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Eat Right: Foods that fight cancer?

March 3rd, 2011 by - comments (4)

Have you heard about diets that claim to prevent cancer? Tried drinking three cups of green tea a day to reduce your risk of breast cancer? How viable are these claims? If you eat the right diet, can you, in fact, prevent or reduce your chance of cancer?

American Cancer Society says:

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with good health, but can it help lower your breast cancer risk? Researchers can’t say for sure. No study has been able to definitely link the two.

As for claims that eating a certain vegetable or fruit will lower your risk, there’s no hard evidence. Nutrients in certain vegetables and fruits, known as antioxidants, appear to protect the body against tissue damage and may lower cancer risk, but again, the research is far from definitive.

I know this and still, when I saw a tweet that advertised 5 Foods That Help Fight & Prevent Cancer, I clicked through. The article suggests green tea (three cups a day for antioxidants), blueberries (daily), mushrooms (organic), cruciferous vegetables, and garlic.

I’m actually on board with some of these suggestions to a degree, and ACS backs up my position.

I say: I drink green tea every morning (instead of coffee). I drink blueberry green tea, in fact, so it’s sweet and needs no addition (though I splash some almond milk in because yes, I like milk in my tea). I only drink one cup a day, though. Why do I drink it? It’s good, it perks me up, it has a lot of benefits, and it’s known to help with overall health, metabolism, and so forth.

ACS says: Green tea contains chemicals known as polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties. The major group of polyphenols in green tea are called catechins, and the most important catechin seems to be epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG may cause cancer cells to die in much the same way that normal cells do. This effect is important because cancer cells are different from normal cells in that they do not die when they should—they continue to grow and spread.

I say: I like blueberries but prefer them in season. I’m not likely to eat them every day. In fact, there are few foods I’d eat everyday. Variety is the space of life, and I haphazardly subscribe to the idea of eating foods in season. I also think there are plenty of other antioxidant fruits and vegetables that are worthwhile. Ditto to mushrooms, which I like, but not enough to commit to eating every day. And to reiterate, there are a wealth of good foods that are healthy for me.

ACS says: Research shows that the best foods for fighting cancer come in vibrant packages. Luscious red raspberries, brilliant orange peppers, leafy green vegetables and their colorful cousins are full of nutrients that support good cell functioning. Many fruits and vegetables are filled with antioxidants, which act as a health tonic for your cells. Oxidation – the work cells do when they burn food energy – creates a residue of stress. Antioxidants help mend that wear and tear, keeping cells strong and cancer-resistant. (Click through to see more suggestions and information.)

I say: Obviously I agree about the vegetables. And so does ACS (The Color of PreventionDiet and Breast Cancer Risk: What’s the Connection?, Fruits and Vegetables-Do You Get Enough?).

I say: I love garlic and easily could (and possibly do) eat it every day. I notice my garlic consumption, and wasabi consumption, increase in pollen season, also known as Spring. I have heard that garlic is a natural antiobiotic and that wasabi is a natural antimicrobial so it’s possible my body is being smart. Wasabi, like many spicy foods, does seem to clear up my sinuses and you’ll never be able to convince me otherwise on that point, but the garlic I eat because it tastes good. I don’t augment my diet with garlic supplements or large portions of it for any reason.

ACS says: Garlic is currently under study for its ability to reduce cancer risk. However, there is not enough evidence at this time to support eating large amounts of garlic or taking garlic supplements for cancer prevention. Garlic may have the potential to interfere with anesthesia or other medicines. It is reasonable to include garlic as part of a balanced diet, unless one has a particular health problem or is taking medication that has been shown to be adversely affected by garlic. (Click through for more information.)

The article suggests organic for all of its food (and drinks). I used to buy everything I could organic, but I’ve tapered that off to dairy and certain fruits and vegetables. If there’s no cost difference, or an insignificant one, I’ll likely veer towards organic, but honestly it’s no longer my general top priority for most foods. It’s also simply not financially feasible, especially as food costs are projected to rise another 10%. What’s my test for when I must buy organic? if I plan to eat the outside and inside. ACS agrees: When to buy organic.

It’s good that we’re researching food to find if any are advantageous to cancer prevention, but at the moment, mainly the only sure link we can show is that certain styles of eating specific foods are more likely to lead you to better health. So at the end of the day, provocative headlines aside, the best thing you can do is eat these healthy foods — Eat Right — and work towards being as healthy as you can with as healthy a diet as you can manage.

For even more really good information read: Common Questions About Diet and Cancer


4 Responses to “Eat Right: Foods that fight cancer?”

  1. Thank you for sharing your blog with me on Twitter. Great information. I can’t wait to share this with my clients. I really appreciate you sharing this! ღ(ˆ◡ˆ)ღ

  2. Hi,

    May I feature your site as a post? As a former ACS person, I follow all things ACS and would like to share the sensible nutrition information your site has to offer. Credit for information would be given to your site with an active link back to your site.

    Please respond to


    Jean Campbell

  3. Brue says:

    Good post, I’d say thanks to writer because i have found a lot exciting knowledge.
    Keep it going! :) . Best regards

  4. Yes, we too believe you can eat to help reduce the chance of cancer. Please visit our website, for recipes, meal plans, and lots of fun ideas on how to eat healthy.

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