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Cancer Fighting Foods
When most people think of their cancer risk, they look to their family tree. But what if I told you, you’re better off looking in your fridge? As researchers continue to wage war against cancer, many have begun to focus on what could be the most promising ammunition to date: diet.
More specifically, a plant-based diet that is low in animal proteins and processed foods and instead is focused around fresh organic fruits and veggies and alkalinizing plant proteins like nuts, seeds and legumes. It is truly an empowering concept: that we hold the key to living a long, cancer-free life and all we have to do is enjoy delicious, wholesome foods every day! Ready to start your prevention diet? Here are some of my favourite cancer-fighting superfoods:
The age old advice from mothers everywhere to “eat your broccoli” is even more valuable when it comes to cancer prevention. While all cruciferous veggies (think cauliflower, cabbage and kale) contain cancer-fighting properties (and a host of other amazing nutritional benefits), broccoli is the only one with a sizable amount of sulforaphane, a particularly potent compound that boosts the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals. How much is needed to reap the benefits? My advice is the more broccoli, the better! Add it wherever you can, from salads to omelets to the top of your pizza.
Nature’s version of candy (or is that raisins?), these sweet treats are hard to beat. And not just on taste! All berries are packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients, but black raspberries in particular contain very high concentrations of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which have been shown to slow down the growth of premalignant cells and keep new blood vessels from forming (and potentially feeding a cancerous tumor). And it only takes adding just a half-cup serving of berries a day to help you fight the big C (although of course I recommend more!). Toss some in your Greek yogurt, morning oats, or simply enjoy on their own as a delicious dessert.
These red, juicy fruits (yes – fruit!) are the best dietary source of lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red hue. Why is this important in cancer prevention? Because lycopene has been found to stop the growth of certain cancer cells in recent studies. The biggest benefits come from cooked tomatoes (think pasta sauce or warm tomato soup), since the heating process increases the amount of lycopene your body is able to absorb. Finally – an excuse to eat spaghetti! Just stay away from processed white pasta and instead opt for whole grain or brown rice varieties.
Like tomatoes, papayas also contain the cancer fighting compound, lycopene. But papaya has another cancer fighter, the cartenoid beta-cyrptoxanthin. Carotenoids fight free radicals, helping protect cells and membranes against damage and disease. And ladies, listen up: studies have shown that eating one or more papayas a week can lower your cervical cancer risk. I guess they are called the “fruit of the angels” for a reason!
I know, I know – I put garlic on pretty much all my superfood lists. But for good reason! Several large studies have found that those who eat more garlic are less likely to develop various kinds of cancer, especially in digestive organs such as the esophagus, stomach, and colon. Ingredients in the pungent bulbs may keep cancer-causing substances in your body from working, or they may keep cancer cells from multiplying. Add it to your salad dressings, soups or even mash it in with some avocado and tomato (for double cancer fighting power) and spread it on toast – a personal favourite of mine!
6. Green Tea
Long revered for its anti-inflammatory and metabolism boosting properties, green tea can also add “cancer fighter” to its resume. This is because it contains antioxidants called catechins, which may help prevent cancer in a variety of ways, including keeping free radicals from damaging cells. Furthermore, lab studies have also found evidence that catechins in tea can shrink tumors and reduce tumor cell growth. Both green and black teas contain catechins, but you’ll get more antioxidants from green tea, so add a cup or more per day in your anti-cancer diet.
On top of a nutrient dense, plant-based diet, there are many simple lifestyle changes you can make to greatly decrease your chances of getting cancer. Here are some of my favourites:
We’re often told that being happy, meditating and mindfulness can benefit our health. Now researchers in Canada have found the first evidence to suggest that support groups that encourage meditation and yoga can actually alter the cellular activity of cancer survivors. It is also amazingly effective for managing stress, which has long been connected with poor health and disease, thus making it a great tool for cancer prevention. Commit to just 15 minutes a day and you’ll reap the rewards.
There is scientific evidence you can decrease your risk of cancer by more than half simply by optimizing your vitamin D levels (which is crucial to proper immune function) with appropriate sun exposure. And when real sunlight isn’t abundantly available (like for those of us who live up here in the Northern hemisphere!), sunlight therapy can be a great alternative. It has been shown effective in treating many mood disorders such as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and now studies have linked it to cancer prevention as well.
The bottom line: you can give yourself a real fighting chance against cancer with a few smart food and lifestyle choices. Simply combine a whole, mostly organic plant-based diet with some positive vibes, sunshine, plenty of restorative sleep, and proper stress management, and you’re on the right path to a long, happy cancer-free life!
Adele Cavaliere is a Holistic Nutritionist, published author of the book “21 Days to Detoxify Your Life,” is an elite fitness trainer, yoga instructor and founder of Nutri-School. Adele has worked with countless people empowering them to transform their lives, their bodies and their careers! Adele has worked with celebrities, pro-athletes and her success stories have
been featured in Cosmopolitan, Shape, Fitness RX and more. www.adelecavaliere.com