Food for Thought on Foods and Cancers
In the 1970s cancer was a mystery disease. Not only were the causes relatively unknown, but treatments were rather imprecise too. Forty years later, people suffering from some of the most common forms of cancer were twice as likely to survive for at least 10 years, compared with patients diagnosed in the early 1970s. More importantly, it is widely recognised that although there may be some genetic disposition to cancers, they are triggered by lifestyles. The American Cancer Society stated in its report Cancer Prevention & Early Detection (2017-2018), "Much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use and obesity, improve diet, and increase physical activity and the use of established screening tests."
Here are some common findings across studies on foods that could cause or prevent cancer:
Diet Dos – It’s an age old wisdom that having a clean gut is the secret of good health. So, include more ‘resistant starch’ in your diet. This includes vegetables, beans and fruits that are high in fibres. Within vegetables, it has come to light that broccoli, and to some extent its cousins cabbage and cauliflower, is a cancer-preventing ‘super food’ because it contains a substance called glucosinolate, along with high fibre and a number of other great health benefits. Researchers suggest that steaming is the best way to consume broccoli. Nuts are another food you want in your cancer-prevention arsenal. They contain generous amounts of selenium, a trace mineral that convinces cancer cells to destroy themselves, while they also help cells repair their DNA. A study found that around 200 micrograms of selenium daily results in 63% fewer prostate tumours, 58% fewer colorectal cancers, 46% fewer lung malignancies, and a 39% overall decrease in cancer deaths. Researchers advice, however, that it is better to get one’s daily dose of selenium from food rather than supplements. Garlic, the pungent herb that many culinary traditions across the world celebrate, is known to stimulate the immune system. It could also help the body rid itself of cancer-causing substances and encourage cancer cells to die naturally, a process called apoptosis. Fresh fish, particularly salmon, which are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, are associated with cancer-fighting effects. All in all, there is an extremely long list of natural foods, and combinations thereof, that boost the body’s ability to stay cancer free. Certain commonly consumed beverages like green tea and red wine, when imbibed in moderation, have also been proved to have beneficial properties that help prevent cancer.
Diet Don’ts – The human body is an adapting and enduring organism; yet, the intake of some foods simply manages to cause havoc. Excessive consumption of sugar, for instance in the form of sugary drinks, can cause multi-pronged damage. It has been known to increase the risks of endometrial cancer. In addition, it tends to cause obesity, which in turn is a leading trigger for many other types of cancer. Processed foods, especially meats and high-fat animal protein, have usually returned a high correlation to cancer in various studies. Regular consumption of pickled, spicy of burnt foods have been found to cause irritation of the gut and gastric cancers.
There’s a popular saying, ‘You are what you eat’ which may contain more truth than we give it credit for. Eating fresh foods and natural storehouses of nutrition do tend to keep us energetic and ready for the long haul while eating foods that are over spiced, over cooked or over processed only add to the body’s workload without any benefit. While it is still unclear exactly what lifestyle changes, even dietary changes, could work to assure prevention of cancers and no single diet chart seems to fit the bill, there is no denying the connection between health and nutrition.