Cancer is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the U.S.A. In 1880, when record-keeping began, 1 in 35 people developed cancer in their lifetime. That figure has grown to 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women. Since the occurrence of cancer increases as we age, most cases affect adults middle-aged or older.
One of the best cancer-prevention tools for health is eating the right foods, but finding the motivation to eat right sometimes alludes us until we, or someone we love, is faced with a deadly disease. When this happened to someone dear to me it pushed me to do even more research on how cancers grow and to investigate which foods are specifically effective at reducing tumor sizes and spontaneously killing cancer cells. I want to share this knowledge with you so that you can put it into practice for yourself and those you love.
But first, let’s go over the foods we should avoid that contain known carcinogens. Stay away from starchy foods that are deep- fried, like potato chips and French fries. The frying process creates high levels of acrylamide—a chemical that has been linked to cancer. Avoid burning meat on the grill over high flames. This produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), two carcinogenic compounds. Instead, grill meats over a low flame and cut off any scorched pieces. (For more details, see LA Times Article)
What about soy? Soy is somewhat controversial because soybeans, tofu, soy milk, and soy sauce contain isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens or plant estrogens. Phytoestrogens resemble estrogens in the body and can interfere with healthy estrogen production. If you’ve had breast cancer or another estrogen-dependent cancer, your doctor may advise you to stay away from soy products altogether. There are plenty of conflicting studies, however. Some show that isoflavones can reduce cancer risk, so be aware that the jury is still out on the relationship of soy to cancer. (For more details, see Livestrong.com Article)
Now let’s talk about FoodTrient-rich cancer-fighting foods. Garlic, produces sulfur compounds and allicin. Sulfur compounds detoxify the body and help prevent cancer. Allicin thins the blood and reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer. It’s best to eat garlic after it has been crushed so that these cancer-fighting compounds can form. Dried garlic or roasted garlic doesn’t form as much allicin or sulfur compounds. Raw crushed garlic is actually the healthiest way to go, but it can overpower some recipes. I like raw garlic in pesto, olive tapenade, gazpacho, and salad dressings. For other dishes, I prefer to use pressed or crushed garlic that is quickly sautéed but not cooked for more than 15 minutes.
Cancer-fighting sulfur compounds, also called indoles, are found in other foods besides garlic. In cruciferous veggies they lead to the formation of isothiocyanates, which neutralize carcinogens. So fill your plate with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, mustard seeds, onions, radishes, watercress, and grapefruit in order to load up on this amazing FoodTrient. (For more info, see Oregonstate.com Article) Some of my favorite recipes in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life are full of indole-rich foods. My Potato Kale Soup and Buckwheat Crepes feature kale heavily. My Radish Salad is a fun way to get more radishes into your diet. My Mustard-Crusted Tri-Tip has plenty of garlic and mustard for warding off cancer.
Other FoodTrients that fight cancer are flavonoids like anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, quercetin, theaflavins, and catechins. These flavonoids inhibit cancer growth and tumor growth. They regulate cell health, cell replication, and cell death. They keep cancer cells from proliferating. And they help cancer cells kill themselves. Flavonoids are found in berries, grapes, and other red and blue fruits and vegetables. They are present in apples, chia seeds, onions, and citrus fruits. Dark chocolate, black tea, and green tea are also full of flavonoids. (For details, see Oregonstate.com Article)
Desserts can be a great source of flavonoids as long as you keep the sugar content to a minimum. A dish of apple crumble or a slice of blackberry pie provides quercetin and anthocyanin, respectively. Have a cup of tea with that treat and you’ll be getting catechins and theaflavins. Dark-chocolate covered slices of orange peel will boost your flavonoid intake. So will a glass of red wine. Red wine also contains resveratrol, which fights cancer cells.
More cancer-combating compounds include carotenoids and vitamin C. Orange fruits and vegetables are good sources of beta-carotene, so be sure to get plenty of carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots, and papayas in your diet. Lycopene is a cancer-busting carotenoid found in tomatoes. It’s especially bioavailable when cooked, so lean toward tomato sauces, tomato paste, and stewed tomatoes. Vitamin C is prevalent in citrus fruits and chile peppers. My Papaya Salsa recipe makes use of papayas, limes, lemons, jalapeño peppers, onions, and garlic for major cancer-fighting power.
Believe it or not, we haven’t exhausted all the cancer-controlling nutrients found in food. People who don’t get enough selenium, a strong antioxidant, tend to have a higher risk for developing cancer. Selenium affects the metabolism of cancer cells. It occurs in plants grown in selenium-rich soil, like Brazil nuts and mushrooms. More commonly, it occurs in animal flesh, especially beef liver, poultry, and shellfish. Finally, spices like turmeric and ginger have compounds that can destroy cancer cells. Thankfully, there are many fruits, vegetables, spices, and even meats that can help us all reduce our risk for developing cancer. It’s never too early or too late to stop cancer by eating the right FoodTrient-rich foods.