There is no single superfood that can prevent disease or cancer, but research indicates that diet has a critical role to play in the overall health of a person for both the short and long term.
The food that a person eats determines what resources are available to the body when fighting off pathogens, healing itself, or completing everyday tasks.
Different food groups, especially when eaten in conjunction, can have cancer-fighting properties, and can ensure that your body is functions correctly for a lifetime.
Diet is as much a habit as it is an exercise, and it can take some uncomfortable adjustment to get to a place where a healthy diet is routine and not an act of determination. The “New American Plate” is a goal for those striving to eat healthier, and plates are defined rather simply: two-thirds plant-based foods and no more than one-third animal protein. By following this blueprint, anyone can make a transition to healthier eating, though that isn’t to say that the change will come easy.
Adopting a majority plant-based diet can be difficult, and there are a lot of choices that are better for you than others. It may not feel like an important change to make now, but waiting until disease or cancer is at the door is not a good plan. Eating better requires preemptive striking, and determination to live a healthy lifestyle before health complications arise. In order to maximize the cancer-fighting abilities of the New American Plate, and to get you started on ideas and combinations that will satisfy, here are some better and worse food choices for a healthy, cancer-fighting meal.
Eating your vegetables
At the top of the list for foods to consume is vegetables. They contain the highest concentration of cancer-fighting nutrients, and can reduce risk in a secondary manner by keeping weight at a lower threshold. Extra pounds increase a person’s risk of developing various cancers, including colon, kidney, and esophagus cancer. A good general rule to follow is to choose vegetables that are rich in color. These tend to contain more cancer-fighting nutrients than colorless or ‘dull’ vegetables, and they also tend to carry more intense flavor.
The cabbage family or cruciferous vegetables is an important vegetable group, and can be added to any meal as either an ingredient or a feature dish. Many people enjoy Brussels sprouts with steak or potatoes, and all will be familiar with broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage itself. For more creative cooking, kale and bok choy can be used to provide bright green color and highly concentrated plant-based nutrients to a stir fry dish or salad. These ingredients also help fight against specific forms of cancer, such as colon, breast, lung, and cervix cancers.
Leafy greens are another excellent source of vegetable nutrients. Generally, the darker green the leaf, the more nutrients the leaf contains. These dark green leafy vegetables include lettuce, kale, chicory, spinach, mustard greens, and chard. A mix of these vegetables can often be the base of a salad, or the leaves can be used as secondary ingredients. Some, like kale in particular, change flavor profiles dramatically when cooked. Raw leafy greens might not be the most enjoyable food choice, but there are many ways to incorporate them into the diet.
Seeking the right nutrients
To specify, the cancer-fighting nutrients found in vegetables are carotenoids, dietary fiber, and folate. Carotenoids are the reason that bright red, yellow, and orange colors occur in vegetables. Dietary fiber plays a critical role in the digestive process, and promotes the health of the complex biome of microorganisms that live in the GI tract. The most important of these is folate, also called folic acid or vitamin B9. It is responsible for making DNA and RNA, and plays a critical role in cell division, the root of all cancers.
Getting folate into the diet is relatively easy; if you eat breakfast, odds are you are already getting enough vitamin B9. Whole grain breakfast cereals and whole wheat products have plenty of folate, as well as orange juice, strawberries, and foods in the melon family. Other good options include eggs, asparagus, beans, sunflower seeds, and as previously mentioned, leafy greens. Folate occurs in particularly high concentrations in dark leafy greens.
Some fruits and other individual foods have unique nutritional benefits. Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, contain a nutrient called resveratrol—a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient. Blueberries are also highly antioxidant, and ride the body of entities that cause damage to cells. Strawberries and raspberries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant which may fight cancer on multiple fronts through its antioxidant properties. Eating fruits is an important way to include plant-based foods in a two-thirds plant diet.
Many of these nutrients are available in supplement form, but dietary supplements are not a viable alternative for eating naturally occurring foods. The American Cancer Society condemns dietary supplements as a way of getting the right nutrition, and emphasizes getting cancer-fighting nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and nuts. These natural foods are metabolized correctly by the body and contain multiple nutrients and compounds, unlike isolated dietary supplements.
Other healthy options
Besides the primary fruit and vegetable groups, there are a few options that can be beneficial to the diet, even if the foods are not proven to have cancer-fighting effects. For example, tea has been suggested to have cancer fighting properties, particularly green tea varieties, but there have been no conclusive studies conducted that can confirm this. Still, green tea is a healthy alternative to soda and some juices, as well as coffee for those who cannot drink it.
Beans and other legumes contain several plant-based compounds that can slow or prevent the growth of tumors. The also provide some level of cellular protection, preventing tumorous growths from damaging nearby cells. Those who adopt vegetarian diets lean heavily into legume consumption. There is a lot of metabolic and digestive value in beans, and adding them into the diet can provide energy, fiber, and protein in place of some meats.
Finally, the best liquid to consume to keep the body healthy is water. Drinking plenty of water every day allows the body to maintain temperature, to utilize available energy, and to flush toxins and pathogens out of the body. Drinking water has been shown to dilute cancer-causing agents in the bladder and flush toxins out of the body more frequently. Urine should be clear on a regular basis, or as close to clear as possible.
Things to avoid
There are plenty of foods worth avoiding, and unfortunately, they tend to be staples in the grab-and-go American diet. As a general rule, if you know that you shouldn’t be eating something, don’t eat it. Common sense is best when deciding how to eat healthy. Staying away from greasy, deep fried, sugary, and processed foods is key when deciding what to put on the table. If possible, eat at home using whole ingredients. The less packaged and processed, the better.
Staying away from alcohol consumption is also critical for people battling cancer. Though the effects can be desirable for a short time, the actual impact of alcohol on the body is damaging. When energy, wellbeing, and positivity become important factors, alcohol should be left behind. Everything that you put into your body gives you something back, be it positive or negative. For this reason, everyone should focus on foods that make them feel good and healthy.