The best defense being a good offense holds true for more than just football. A healthy diet full of cancer-fighting foods is a great offensive move to avoid cancer. I counsel patients to create an environment where cancer cannot grow by making these healthy food choices.
Fruits and vegetables
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables – Carotenoids have been shown in one study to reduce your risk of breast cancer by up to 50% in women with dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue is one of the strongest risk factors associated with breast cancer. Papaya contains the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin. Yellow and orange vegetables are high in beta-carotene, one of the most abundant carotenoids in our diet. Research illustrates that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest breast cancer risk.
Cruciferous vegetables – Broccoli and cauliflower contain indole-3-carbinol, which promotes healthy estrogen metabolism. When estrogen leaves your body through unhealthy pathways, your risk of breast and other estrogen-fed cancers increases.
Walnuts – The journal Nutrition and Cancer recently published a study that shows walnuts slow the growth of breast cancer and may prevent its development. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, these nuts have been shown to cause destruction (apoptosis) of cancer cells. Try walnut oil on your salads.
Fish – Good fatty fish like salmon is also rich in omega 3s. Studies suggest that women with higher levels of omega 3s in their diets have lower rates of breast cancer.
Olive oil – like walnuts, EVO oil is also high in omega 3s.
Get some flavor in your diet
Herbs and spices – According to the National Cancer Institute, a French study found a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer risk in women who consumed a lot of garlic. Oregano and thyme have antioxidant properties that inhibit tumor growth. Curcumin suppresses cancer cell growth.
Green tea – Buy quality stuff, not all green teas are created equal and you want to make sure that you are getting a good dose of the cancer-fighting compound ECGC.
Dark chocolate – Yum! Although dark chocolate does have sugar, it is also rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and suppress cancer cell growth. Please note that I am not referring to Hershey’s type dark chocolate, but to high quality organic varieties.
Things to avoid
Sugar – Sugar is the number one cancer food! No cell in your body will consume sugar faster than a cancer cell. Sugar is very inflammatory and cancer thrives in an inflamed environment. Aside from the fact that sugar taste addictingly good, it has no redeeming value. This is one of the first things to remove from your diet, and once you do so, liking the taste disappears.
When my mother went through chemotherapy, she craved Coke and McDonald’s french fries. This stunned my brother and me because we did not grow up as a family that ate McDonald’s. Looking back I now realize the cravings were a die-off reaction from the cancer cells. As the chemotherapy weakened and destroyed them, the cancer cells caused my mom to crave the sugar and simple carbohydrates that were their primary fuel source.
Alcohol – According to a January 2011 study in the British Medical Journal, 5% of female breast cancer can be attributed to alcohol consumption. The upper limit for women is one drink, which contains about 12g of alcohol. The more alcohol consumed in excess of this limit, the greater your risk of breast cancer. If you are drinking red wine for the cancer-fighting properties of resveratrol, please take a pill or drink concord grape juice instead.
Charred meat – If you like your meat well-done or blackened, think again. The black is full of carcinogens and has been linked to many types of cancer. Lower your cancer risk by cooking meat enough to sufficiently kill bacteria without excess charring. If you do accidentally burn the meat, cut off the charred portion.
Check out these resources
Eattodefeat.org – The Angiogenesis Foundation has launched the Eat to Defeat Cancer campaign. The focus of this campaign is to eat foods that reduce the blood vessels that feed tumors. By depriving them of a fuel source, the tumor cannot grow. This website has teamed up with some top chefs to create recipes that contain cancer-fighting ingredients.
AICR – the American Institute for Cancer Research is a charity research organization that focuses on nutrition and exercise to reduce cancer risk. This group funded the study that showed walnuts help prevent breast cancer. Sign up for their newsletter to receive weekly healthy recipes.
“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” – Hippocrates