Cancer develops at a cellular level year before there is any physical evidence detectable by imaging. Wherefore, it is crucial to focus on prevention through healthy living, nutrition & activity. People who eat mainly plant-based diets, appear to have noticeably lower rates of cancers & heart disease. A synergistic combination of healthy foods – including vegetables, fruits, legumes & whole grains – is required to provide proper nutritional fuel that will nourish, protect & heal the body.
- Eat a Rainbow! Consume a variety of vegetables & fruits (7-13 servings/day). Phytochemicals, compounds produced by plants, are believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer. Some scientists think that you could reduce your cancer risk by as much as 40% by eating more vegetables, fruits, & other plant foods that have certain phytochemicals in them. Phytochemicals may:
- help stop the formation of potential cancer-causing substances (carcinogens)
- help stop carcinogens from attacking cells
- help cells stop & destroy cancer-like changes
Phytochemicals are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, & other plants. A carrot, for example, has more than 100 phytochemicals. Nutrition researchers estimate that more than 4,000 phytochemicals have been identified, but only about 150 have been studied in depth. Some of the most beneficial phytochemicals are:
- Isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, collards, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens & cauliflower
- Beta carotene & other carotenoids which give carrots, yams, cantaloupe, squash, & apricots their orange color, may help reduce the risk of cancer.
- Anthocyanins, which give grapes, blueberries, cranberries, & raspberries their dark color, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory & anti-tumor properties.
- Sulfides, found in garlic & onions strengthen the immune system.
- Resveratrol in red wine
- Polyphenols in tea
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- Cut the Bad Fat! Low-fat diet may reduce risk of recurrence & first-time breast cancer, especially for women whose diets are initially high in fat. Limit your fat intake to less than 20% of your total calories per day. Avoid trans- fats, red meats, & charred or smoked foods. Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, krill, flax seed oils & walnuts).
- To Soy or Not to Soy? Research about the effects of phytoestrogens & isoflavones on cancer risk reduction has been mixed. Phytoestrogens. estrogen-like compounds found in plants, typically have very weak estrogen-like activity. When a weak estrogen-like substance replaces your body’s natural estrogen’s position, then the weak substance can act as a relative anti-estrogen. By acting in this way, phytoestrogens might help work against breast cancer that depends on estrogen for its growth. Isoflavones are weak phytoestrogens found in tofu & soy milk products.
If the isoflavones, however, give breast cells a stronger estrogen signal than tamoxifen, complication may occur. In general, it’s fine to eat moderate amounts of soy foods as part of a balanced diet. On the other hand, many doctors recommend that women who take hormonal therapy or who have estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer avoid soy supplements because they contain high concentrations of isoflavones.
- Up the Anti! Antioxidants protect your body’s cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules created during normal cell functions that can damage a cell’s genetic fragments & may trigger the cell to grow out of control. These changes may contribute to the development of cancer & other diseases. Pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke & herbicides can create free radicals in your body. Antioxidant sources include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, corn, carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, soybeans, cantaloupe, oranges, spinach, nuts, lettuce, celery, liver, fish oil, seeds, grains, kale, beets, red peppers, potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, & black and green tea. Dark-colored fruits & vegetables have the greatest antioxidant density.
- Eat Low G! Eating higher glycemic index foods, eating a higher glycemic load diet, & eating more simple sugar may increase risk of several types of cancer. Although sugar doe not necessarily “feed” cancer cells, it DOES increase insulin production, which may encourage faster cell growth & stimulate metastasis of cancer cells. In recent years, researchers found that women with early stage breast cancer who had the highest insulin levels were twice as likely to have their tumor metastasize, and three times as likely to die of breast cancer as women with the lowest insulin levels. (Keith I. Block M.D.) Increased insulin production may also lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Women with Type 2 Diabetes are 17% more likely to develop breast cancer than those without.
Tips For Eating a Low Glycemic Load Diet
- Dump the soda pop. It raises insulin & other hormones faster than sugar in food, because it is a liquid.
- If you do not like plain water, try carbonated water that does not contain sugar.
- Chose WHOLE fruit over fruit juice. Fiber in whole food slows down the absorption of the natural sugar.
- Sprinkle ground flax seeds or a small amount of raw almonds or walnuts on foods to lower the overall Glycemic Load of the snack or meal. This will add protein & fat to the meal or snack which slows sugar absorption for a healthier effect.
- Replace store bought salad dressings, which may contain a lot of sugar, with your own balsamic or apple cider vinegar & olive oil mixtures. Or look for a healthier brand that contains no sugar, no corn syrup, and no hydrogenated fats.
- Build your diet around unprocessed whole plant foods, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains & legumes. Fast food or microwave meals often contain sugar, unhealthy fats & excess calories.
- Replace snack foods with whole vegetables & fruits, or small portions of nut. For a snack, try one piece of fruit with a small handful of nuts or a spoonful of nut butter. The nuts add protein & healthy fat to your diet & will lower the overall glycemic load of the snack.
- Avoid buying bread & pasta products that say enriched, which indicate that they are processed & not whole grain. True whole grain products typically have fewer ingredients on the label, contain less sugar, more protein & fiber, & are healthier. Pure whole grains have a lower glycemic index & glycemic load than refined grains or white products.
- Eat foods that are close to their natural form as possible. Less processing means a lower glycemic index, lower glycemic load & more nutrition!
- Enjoy dessert in moderation, no more than a few times per week, at the most. An ounce of dark chocolate per day is a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Balance the Scale! Keep your body weight in a healthy range. Researchers found that increased abdominal body fat distribution & increased weight around age 30, increases the risk of developing breast cancer. Overweight women have an increased risk of breast cancer after menopause compared to women at a healthy weight. Healthy weight reduces risk of first-time breast cancer & recurrence.