The word ‘cancer’ tends to hit you in the pit of the stomach, doesn’t it?
Many of us know someone with cancer, or have been directly affected by this devastating illness. In fact, global estimates show us that at least 14 million people get cancer each year. And since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to share some of my top tips on prevention from a nutritional perspective, because statistics tell us up to one-third of all cancers can be prevented.
Our lifestyles, diet, smoking habits and exercise habits all contribute towards our cancer risk. And a hard look at where we are getting an abundance of toxins is also in order.
Your diet plays such an important role in the prevention of cancer. There are foods that have been proven to prevent cancer and foods that might be a cause of cancer.
Here are a few of the foods that are on my ‘never eat’ list:
- Processed Meats – such as hot dogs and bacon could contain known carcinogens.
- Hydrogenated Oils – used to preserve processed foods, these oils can influence cell membranes’ structure and flexibility, which can lead to cancer.
- Refined Carbohydrates – such as white flour breads, baked goods and starchy supermarket products have been identified as being laced with potassium bromate. This additive has been linked to nervous-system disorders and has been identified as a potential human carcinogen by a number of health organizations.
- Refined Sugar – found in cookies, cakes, candy, etc. has been shown to feed tumors and increases their size. And cancer cells especially thrive on fructose-rich sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is metabolized by cancer cells more quickly and easily than other sweeteners; check for it on nutrition labels and avoid it.
Now let’s take a look at what you should be incorporating into your daily diet:
Just like with heart disease, diabetes, and most autoimmune diseases, free radical damage or oxidative stress from inflammation is truly at the root of cancer formation. And inflammation is the underlying issue that dictates cancerous tumor initiation, progression and growth. Studies suggest that 30 to 40% of all kinds of cancer can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and dietary measures!
The key is consuming plenty of cancer-fighting foods that contain antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. This means avoiding packaged and processed foods that contain dangerous phthalates and focusing on only those that do not contain antibiotics, chemicals or toxins. Buying foods that are organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised and additive-free can greatly lower the toxic load of your diet.
My top 5 picks for ‘must have’ foods for cancer-prevention include:
- Leafy Green Vegetables – these are the cornerstone of any healthy diet since they’re exceptionally rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes, yet very low in calories, fats, sodium and other toxins. They contain natural sources of ‘glucosinolates’, which help reprogram cancer cells to die off and prevent tumor formation and metastasis. Up your greens!! Spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula and watercress are my favorite.
- Cruciferous Vegetables – known to be powerful cancer killers and some of the best vitamin C foods widely available. Many are rich in ‘glutathione’ known as the body’s “master antioxidant” since it has high free-radical-scavenging abilities. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussel sprouts are a few of my favorite cruciferous vegetables.
- Berries – one of the top high-antioxidant foods in the world. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries and cherries are easy to find and use in numerous types of recipes — which is good news considering they supply vitamin C, vitamin A and gallic acid, a powerful antifungal/antiviral agent that increases immunity. And berries are especially rich in ‘pro-anthocyanidin’ antioxidants, which have been observed to have anti-aging properties in several animal studies and are capable of lowering free radical damage.
- Nuts and Seeds – chia seeds and flaxseeds are two of the most nutrient-dense seeds in the world. They provide fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and a range of important minerals. Hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also beneficial and full of healthy fatty acids, as are walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds.
- Healthy Unrefined Oils – coconut, flax and extra virgin olive oil are my favorites. Your brain and nervous system control the function of your entire body and 60 percent of your nervous system is made up of fatty acids. Replace refined vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils and trans fats with the quality oils I listed above. These nourish your gut and promote better immune function, help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, plus flaxseed contain essential omega-3 fatty acids that can help energize your cells.
You can be at a great advantage if you watch what you eat but also take a hard look at what you use to clean your home, what you put on your skin and what you are drinking. Changing some lifestyle habits are all positive steps we can take in our everyday lives to reduce our exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. But the #1 thing to do immediately to protect yourself from cancer is to improve your diet. Focus on filling your plate with nutrient-dense vegetables first, and then add in all the other components that make up a healthy lifestyle.