Everyone has heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” Although popular, this phrase is often forgotten in today’s fast food world. Diet plays an important role in all aspects of health, but can become even more important with a cancer diagnosis. Recent evidence suggests that diet may modify the risk of developing many cancers as well as in developing diabetes and heart disease. For example, intake of dietary fiber and higher consumption of fruit, vegetables, and fish, has been associated with reduced risk of some cancers. Population studies have also demonstrated that processed meat, dairy, alcohol and saturated fat increase can the overall risk of developing certain cancers.
Another popular phrase, coined over 2000 years ago by Hippocrates, states “Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food.” There has been much research that indicates that plant foods — “Nature’s Pharmacy” — can influence gene function () and, as a result, affect our health.
Vegetables and fruits containing high levels of carotenoids, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, papaya, and tomatoes are linked to lower cancer incidence. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, and broccoli, are also shown to lower cancer risk. Along with carotenoid rich foods and cruciferous vegetables, antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, blackberries, green tea, and garlic are also associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer. Other studies, primarily in animals and in the lab, have shown that plant foods can slow or halt the growth and spread of cancer cells. While promising, it is important to note that much of the research on plant foods in affecting cancer cells’ growth and spread has not been conducted in humans and is not considered a cure or treatment for cancer.Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food -Hippocrates Click To Tweet
All of these studies strongly suggest that consuming a mainly plant based diet is beneficial for our health and for the prevention of diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
So what are some of the most promising and important fruits and vegetables to include in your cancer fighting diet? Read more about our top 6 phytonutrient-rich, disease-fighting foods that are part of Nature’s Pharmacy.
Scientists have recently found that lycopene, the chemical that gives tomatoes their red color, works to destroy oral cancer cells in the laboratory. Some scientists believe that lycopene strengthens the body’s natural ability to kill of cells that are not developing properly.
Blueberries are one of the richest sources of ellagic acid. There have been many studies done that have demonstrated that people who consume foods high in ellagic acid are three times less likely to develop cancer when compared to those who consume very little of this phytonutrient.
Pomegranates are an excellent source of Vitamin C, K, folate and fiber. They are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals. All three parts of the pomegranate, seeds, peel, and juice, have been studied for their cancer fighting antioxidant properties in the lab and on animals.
4. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, a mineral that has been shown to lower cancer risk in animals. They are also rich in fiber, protein, and ellagic acid.
Broccoli, a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, is a great source of Vitamin C, carotenoids, fiber, calcium and folate. Broccoli is a rich in phytochemicals known as indoles, which are particularly helpful at combating breast cancer because of their ability to rid the body of excess estrogen in animals.
Flaxseeds are excellent sources of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds are rich source of lignans, phytochemicals with beneficial antioxidant and phytoestrogenic properties.
Whole plant foods contain a wide array of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which provide our bodies with balanced nutrition – nature’s way of keeping us healthy and fight disease. By adopting a whole foods approach to eating, we can ensure an optimal intake of these powerful nutrients. A cancer-fighting diet that is concentrated in a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, tea, nuts, and seeds can truly allow our bodies to “be what we eat”!