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The Anti-Cancer Diet

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The Anti-Cancer Diet

By Peter Jaret, Natural Solutions

It wasn’t until my annual physical examination, and a simple question from the doctor about my family health history, that I found myself thinking, Uh-oh.

Fourteen years ago my mother died of lung cancer. Ten years later my aunt died of the same disease. Not long ago my brother was diagnosed with lymphoma. Of course I’d known all that. But somehow I hadn’t consciously admitted to myself how often cancer had struck. Brain tumors, skin cancer, prostate cancer–they all showed up somewhere in the family tree. Were we especially susceptible to this terrible disease? And was there anything to do to lower the risk?

Risk for some cancers, in fact, does run in families. Some inherited genes seem to make it easier for healthy cells to mutate into malignancy; others can impair the body’s built-in ability to disable cancer-causing substances before they cause trouble. Inherited risk helps explain why some smokers live until they’re 95 and others, like my mother and her sister, die of lung cancer in their sixties. Someday, genetic tests may be used routinely to assess a person’s risk of specific cancers. But I don’t want to wait for that. I want to do whatever I can to lower my risk. Now.

So I called Melanie Polk, a dietitian and director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research, and she told me the same thing I would hear from almost every expert, alternative or mainstream, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. “Eat more fruits and vegetables. That’s the single most important step most people can take to lower their cancer risk.”

After decades of waging war against cancer, was that the best researchers could offer? Steer your cart to the produce aisle?

“Absolutely,” says John Weisburger, a physician and expert on diet and health at the American Health Foundation/Institute for Cancer Prevention. “It’s hardly news that fruits and vegetables–really, almost any foods that come from plants–are good for health. The real surprise has been discovering just how much protection they contain.” Indeed, foods from plants are turning out to be rich in hundreds, even thousands of newly identified substances that work in many different ways to lower cancer danger. Some boost levels of enzymes in the body that neutralize cancer-causing substances. Some protect cell walls, so carcinogens can’t get in and cause damage. Antioxidants in foods can prevent damage from free radicals that might otherwise disrupt DNA, setting in motion genetic changes that could lead to cancer. Researchers have even discovered substances in food that trigger damaged cells to self-destruct, preventing tumors from forming.

“Cancer-fighting agents in fruits and vegetables work in a variety of ways, and they work together synergistically in ways that we’re only beginning to understand,” says Arthur D. Heller, an internist, gastroenterologist, and clinical nutrition specialist at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Even when we can’t confirm exactly how some foods protect against cancer, hundreds of studies show that they do. Indeed, the data suggests that one-third of all cancers are related to diet, according to Heller. Some of those are cancers that could be prevented by avoiding highly salted foods or charbroiled meats, which have been linked to cancer risk. But we could ward off many more by simply eating more plant-based foods.

In a recent example, researchers at Simmons College in Boston pored over data from the Nurses Health Study, which collects information via questionnaires from nurses around the country. Women in the study who ate plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes were about half as likely to develop colon and rectal cancer as women who skimped on foods from the produce aisle in favor of meat, sweets, and refined carbohydrates. Nothing else researchers know about can cut the risk of colon cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death, by that much. The danger of prostate cancer can also be slashed with a healthier diet, research shows. Eating foods high in the antioxidant lycopene–red tomatoes are the richest source–can cut prostate cancer risk by as much as 50 percent. And a study from Sweden published this past April showed a reduced risk of mutations that are linked to several types of cancers in people who frequently ate vegetables, citrus fruit, and berries.

The National Cancer Institute, which leads the nation’s research on cancer prevention and treatment, is so convinced of the power of fruits and vegetables that it recently changed its well-known 5-servings-a-day program, designed to encourage Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables, to the 5-to-9-servings-a-day program.

Everyone seems unanimous that the single best way to lower cancer risk is to load up on produce. But that still left me with questions.

What’s a “serving”? Does everything in the produce section count? And for people having a tough time hitting five, are there ways to get more cancer protection without making it feel like work? Here’s what the experts have to say:

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Mel, selected from Natural Solutions magazine

Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.


+ add your own
7:07AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

Thank you for sharing all this.

4:34AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Thank you for an interesting and sensible article.

7:24PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

Thanks for the helpful information.

11:36PM PDT on Aug 5, 2010

I am 56 and have no severe health problems . I do sports regularly and seldom take pills, tablets or any other medecine. My decent performance on this Earth: I engendered one kid and ate less than one pig and one bull in my live but gardens of fruit and vegetables. What have you done ?

3:08AM PST on Feb 10, 2010

cancer is your bodies response to fungal overgrowth. stop eating sugar fools! not to be mean, but really. might save you so you can be with your family. love them as much as they love you. and think happy thoughts!!!

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1:13AM PDT on Aug 27, 2009

as always great info, and I do believe, just can't afford to eat many of these things, especialy fresh fruit. I don't understand why we can substidize beef and allow private cattle ranchers to profit off the use of federal tax payer owned land to grow cows and not for veggies and fruit trees, why are they allowed this?

9:53AM PDT on Aug 26, 2009

Great article, but you ought to have left out the fish and you really should have mentioned meat in the foods to avoid!! People really need more like 15 or more servings of raw fruits, vegetables, and greens a day! GO VEGAN! GO RAW!

9:02AM PDT on Aug 26, 2009

The question is 'Why eat animal products when they are not nutritious and cause cancer and heart disease?' You don't have to eat fish to get Omega-3's. Seafood is very polluted with not just mercury but gender bending chemicals. Be sure to eat plenty of seeds and nuts. Hemp seeds and Flax seeds are rich sources for Omega's. The most nutritious diet is plant based. Go vegan!

5:51PM PDT on Aug 24, 2009

Check out this link...

It should open your eyes up to the truth behind the cancer industry and a lot of $#!+ that is... terrible.

4:09PM PDT on Aug 24, 2009

Eating a rainbow of foods is also good because different colors have different benefits--though this applies to natural colors only. Our digestion is a huge part of our health too. American culture is the most fast-food oriented everything, that we tend to lose the valuable worshiping & prayer session that's so kind to our digestions. How many of us eat while driving the car, & how many of us feel guilty for how we eat. It's really horrible to our health! I notice I get grumpy when I have to cook, so I'm trying to change that into an understanding & appreciation of everything that goes into my food before it gets to me & my family, & what I'm doing to provide us good health.
Also, cancers come to us through chemicals & oil etc. Those fab new clothes or sofa, even our cars a full of chemicals that off gas toxins. Not to mention our hygiene items. Annie B. 7 the gang on this site have some amazing recipes for health, beauty, & cleaning. Plus they're cheaper & more environmentally sound. Making them can be a kind of salutation as well, to whatever good you're doing. Appreciate it!
Also, as for the fish oil thing. I have to add my concerns of overfishing, & the harms to the fish, & what eating them may bring, but even soy has omega 3's. If it's that about them which prevents cancers, as veggies are way less apt to get it, fish get it from plants anyway. Besides, flax is a great source of it that prevents hysterectomies too, & is as be

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