There is an increasing body of research that shows specific foods can help with improving health and avoiding illness. And whilst there is no definitive proof that any specific food can prevent or cure cancer, research based on chemical analysis suggests that some foods contain nutrients and compounds that have been shown to inhibit the action of cancer cells and also boost the immune system to fight cancer.
The studies indicate that eating a diet of ‘good fats’ (containing omega-3) and a wide range of colourful fruit and vegetables – the colours of which often indicate the presence of the beneficial cancer-fighting nutrients (e.g. beta-carotene in carrots and anthocyanins that cause the purple of beetroot, cherries, aubergines, plums and red grapes) is the way to go.
Fish oil from oily fish such as herring, mackerel and salmon contains long chain omega-3 which acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent in the body. Uncontrolled inflammation has been linked with a variety of diseases including arthritis and cancer. Omega-3 has also been shown to protect the DNA structure of cells when they divide which is helpful against cancer since it’s the ‘corruption’ of DNA that drives cells to divide uncontrollably causing cancer.
Oily fish are also rich in Vitamin A, which has been linked with fighting cancer. Uncontrolled inflammation in the body is also thought to be one of the key factors that depletes the immune system and inhibits the body from healing itself effectively.
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts are reckoned to be amongst the most useful vegetables when it comes to fighting cancer. They are high in fibre, minerals and vitamins and antioxidants such as beta carotene, as well as phytochemicals which help counteract the effects of carcinogens (substances that ‘cause’ cancer).
Fibre is really important in helping the body to eliminate toxins as well as containing a substance called galactose which is a favourite with the helpful, good bacteria needed in the intestines and colon. Proper digestion is essential to ensure that vital nutrients are absorbed and digested properly by the body and these vegetables are stars when it comes to ensuring a properly working gut. These vegetables also contain indole-3-carbidol (I3C) which are thought to help cancers driven by oestrogen.
Other cruciferous vegetables include bok choy, swiss chard, chinese cabbage, kholrabi, radishes, turnips and watercress.
Tomatoes contain lycopene which studies show have a beneficial effect on a wide range of cancers.
Tumeric’s active ingredient is curcumin which has been the subject of much positive recent research when it comes to beating cancer. Numerous studies show that curcumin blocks the capabilities of cancer cells to divide as well as blocking the production of inflammatory hormones and enzymes which encourage the growth and spread of cancer. The studies confirm the cancer-preventing and cancer-fighting properties of turmeric across a wide range of cancers.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
These are rich in folic acid which helps maintain the cell’s genetic integrity and regulates the way in which normal cells divides and helps DNA replicate correctly. Green vegetables also contain sulforaphanes which have good cancer fighting attributes and have been demonstrated to help with survival from colon and rectal cancer. Green vegetables also help alkalise the body which enhances the immune system and research shows that a slightly ‘alkaline’ environment stops cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Vegetables in this category include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens. The darker the green the better as this indicates a higher folic acid content.
Nuts and Seeds
Flax seed is a particularly notable food when it comes to preventing and healing cancer. It has an abundance of lignins, substances which have been shown to block or suppress cancerous changes in healthy cells. Flax also has short chain omega-3 fatty acids which are very beneficial (see above under Oily Fish).
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain zinc and also natural Vitamin E. Vitamin E is regarded as the ‘cancer busting’ vitamin as it hinders cancer cells growing and also protects immune system cells from free radicals. Vitamin E also strengthens the immune system. Zinc enables Vitamin C to be absorbed and this helps with speeding up healing time. They also provide selenium (see below).
Brazil nuts are full of selenium which is regarded as a very powerful anti-cancer compound and people who have a daily intake of nuts live longer according to Cancer Watch research. Other great nuts include almonds and walnuts.
Garlic really is the superstar of foods. It contains allicin which appears to stop cancer spreading in a variety of ways including inhibiting the blood supply to tumours. It’s a natural antibiotic and kills off unwanted yeasts and microbes.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties and as if that’s not enough, it contains sulphur-based compounds as well as tryptophan and selenium, all of which are active ingredients known to attack cancer cells. It is also known to increase activity in immune cells.
Studies have reported that garlic is linked to lowering the risk of colon and stomach cancer and that the sulphur-based compounds (e.g. diallyl sulfide) can attack carcinogens in the liver.
Carrots contain carotenoids which convert to Vitamin A when needed by the body and also contain pectins which contribute to a healthy gut as they are loved by friendly bacteria in the intestines.
Red and Yellow peppers are the best source of Vitamin C – even better than oranges. Vitamin C is well known for its immune enhancing properties and also its ability to neutralise toxins. They are also a good source of carotenoids which are also very helpful in boosting the immune system and fighting cancer.
Cayenne (chili peppers) and jalapenos contain a substance called capsaicin, which has been shown to incapacitate cancer causing nitrosamines as well as helping to fight cancer.
Mushrooms have been used as medicine for centuries, especially in Asia. There is now a large body of research that shows how the ‘medicinal’ mushrooms have an anti-cancer and antiviral action in the body and can also super-charge the immune system.
Their cancer fighting and immune boosting properties come from being rich in nutrients such as polysaccharides which include lectin, lentinan, beta-glucan and thioproline. These compounds attack cancerous cells and stop them dividing. They also stimulate the body’s natural production of interferons.
The best cancer fighting mushrooms are: shitake, reishi, cordyceps, coriolus versicolor, maitake chaga and agaricus blazei murrill.