In our ongoing quest to remain cancer-free, let’s look at seven common foods widely thought to fight cancer.
A few months ago, we discussed the importance of knowing how Medicare can help with cancer prevention. We advised you to take advantage of Medicare preventive services including your “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit, a comprehensive examination offered during your first year on Medicare. We also discussed the importance of Medicare-covered cancer screenings and annual “wellness” visits to help keep you armed and informed in the battle against cancer—and we pointed out that most Medicare supplement plans cover 100% of coinsurance charges that apply to preventive care services covered by Medicare Part B.
Yes, those Medicare services should be a key part of your quest to remain cancer-free. But your responsibility doesn’t end with taking full advantage of Medicare. What you do at home to reduce risk is important as well—and nowhere is that truer than with regard to your diet. According to Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute quoted on the WebMD website, “The easiest, least expensive way to reduce your risk for cancer is just by eating a healthy diet.”
- Cruciferous vegetables
These include vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. These vegetables are believed to contain a variety of cancer-fighting agents that can help clear certain carcinogens from the body and reduce the likelihood of cancer cells growing. Cruciferous vegetables are believed to be effective in fighting a wide variety of cancers, including breast, lung, prostate, bladder, stomach, skin, and mouth cancer.
WebMD reports: “Recent studies on cruciferous vegetables show promising results against prostate and colon cancers. In mice grafted with human prostate tumors and then treated with one of these cancer-killing substances, tumors began to shrink to half their size after 31 days.” In another experiment reported by WebMD, “Mice engineered to be a model for an inherited colon polyp condition that is at high risk for developing into colon cancer were fed the antioxidant called sulforaphane, also released when chewing cruciferous vegetables. The mice developed about half as many polyps as expected.”
Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and other berries are known for great taste and for being loaded with fiber and vitamin C—and for their antioxidant compounds, which are known for protecting and repairing cells damaged by effects of cancer. It is also believed that compounds in berries can boost immunity.
Various berries contain polyphenols, which include the powerful antioxidants ellagic acid and anthocyanins. According to the Stanford Health Improvement Program (HIP) of Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center, “The two most widely studied cancer-fighting compounds in berries are ellagic acid (richest in strawberries and raspberries) and anthocyanosides (richest in blueberries). Ellagic acid is believed to help prevent skin, bladder, lung, and breast cancers, both by acting as an antioxidant and by slowing the reproduction of cancer cells. The anthocyanosides in blueberries are currently the most powerful antioxidants known to scientists and are beneficial in the prevention of all types of cancer.”
HIP reports that “beans contain a number of phytochemicals, which have been shown to prevent or slow genetic damage to cells.” Beyond suggesting a general connection between consumption of beans and reduction in the risk of various types of cancer, HIP reports that beans are especially potent in combating certain types of cancer. “Specific research,” HIP reports, “has suggested they are especially potent in preventing prostate cancer. As an added bonus, the high fiber content of beans has been connected with a lower risk of digestive cancers.”
Other legumes are believed to share many of the cancer-fighting properties of beans. Lentils are thought to be strong cancer fighters, and soy products such as tofu are known to contain agents that seem to inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous cells. Care2.com reports: “Products like soy milk and tofu contain several types of phytoestrogens—weak, nonsteroidal estrogens that could help prevent both breast and prostate cancer by blocking and suppressing cancerous changes.”
According to Lifescript.com, studies have shown that the plant chemical, resveratrol, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is present in grape skins, “may keep cancer cells from growing and inhibit tumors.”
Resveratrol is especially concentrated in the skin of red and purple grapes, which are the types of grapes believed to have superior cancer-fighting properties.
Despite the apparent anti-cancer properties of darker grapes, there is some question as to the value of red wine as an aid in the fight against cancer. Although alcohol itself—especially in high amounts—has been linked to increased risk of cancer, Care2.com reports that red wine contains “polyphenols that may protect against various types of cancer. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants, compounds that help neutralize disease-causing free radicals.” Care2.com advises, however, that red wine “should be used in moderation” as “alcohol can be toxic to the liver and to the nervous system, and many wines have sulfites, which may be harmful to your health.”
One way of getting the cancer-fighting benefits of red wine while avoiding the dangers—as many sources point out—is to drink a nonalcoholic brand of wine.
To anyone who loves Italian food, this is good news. Tomatoes are high in Vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, both of which help protect cells from cancer damage. HIP reports, “The anti-cancer compound in tomatoes, lycopene, has been shown to be especially potent in combating prostate cancer.” HIP adds, “In addition to preventing prostate cancer, lycopene may also protect against breast, lung, stomach, and pancreatic cancer.”
According to Lifescript.com, tomatoes may do more than fight against breast, lung, prostate, and mouth cancers. Quoting Prof. Wilhelm Stahl, an antioxidant researcher at the University of Dusseldorf, Lifescript reports that tomatoes also may protect skin from cancer “by absorbing UV light.”
It is interesting to note that, while many cancer-fighting foods are at their most potent when they remain close to their natural state, tomatoes appear to become stronger cancer fighters after they are cooked or processed into products such as sauce, paste, or ketchup. According to multiple sources, heat releases a higher concentration of lycopene and the body absorbs the antioxidant more easily when tomatoes are eaten in processed form.
This is another plus for lovers of Italian food. Garlic is widely thought to contain various compounds that can slow or stop the growth of tumors. Quoting Karen Collins, R.D., C.D.N., nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Lifescript reports that “garlic contains unique antioxidant phytochemicals called allyl sulfides that ‘seem to intervene in several steps of the cancer process.’”
Care2care adds, “Garlic has immune-enhancing allium compounds (dialyl sultides) that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances. These substances also help block carcinogens from entering cells and slow tumor development. Diallyl sulfide, a component of garlic oil, has also been shown to render carcinogens in the liver inactive. Studies have linked garlic–as well as onions, leeks, and chives–to lower risk of stomach and colon cancer.” Knowledge of garlic’s effects in combating cancer is hardly new. Citing a report in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Care2Care continues, “According to the report, people who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly face about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer as people who eat little or none.”
Also working in garlic’s favor is the ease with which it can be added to almost any dish—though your breath or your partner may have something to say about that.
7. Whole grains
Whole grains are also believed to be rich in cancer-fighting compounds. They’re also loaded with fiber, and are known to provide protection against various cancers that afflict areas of the body connected to the digestive system.
Whole grains are easy to incorporate into any diet—and, whether for cancer prevention or improved health in general, the sooner you substitute whole grains for refined grain products the better. But, as far as cancer is concerned, Lifescript reports that a study from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota indicates people who consume whole grains “have a 21%-43% lower risk of cancer than those who eat little to none.”
Eat an overall healthy diet including these foods and the research suggests you’ll have a great chance of remaining cancer-free.
There are other cancer-fighting foods you may wish to add to your diet as well. These include leafy, dark green vegetables, ginger, citrus fruits, figs, certain mushrooms, avocados, nuts, and chili peppers. That’s quite a selection—especially if you wash it all down with a cup of green tea, which is also regarded as a cancer-fighter well worth adding to your diet.
Contact MedicareMall to learn how Medicare supplement insurance can be an important ally in your quest to remain cancer-free.
What’s your favorite cancer-fighting food? Please leave a comment below.
Top Seven Cancer Fighting Foods© 2013 MedicareMall.com