Anti-cancer foods

Friday, October 19, 2012 02:50 AM    Views : 2342by:PHILIP S. CHUA, MD

THE television show in the USA, Food Revolution, hosted by passionate health advocate Jamie Oliver of Essex, England, has pointed out glaringly how junk foods (loaded with fats, cholesterol, additives, processed meats) have significantly contributed to the "pandemic" of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc., and premature deaths among peoples of the western hemisphere.

In man's fight against all those diseases mentioned above, medical studies have data to suggest that phytochemicals in natural foods help ward off or minimize the risk for the development of those illnesses, including cancer. However, this protective health benefit has not been found in the pills or potion being sold as phytochemicals or anti-oxidants.

Science unceasingly searches for the truth and when new data or evidences are discovered, it accepts the invalidity of any disproven past theories and corrects itself.

There was a time when drinking milk (to counteract the acids) was a part of the accepted treatment for stomach ulcer, until it was proven to be causing acid rebound, making the situation worse. Whole milk and eggs were supposed to be healthy foods, until science discovered evidences the high fat contents of regular milk and the saturated fats in egg yolk were deleterious to health. Vitamin E, beta carotene (Vitamin A), and selenium supplements were favorite recommendations, but today people are discouraged from using them. However, those same nutrients derived from food are considered safe and good.

But one basic fact remains valid and lasting over the centuries, and even before the dawn of civilization: unadulterated natural food sources, foods of plant origin, like vegetables and fruits, are man's best friend in his quest for health and longevity. This truth appears to be self-evident and constant to this day.

In our battle against cancer, here are eight food items that are readily available to help us minimize our risk for the development of malignancies and also aid us in preventing most diseases afflicting man today.

While fresh tomatoes have lycopene, the higher concentration is found in cooked or processed tomatoes (juice, paste, ketchup, stewed) together with other unidentified beneficial substances which have been shown to lower the risk of prostate cancer. Whether it is the lycopene itself or any of the other substances in processed tomatoes which protects men from prostatic cancer is not clear. In the experimental lab, lycopene has been shown to stop the growth of other forms of cancer, including inner lining of the uterus, breast, and lungs. Lycopene may also be found in red bell peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit.

Garlic fights bacteria, including H.pylori, which causes stomach ulcers, lowers the risk of colon cancer formation, and may also enhance DNA repair. Suggestion: peel and chop garlic cloves for 15 minutes before cooking to maximize the chemical benefits from its enzymes and protective sulfur-compounds. Other studies suggest that "garlic is the powerhouse of the allium family, but onions, leeks, chives, and scallions might also protect against stomach cancer."

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale and cabbage), when chewed, release phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which produce protective enzymes, like sulfuraphane (highest in broccoli and broccoli sprouts). This compound detoxifies toxic substances (smoke, smog, air pollutants) and "are most protective against cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach," according to a review of hundreds of clinical studies conducted for the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Strawberries are loaded with natural antioxidants that are a good weapon against heart disease, Alzheimers, and cancer. Black raspberry and strawberry extracts were found to slow down cancer cell growth, especially in colon cancer.The ellagic acid in berries appears to have anticancer and the flavanoids in these fruits suppress an enzyme (linked to lung cancer) that damages DNA. The other berries packed with flavanoids and anthocyanins (with anti-inflammation effect) are blueberries, cranberries, blackberries.

Carrots contain beta-carotene, which protects cell membranes from toxin and ratards cance cell growth. It also contains phytochemicals that ward off cancers of the mouth, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and cervix (mouth of the womb) by destroying HPV (Human Papilloma virus). Carrots also has falcarinol, a natural pesticide. Cooked carrots confer more protective benefits (with higher level of antioxidants) than raw.

Also dubbed super carotenoid, spinach contains lutein, which is essential for the eyes. It also provides fiber and folate, both anti-cancer agents. Spinach is likewise packed with zeaxanthin, which eliminates free radicals from the body before they do any damage. Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are said to help in reducing the risk for the development of cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, ovaries, uterus, lungs and colon and rectum. Romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard are excellent substitutes.

Whole Grains and Nuts
Besides providing a lot of fiber, whole grains are also rich anti-cancer substances, like lignans (antioxidants) and sapponins (prevent cancer cells from multiplying). "100 percent whole wheat" bread sprinkled with sesame or flax seeds contains the most level of lignans. Oats and barley are two of the best cereals. Whole grains also reduced the risk for type 2 diabetes. Nuts, which has polyunsaturated (good non-animal) fats, are anti-oxidant and high fiber food items.

Dark chocolate
Dark chocolates have been very popular the past few years because of its polyphenol content has been shown to lower the blood pressure and is considered cardio-protective. They also have flavanoids (epicathechin and quercetin) which have anti-cancer effects.

If you think about it, these health foods are no different from regular foods available for us. The problem is that many of us have taken them for granted and do not eat enough of them. Nature has blessed us with these wonderful foods that prevent cancer and other diseases. All we need to do is to learn to love and enjoy them.


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