The causes of cancer can be broadly classified into genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Preventing cancer primarily involves tackling all these factors religiously, including eating foods that will prevent cancer. Read this blog post to know more.
Among the lifestyle factors, your diet should essentially include foods that help fight cancer and prevent normal cells from mutating into cancer cells. Such a diet of cancer-fighting foods is called the anti-cancer diet.
This anti-cancer diet is a result of innumerable studies conducted and coordinated across the globe. It contains foods to prevent cancer and also give you nutrition.
That diet and cancer are linked is an established fact. According to cancer statistics, 35% of cancer deaths may be due to wrong eating habits. 80% of the cancers are due to environmental factors and almost half of these are linked to dietary factors. What is required, therefore are anti-cancer measures, which one must follow to avoid this dreaded disease.
This article discusses the diet and cancer-fighting foods, you should incorporate in your meals that will help you prevent this disease and stay healthy. Armed with this knowledge, and putting it into practice, you can stay safe from cancer.
These cancer foods have been earmarked after conclusions of innumerable studies and research. These foods lower your risk of nearly all types of cancer and cardiac diseases. Those who are at a higher risk due to family history must necessarily follow this diet and screen themselves at prescribed intervals.
Basically, it is applicable to healthy people and those who are on treatment for cancer, young and old.
Incorporate these cancer-fighting foods into your diet
Try to understand why you need these foods and how they help:
Free radicals are unstable atoms in our body that can damage the DNA of the body cells. If the cell DNA gets damaged, it is very likely to turn cancerous.
The free radicals in our body are being continuously formed when we breathe or exercise, and more so when we are exposed to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or the sun’s UV rays.
Antioxidants track down these free radicals and neutralize them. This protects our body cells from mutating and becoming cancerous.
Though the body produces its own antioxidants to fight free radicals, you need to supplement the body’s supply by eating a diet with cancer-fighting and antioxidant-rich foods.
Colored fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and citrus fruits, are rich antioxidant sources. Other good sources include whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
The following anti-cancer dietary application will take care of your body’s nutrition and antioxidant supply to help prevent cancer.
Plant-based cancer-fighting foods
Research studies indicate a lower cancer prevalence among vegetarians than nonvegetarians. The reason for the high cancer incidence at present is the higher trend towards eating nonvegetarian foods.
The reason why plant-based foods have anti-cancer properties are:
- Plant foods have less fat.
- Plant foods contain phytonutrients, like beta carotene, which are natural active chemicals that are responsible for the pigmentation of the skin of fruits and vegetables. They have antioxidant properties, by which they neutralize the free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage and cause the cells in the body to become weak. They are responsible for many diseases such as cancer. Phytonutrients help by neutralizing these free radicals.
- Plant foods contain protease inhibitors, which have anti-cancer properties. Research in animal studies has shown that they inhibit the growth of cancer.
Eat fruits and vegetables that fight cancer
Make fruits and vegetables an essential part of your everyday diet. They play a very important role in cancer prevention. To get the best out of fruits and vegetables, buy those which are grown organically.
Why fruits and vegetables are considered cancer foods?
They contain five compounds, which are strong antioxidants and which neutralize the free radicals that are responsible for cancer formation. Those compounds are:
Vegetables that belong to the cruciferous or cabbage family contain certain compounds that boost your immune system and prevent carcinogens from invading your healthy cells.
Such cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens. Eating these vegetables generously will lower your cancer risk by 40%.
Below is a chart or list of anti-cancer vegetables and fruits that will help to prevent cancer.
|Anti-cancer vegetables||Anti-cancer fruits.|
|Tender turnip greens||Raspberry|
As mentioned above, antioxidants in your food play a very important role in cancer prevention. Their anti-cancer effect becomes more pronounced when they are taken together. For example, if antioxidants like vitamin C and E and beta-carotene are consumed together say, in a food combination like a salad, their synergistic effect is stronger against cancer than if they are eaten alone.
