevent breast cancer, malignant melanoma and leukemia.
Consuming soya has been linked to breast cancer prevention. A study in the UK found that consuming 11g of soya per day reduces breast cancer recurrence and death rates in women.
This orange spice frequently used in Indian cuisine has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has a polyphenol called curcumin that can destroy cancer cells and block a protein associated with stomach cancer.
Sweet potatoes are high in the compounds beta-carotene and tocopherol, which stimulate the immune system. They are also believed to help eliminate chemicals that cause cancer, improve memory and prevent heart disease.
A compound found in tofu, genistein, has antioxidant properties that are believed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It has been said, consuming small amounts of tofu on a daily basis can reduce the chances of breast cancer recurrence by around 25%.
Organic meats, including beef or chicken liver, are recommended in many diets that fight cancer because they are considered to be some of the most nutrient dense foods and are extremely high in vitamin B12.
The consumption of organic meat can help cleanse the liver and improve the ability to eliminate toxins from the blood and digestive tract. These mineral-rich foods can help counteract the effects of alcohol, prescription medications, hormonal alterations, high triglyceride levels, low potassium content, obesity and viral infections.
The brightly coloured pigments found in citrus fruits are a good sign that they are full of phytochemicals, especially carotenoid antioxidants. Carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin) are derived from vitamin A found in many citrus fruits, as well as in berries, pumpkins and other plant-based foods.
When it comes to carbohydrate-rich vegetables, studies show that complex carbohydrates, including sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and whole grain foods, are linked to a reduced risk of various types of cancer. On the other hand, eating too many refined grains and food with a high glycemic index is associated with an increased risk of different types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer.