“For a long time, cancer was considered a disease of bad luck. Nowadays, it is more widely accepted as multifactorial in nature – with genetics, the ageing process and lifestyle all playing a part. Although there’s little any of us can do about our genetics, we can certainly adjust our lifestyles. A huge part of our lifestyles is what we eat,” says Simaan.
9 out of 10 cancers are caused by lifestyle. With cancer rates projected to rise from the 14.1 million cases seen in 2012 to 24 million by 2035, the news that we can all influence our risk of cancer could not have come at a better time.
Of course, when we talk about lifestyle factors, tobacco smoke comes to mind. But one thing people don’t always realise is that the food-cancer link is strong as well – and the evidence is growing. So, what should you be eating, rather than shouldn’t. Which foods can actually fight off cancer and potentially lower your cancer risk?
Green vegetables boost your iron levels and keep your bowels regular. It is proven that green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and spinach can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. The green clorophyll molecules found in green vegetables prevent damage that dietary haem (a molecule found in red meat) does to the colon, lowering the risk of colon cancer. Green and yellow vegetables also lower the risk of other cancers, including stomach and lung cancer, due to the cancer-protecting effects of high levels of beta-carotene in green vegetables.
While it’s widely believed that cooking destroys the health benefits of vegetables, the cancer-reducing properties of green vegetables are in fact boosted by eating cooked vegetables instead of raw, thanks to an increase in the free-radical-trapping antioxidant content of courgettes and broccoli, as a result of cooking them.
Garlic, onions and mushrooms
If you’re keen to minimise your risk of stomach cancer, it may also be worth stocking up on onions and garlic. This is because a high intake of alliums (like onions and garlic) helps to protect against stomach cancer. The theory is that the high sulphur content of these vegetables may slow down the growth of cancer cells as well as the activity of carcinogens that trigger cancer.
And how about those mushrooms? Well, mushrooms have long been favoured as a cancer treatment in Chinese medicine, particularly shiitake and maitake varieties. Studies indicate that fungus-specific chemicals in shiitake mushrooms can prevent growth of different types of cancer cells (including breast and bone cancer), and clinical studies have shown that extracts of medicinal mushrooms improved the health and quality of life in breast cancer patients.
Beans, berries and seeds
In the 1980’s, research showed that beans have cancer-protecting properties which showed a lower risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer. These properties came to work among populations that had diets rich in beans and other legumes. Additional studies have since backed up these findings. It is thought that the cancer-protecting effects are due to their high antioxidant content.
Dr. Simaan states that “Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are also rich in antioxidants, and unsurprisingly, they too are known anti-cancer foods. Interestingly however, it’s the high vitamin C content of berries that most likely underlies their association with reduced colorectal and oesophageal cancer risk.”
There is this antioxidant, ellagic acid, that is found in all berries. It has been shown to help prevent lung, breast, skin, bladder and oesophageal cancer. Ellagic acid protects against cancer by blocking tumour cell growth, virus infection and inflammation.
Seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients, including unsaturated ‘heart healthy’ fatty acids and fibre. One study showed that woman who ate a diet high in nuts and seeds had a lower risk of colon cancer than those who didn’t, but this effect was not seen in men. The researchers suggested that the plant hormones, including oestrogens, may be responsible for the anti-cancer benefits.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
“Hippocrates said this around 400 BC and it appears the brilliant Greek physician – known as the ‘father of modern medicine’ – understood all that time ago what many doctors today still fail to grasp: eating right is your ticket to keeping healthy throughout your years.”, Simaan says.
The evidence is clear: adjusting your diet is an effective way to minimise your risk of all cancers. It’s never too late to start! The best part about it: the food you eat is something that is within your control, unlike your genes and age.
A lot of questions remain unanswered in this area: how much of these cancer-protecting foods should you eat each day, how are they best prepared,…
There’s no doubt about it: the answers will come to light as further research is carried out. At the moment we can say that simply adding these foods into your diet whenever possible can possibly help to keep your body in optimum condition.
Why not start today? At Hercules Academy we know how to help you and your company in achieving a healthy lifestyle. You can find more about our workshops HERE. Are you interested? Please don’t hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org .