Eat a fiber-rich diet
This is one cancer food, which should form part of your cancer diet. Ideally, dietary fiber, which is present naturally in foods should be preferred over added fiber that is artificially added to processed foods.
The recommended intake of fiber for men is 38 grams while for women it is 25 grams.
A high dietary fiber diet helps prevent cancer in the following ways.
- The fiber in the diet helps in prompt evacuation of the bowels, thereby preventing the carcinogenic substances in the foods from staying in contact with the intestinal wall. Due to a reduced contact time with carcinogens, the risk of colorectal cancer is reduced. Fiber also binds the carcinogens and prevents them from adhering to the intestinal wall.
- Fiber binds the bile acids in the bile and prevents them from interacting with the bacteria in the decaying foods in the colon to form carcinogenic substances that can cause cancer of the colon and rectum.
- By creating an anti-cancer clean environment in the intestines, fiber promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora which keeps the unhealthy bacteria under control. For example, lactobacteria, which are friendly and healthy bacteria in the intestines, are necessary to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
- Fiber binds with the estrogen in the food, thereby reducing the risk of hormone-dependent cancers like breast, testicular, and endometrial cancers.
- Certain fibers like pectin (found in the skin of apples) nourish the cells of the intestinal wall and increase their immunity against cancer.
This, therefore, makes dietary fiber an important part of your anti-cancer diet and do make sure you are eating the right amount of it every day.
Rich food sources of fiber
Besides the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, the following are foods you must eat to have a rich fiber diet.
- Wheat bran
- Whole wheat
- Whole grains
- Whole grain bread – avoid white bread
- Kidney beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans,
- Prunes (dried plums).
Eat fewer fats
Eating more fats leads to weight gain and obesity. That obesity can cause cancer is an established fact. Your fat intake should be 20% of the total calorie intake. For example, if you consume 2000 calories in a day, your calorie intake through fats should be 400 calories.
Choosing the right fats to prevent cancer
Avoid saturated fats and trans fat because they potentially increase your cancer risk. Do explore the links for a detailed explanation. Avoid using foods and oils that contain saturated fats. Such foods and oils to avoid are:
- Whole dairy products
- Palm oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Cottonseed oils
However, all fats are not bad. There are certain fats that do not increase your cancer risk but may in fact lower it. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are unsaturated fats, which are good for you.
Certain regions where such fats are consumed regularly show a low incidence of cancer.
- The circumpolar peoples of the Arctic and subarctic regions consume fish generously, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Regions where the Mediterranean diet is followed. The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet rich in monounsaturated fats.
Some examples of such anti-cancer foods, which contain unsaturated fats, are:
- Fish such as salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids
- Non-hydrogenated vegetable oils such as flaxseed, sunflower, safflower, sesame, olive, canola, and pumpkin seed
- Plant foods such as legumes and nuts
Know which foods contain saturated fats and minimize their intake. Enrich your anti-cancer diet with foods that have mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Keep up your calcium and vitamin D intake
Calcium decreases your cancer risk in the following ways:
- Calcium regulates the growth and multiplication of the epithelial cells that line the intestines. This decreases the cancer risk as the faster proliferation of these cells can mutate them and cause cancer.
- Calcium also reduces your cancer risk by binding the bile acids in the intestines and not allowing them to interact with the bacteria in the intestines to cause cancer.
See to it that your calcium intake through your diet is adequate. If necessary, take calcium supplements to average your daily calcium intake to about 1000 to 1200 milligrams per day.
People in Sweden, who have a rich calcium diet (because their diet is rich in dairy products) show a very low incidence of colorectal cancer. A little sunshine exposure every day could be good for your vitamin D needs. Calcium and vitamin D significantly reduce cancer risks according to studies conducted.
Foods rich in calcium include
- Yogurt – plain and fruit
- Whole milk
- Low-fat milk
- Eggnog (a common holiday drink made of milk, eggs, sugar, and alcohol (optional).
These foods that help to prevent cancer explained above should necessarily form part of your everyday diet. This cancer diet will improve your nutrition and the cancer-fighting abilities of your body.