Why do people who eat more plants get less cancer? The largest prospective study of diet and cancer in history, for example, found that vegetarians had lower levels of all cancers combined. This could be due to what they eat less of:
- animal protein
- arachidonic acid
- heme iron
- heterocyclic amines
- industrial pollutants
- poultry viruses
- saturated fat
- steroid hormones
There are also components of plant foods they are getting more of that can help eliminate excess estrogen; extinguish free radicals; and boost our antioxidant, detoxification, and DNA repair enzymes. What we do eat may be as important as what we don’t eat.
The healthiest food is dark green leafy vegetables, which we should ideally eat every day. Greens can improve our eyesight, immune function, athletic performance, and even our physical appearance. The green pigment itself—chlorophyll—may even intercept carcinogens. See my NutritionFacts.org video pick above.
For more on protective compounds in plants, check out my video Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing From the Label. Green pigments are just one sliver of the rainbow though. There are benefits to the yellow ones, orange ones, red ones, and blue ones. Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book!
Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Anderson Mancini / Flickr