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Foods That Help Fight Cancer

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While tabloid magazines and television newscasts proclaim so-called miracle cures for cancer, foods that can reduce the risk of cancer are often no farther away than the local supermarket produce section.

Protection Against Cancer

More than 200 dietary studies confirm that regularly consuming fruits and vegetables provides significant protection against cancer.

Different fruits and vegetables appear to provide protection against cancer at certain locations. For example, carrots and green, leafy vegetables provide substantial protection against lung cancer. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower provide useful protection against color cancer. In fact, regular consumption of cabbage has been shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer by 60 to 70 percent, while the regular use of onions or garlic can decrease the risk of stomach and colon cancer by 50 or 60 percent.

Recently, regular consumption of tomatoes was found to substantially protect against prostate cancer.

Phytochemical Feast

The National Cancer Institute has identified about three dozen plant foods that possess cancer-protective properties. The foods and herbs with the highest anticancer activity include garlic, soybeans, cabbage, ginger, licorice root, and the umbelliferous vegetables (including carrots, celery, coriander, parsley, and parsnips).

Foods with a modest level of cancer-protective activity include onions, flax, citrus, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), tomatoes and sweet peppers, brown rice, whole wheat, oats, barley, mints, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, basil, cucumber, cantaloupe, and berries.

Scientists have identified a host of cancer-protective phytochemicals in these foods. And because many of the compounds are fairly heat stable and since most are not water soluble, they are not appreciably lost in the cooking process.

Soy: A Miracle Bean

Soybeans contain fairly high levels of several compounds with demonstrated anti-cancer activity. For example, soybeans are a very rich and unique source of isoflavonoids, such as genistein. These isoflavonoids have been shown to inhibit the growth of both human breast and prostate cancer cells.

Citrus Beyond Vitamin C

Citrus, in addition to its ample supply of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and pectin, contains more than 150 phytochemicals that also protect our health. Citrus pulp and the white of the orange are right in glucarates, substances being studied for their potential to prevent breast cancer. Tangerines, pink grapefruit, and oranges all contain significant levels of carotenoid pigments that protect us against cancer.

Protection From Whole Grains and Nuts

Because phytochemicals are concentrated in the bran and the germ of the kernel, the health benefits of grains are maximized when the whole-grain product is consumed.

Cereal grains and nuts contain substantial levels of tocotrienols (a natural form of vitamin E), which strongly inhibit tumor growth.

Benefits of Flax

Flour derived from flaxseed is increasingly being used in bread and bakery products to add a nutty flavor and to increase the nutritional and health benefits of the finished product. Flaxseed in the diet can lower blood cholesterol levels because of its very low saturated-fat content.

Flaxseed oil is also a very rich source of omega-3 type of fat. Oil seeds such as sesame seed and especially flax seed are very rich sources of lignans. The colon converts plant lignans to substances that are similar to estrogens and can bind to estrogen receptors and inhibit the growth of estrogen-stimulated breast cancer.

Grapes Are Good for You

Red grape juice and red wine contain a significant level of flavonoids and red anthocyanin pigments that act as antioxidants. (For the Christian, red wine, as well as all alcohols should not be consumed at all.) These substances protect cholesterol from oxidation, reduce blood lipid levels, and inhibit blood clot formation, thereby providing protection against heart disease.

It is the transresveratrol (a flavonoid) content of red wine, rather than the alcohol content, that has been shown to reduce the tendency of blood clots to form. Substantial levels of transresveratrol and other antioxidant compounds are found in the grapes and unfermented grape juice, clearly safer sources than the red wine.

Color Your Life

The various pigments provide color to our food and enhance the enjoyment of the eating experience. Presently, there are about 4,000 known plant pigments in our food, including thousands of flavonoids and hundreds of carotenoids and anthocyanins. These pigments do more than just appeal to our senses; they also protect us from disease.

Herbs for Flavor Also Protect Us

Garlic, onions, and other members of the allium family are rich in sulfides and other protective substances. Garlic is known to decrease the tendency of blood clots to form, significantly lower blood cholesterol levels, and decrease the risk of cancer at many sites. Terpenoids are responsible for the flavors of many common herbs and seasonings. Many terpenoids are reported to be useful cancer chemopreventive agents. A diet which generously uses herbs to flavor the food will provide a variety of substances that protect against chronic diseases.

Reprinted from Vibrant Life Magazine. All rights reserved.

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