10 Foods that fight cancer

In recognition of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Daffodil Month – wear a daffodil and Daffodil support Canadians living with Cancer.

In their book Foods that Fight Cancer – Preventing Cancer Through Diet, the authors Belliveau and Gingras describe in detail that our risk of cancer is about one in three, and that a small number of cancers are caused by things beyond our control. For example, with identical twins the chance of getting cancer if your sibling has it is about 15 percent. What this tells us is that our risk of getting cancer is 85 percent environmental. Whether or not you smoke, how much stress you have, what you eat, regular exercise, and if you are happy or not influence your health more than you may think.

The medical world believes that 30 percent of all cancers are directly related to what people eat. The lack of certain fruits or vegetables in you diet can increase the rate of certain cancers.

1) The cabbage family – Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale, also known as cruciferous vegetables. These contain high amounts of many compounds that slow the development of cancer. They protect the cells of our bodies from cancer-causing substances. They are best eaten steamed for a few minutes.

2) Garlic and onions – Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives protect our cells and prevent cancer from growing. They should be eaten fresh either chopped, crushed or chewed.

3) Soy – Soybeans (edamame), miso, dry roasted soybeans, tofu and soy milk. The consumption of soy products could account for the rate difference of hormone-dependent cancers (breast, endometrial and prostate) between the west (USA and Canada) and the east (Asia). Having said this, it’s not clear whether the actual consumption of soy (East) or the the lack of saturated fats coupled with high meat diets (West) is responsible for the differences in cancer rates. Try to eat non-genetically modified and unsweetened soy. The best sources of soy are whole foods such as edamame or roasted soybeans (50 grams a day). Supplements containing prepared substances enriched in isoflavones should be avoided as these can have a too-large effect on hormone sensitive tissues.

4) Tumeric – This spice, along with its principal active ingredient curcumin, possess a great deal of anti-cancer properties. The entry of curcumin into our bloodstream can be enhanced tremendously by taking it with a small amount of pepper.

5) Green tea – To maximize the anti-cancer properties of green tea, choose Japanese green teas richer in catechin and allow to brew 10 minutes. Any amount is good but three cups per day is recommended.

6) Berries – Rasberries, strawberries, blueberries and cranberries are a tremendous source of polyphenols that fight cancer. Eat berries fresh or thawed from frozen. Cranberry juice is not a good substitute as it typically has too much added sweetener.

7) Omega-3 – Fats is a topic that I have spoken about previously. Fats can be divided into saturated (animal fats, butter, lard, tropical oils) and unsaturated fats. The unsaturated can be further divided into polyunsaturated (Omega-6 and Omega-3) and Monosaturated (olive oil, canola oil, avocados and almonds). Remember that the best Omega-3 sources come from fatty fish.

8) Tomatoes – Lycopene is the substance responsible for the health benefits of tomatoes. This is maximized by cooking the tomatoes with vegetable fats (olive oil).

9) Citrus fruits – Citrus is an essential food for cancer prevention and not just for their vitamin C. They are best enjoyed whole and in moderate amounts. Fruit juices are usually too sweet.

10) Red wine – Resveratrol is the active compound in red wine that seems to prevent cancer. Having said this, red wine should be consumed in moderate amounts and the countries (Mediterranean) that have shown a benefit typically have a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts. They also typically eat olive oil as their main source of fat and consume a smaller amounts of meat than Western diets.

To paraphrase Obama, “We are all in this together.” We all fear or have been touched by cancer. Some people ask me how do I deal with seeing sick people all day. I regard being a physician a gift and believe that while we in the health care profession must care for those who are ill, it allows us to be grateful for our own good health.

Christian

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