Cancer Prevention & Recovery Diet
What causes cancer?
Everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, but what are other contributors that cause this life-threatening disease? Poor diet and obesity, genetics and family history, exposure to carcinogens and environmental pollutants, lack of exercise, over consumption of alcohol, and exposure to potent viruses compromise our immune and detoxification systems giving rise to a favorable atmosphere for cancer growth.
Since poor diet and obesity are major contributors, it stands to reason that following a cancer prevention and recovery diet would deter and assist in healing from cancer. Below are some ideas for optimizing your health to prevent cancer, to support someone undergoing medical treatment and to minimize risk or recurrence.
Eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Plant foods are full of phytonutrients, which are naturally-occurring plant compounds that promote health. Many fruits and vegetables have potent cancer-fighting compounds. Be sure to include a wide variety of the following colorful foods, at least five 5 colors per day.
- Cruciferous (broccoli) family, these include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage; they offer strong cancer-preventing/prohibiting substances, inhibit estrogen action and support liver detoxification: 1 – 2 servings/day is ideal
- Anthocyanins (grapes and berries) are high in bioflavonoids and increase anti-tumor enzymes: 1 or more servings daily
- Carotenes (red/orange/yellow), these include cantaloupe, yams, pumpkin, etc. and they neutralize free radicals, and enhance cell respiration: 3 or more servings each day
- Lycopene (tomatoes) high in antioxidants, reduces risk of cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix and skin: at least 1 serving a day
- Leafy greens contain chlorophyll, many forms of antioxidants, and both soluble and insoluble fiber: 1 or more servings daily
Consume 4 servings of clean, lean protein each day.
A serving is 3 oz. animal, 1 oz. cheese or 6 oz. legume). Clean protein refers to animal products raised free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, etc. Look for sources that are grass-fed, organic, or wild.
Eat 2- 4 tablespoons of nuts and seeds every day.
Nuts and seeds contain the genetic material to grow an entire plant, and are packed with nutrients. They have no cholesterol but are high in healthy fats that keep cell membranes flexible, and offer good quality protein and fiber.
Eat 2 – 4 servings (½ cup each) of unrefined starches (root vegetables and whole grains) per day.
Root vegetables such as potatoes in the skin, sweet potatoes, turnips, and beets are high in fiber, but low in fat and offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. These foods are high in nutrients and rich in fiber.
Enjoy spices, garlic, and onions at least 3 times a day.
Seasonings such as garlic, onions, leeks, ginger root, turmeric, rosemary, basil, cloves, etc. not only add flavor and color to foods, they also stimulate digestion. In particular, garlic offers protection against some forms of cancer, including cancer of the colon. Some studies have shown that allicin, found in garlic and onions can stop the growth of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.
Drink green or herb tea every day.
Herbal teas are high in flavonoids, the active constituents in many medicinal plants used by herbalists. Green tea contains polyphenols (a type of flavonoid), the most powerful of which is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. Research indicates that EGCG is a valuable antioxidant, twenty times more effective than vitamin C. Polyphenols have also been found to inhibit tumor formation.
Consume 1-3 servings of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed or fish oil (1 Tbs.) and algae (1 tsp.) daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats. They have been shown to increase the fluidity of cell membranes, allowing for better uptake of nutrients, and clearing of cellular waste. Additionally, they help protect cells from carcinogens and reduce inflammation.
Consume organic foods whenever possible.
Pesticides and herbicides found in non-organic foods will contribute to an already burdened system. Dr. Elson Haas reports in Staying Healthy With Nutrition that 107 ingredients in pesticides have been found to cause cancer in animals and humans.
In addition to foods and beverages you should consume to prevent or recover from cancer, there are many you will want to avoid. Limit or avoid these substances altogether:
- Additives and preservatives (nitrates, artificial colorings and flavorings)
- Artificial sweeteners or diet products (aspartame, sucralose)
- Coffee (caffeinated or decaffeinated)
- Fast foods and junk foods (chips, fries, hot dogs)
- Foods and beverages with added sugars (baked goods, soft drinks)
- Hydrogenated and Trans Fats (margarine, baked goods, candies)
While eating a healthy diet is critical in fighting cancer, remember to also care for yourself by taking time to exercise, relax, meditate, count your blessings and visualize a healthy you every day. Consult a certified dietitian or nutrition consultant for guidance regarding the use of herbs and dietary supplements when undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer does not thrive in a healthy body, so eat well and live well to support recovery.