What to Eat to Treat Cancer
Cancer affects all six immune centers.
Think indole-3-carbinol (I3C) to sidestep or help heal from cancer. In nature, I3C is a cancer-blocking constituent of cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts) and may speed up the detoxification of many potentially toxic, tumor-promoting chemicals and also block the production of hormones linked to reproductive cancer.
Your soup spoon or salad fork can be valuable tools in the prevention and reversal of cancer—we need all the help we can get. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average American carries a body burden of ninety-plus industrial chemical pollutants, heavy metals, PCBs, and insecticides. Up to 10 percent of women carry mercury concentrations at levels that endanger the neurological health of a newborn. Worse, more than 3,000 chemicals are added regularly to our food supply and 1,000 new chemicals are introduced each year—many poorly tested or not tested at all.
Big C, Little C
In simple terms, cancer, which now affects one of every three women in North America, develops when changes to DNA (nucleic acids that are the basis of heredity, containing the genetic blueprint) produce malignant cells that replicate but are not controlled or killed by natural defense mechanisms in the body. Cancers can be hereditary, but to fully develop, there needs to be an environmental trigger. Indeed, according to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 95 percent of cancers are caused by diet and environment, not by genes. For example, free radicals are created as the result of an oxidative process triggered by chemical toxins and unhealthy fats in the diet. Exposure to viruses, industrial pollutants, and radiation figure in, too.
In the case of radiation, no exposure is too small to initiate cellular damage, according to Dr. John W. Gofman, M.D., professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Gofman’s research finds that no amount of radiation, no matter how small it might be, is safe. He adds that exposure to radiation from medical procedures is a “highly important (probably the principal) cause of cancer and ischemic heart disease in America.” Whole body scans, heart scans, PET scans, and virtual colonoscopies also emit tremendous amounts of radiation and should not be used for routine screening. Even magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs) and magnetic resonance angiograms (MBAs) emit electromagnetic radiations. Ultrasounds are completely safe. The cumulative effect from various sources of cancer-causing substances may take from five to thirty years to develop into actual tumors. Don’t start counting, start eating and living according to precautionary principles. One day at a time may save your life.
What to Eat
Small changes for the better—like a big bowl of soup, especially when it’s low fat—indeed pay big dividends. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), even a small reduction in daily fat intake—as little as 6 percent—can yield significant risk reduction. hTe NCI also recommends limiting salt, additives, animal products, and alcohol. The American Cancer Society agrees that 60 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented with a healthier lifestyle, including a cleaner diet. A daily dose of whole grains can boost the levels of your antioxidants that fight cancer. In fact, grains such as whole wheat, oats, and corn can have as many protective phytochemicals as fruits and vegetables, and sometimes more. According to Cornell University researchers, corn specifically has twice the antioxidant activity of whole wheat or brown rice. The soluble fiber found in grains and in raw produce helps prevent cancer by preventing the uptake of excess estrogen, a potential carcinogen.
The Stinking Rose Against a Stinking Disease. Regular consumption of garlic in salads, soups, sauces, and supplements has a significant effect on lowering cancer risk. In countries where large amounts of garlic and onion are consumed daily, stomach cancer risk is 90 percent lower than in countries where it is a sometimes thing. A study by researchers at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center suggests that four salads a week (as well as one or two low-impact exercise sessions) can help reduce your risk of lung cancer by 67 percent.
Try a Little Pineapple Salsa. According to researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, pineapple contains bromelain. An extract of crushed pineapple contains protease enzymes that block the growth of a broad range of tumor cells, including breast, lung, and colon. As a bonus, bromelain is a rich source of enzymes for digestion and reducing inflammation.
No to Pesticides and GMOs. Make that soup-or-salad-bowl produce organic to get more nutrients and avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to a University of California–Davis study, organically grown produce (which is also GMO-free) contained higher levels of natural cancer-fighting compounds than conventional samples. Antioxidant levels were as much as 50 to 60 percent higher than nonorganic.
Don’t Forget to Use Your Bean. According to studies at the University of Missouri, soy protein may prevent and control both breast and colon cancers. Soy contains genistein, an isoflavone (plant estrogen) that helps halt the growth of breast cancer cells, sometimes by as much as 30 percent. Flaxseeds are another source of protective plant estrogens.
Nosh the Nutrient-Dense Plant Foods. Calcium-rich foods such as broccoli, citrus, leafy greens, and beans and the dishes that contain them are also protective. In a 2001 study of 800 women, those with the highest calcium intake had half the cancer rate of those with the least.
Bioflavonoids. Foods high in the bioflavonoid quercetin (apples, onions, grapefruit) are especially protective, as are lycopene- and carotene-rich fruits and vegetables such as citrus, cantaloupe, and carrots. Sweet potatoes (related to the morning glory) supply an average of 15,000 IU of vitamin A per potato. In one Hawaiian study, those who consumed the foods highest in quercetin were 40 to 50 percent less likely to develop lung cancer. As a bonus, the skins of foods such as apples and tomatoes contain cancer-fighting phenols, while the zest of citrus contains anticancer limonene. Juice the whole fruit or vegetable to benefit. Other foods with anticancer activity include carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, dandelion greens, spinach, kale, and almonds.
Eat More Omega-3s. The American Institute for Cancer Research also advises adding more inflammation-fighting omega-3 oils (olive oil, flax, salmon, grape seed, hemp, and walnuts and walnut oil) to your meal plans and cutting back on omega-6s (safflower, corn, soy, and peanut oils), which in large amounts appear to actually promote the disease.
Berries and More Berries. Keep the fruit bowl filled with more than citrus. Berries, because of the anthocyanins they contain, can reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease and elevate LDL cholesterol. Anthocyanins act as free-radical scavengers in the body. Studies suggest that berries, especially red raspberries but also blackberries and strawberries, also provide ellagic acid, which enhances the antioxidant systems in the body and inhibits the initiation of tumors.
Drink Up! Water and high-water-content foods such as soups, juices, and watermelon do anticancer duty, too. Drinking filtered water can dilute potential carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract and help prevent both stomach and colon cancer. Green tea, according to Japanese researchers, is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which decrease the risk of seven different cancers and even block the early stages of colon cancer.
One and Two Make Four. To double your protection? Combine healing nutrients, as in soup making. For example, researchers in another study found that mushrooms rich in selenium give you thirteen times more protection when combined with cancer-fighting I3C-rich broccoli, than when the food was eaten separately.