If you want a quick introduction on the best cancer-fighting foods out there read on! This post references all of the culinary suggestions written about in Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer by Richard Beliveau, PhD and Denis Gingras, PhD. Their book does a fantastic job of breaking down how each of these foods fights cancer. The best thing you can do is start incorporating ALL of these foods into your diet EVERY DAY!
"Vegetables from the cabbage family have an almost magical ability to fight against the development of cancerous cells in the body. Of all edible plants, cruciferous vegetables are probably those that contain the largest variety of phytochemical (cancer fighting) compounds with anticancer activity."
Green or white cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, oriental cabbages, mustard plant, watercress, radishes, turnips.
Cooking Instructions: cruciferous vegetables should never be soaked or boiled in water. They should be either steamed or stir-fried. Frozen vegetables are blanched before freezing and loose most of their anticancer molecules. Use fresh vegetables and chew cruciferous very well to release the
Garlic & Onions
"Garlic and other members of the Allium family slow the development of cancer both through their protective action against the damage caused by carcinogenic substances and their ability to prevent cancer cell growth."
Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives
Cooking Instructions: the anticancer molecules in the Allium family are released when the vegetables are crushed, chopped, or chewed.
"Turmeric was already featured in the list of over 200 medicinal plants mentioned in a series of medical treatises dating from 3000 BC. Turmeric has an honored place in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition (from ayur, life, and vedic, knowledge). In the Ayurvedic tradition, turmeric, considered a food with cleansing and purifying properties, is used to treat a wide variety of physical ailments, including digestive disorders, fever, infections, arthritis, and dysentery, as well as jaundice and other problems associated with the liver. Studies showed that the anti-inflammatory molecules in turmeric might (*see note below*) be useful in the prevention and treatment of several different types of cancers, including stomach, intestinal, colon, skin, and liver cancers; the effect was seen at both the initiation and promotion stages of tumor development."
**NOTE: all of these books use the words might and may because there is no "definite proof" however the stats on the rates of cancer in the west (more) vs. the east (less) are proof enough for me to start incorporating these simple foods into my cooking.
Cooking Instructions: Turmeric needs to be accompanied by black pepper for it to be absorbed by the body. Use in a yellow curry sauce or to season meat or fish. Best with black pepper, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder.
"Green tea is an exceptional source of powerful anticancer molecules that make it a key feature of any diet designed to prevent the growth of cancer. In spite of their common origins, the chemical composition of green tea and black tea is completely different. In the course of the fermentation process used to make black tea, dramatic changes occur in the nature of the polyphenols (anticancer molecules) that were originally present in the leaves: they oxidize to produce black pigments."
Brewing Instructions: Select a Japanese green tea, which are higher in anticancer compounds, and brew for 8-10 minutes. Drink within one hour of brewing. Try to drink 3 cups daily.
"Most berries are an exceptionally abundant source of several classes of polyphenols that possess anticancer potential. Of all the fruits analysed, blueberries are in first place, closely followed by raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries, and far ahead of most of the fruits and vegetables that form a regular part of our diet."
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries,
Eating Instructions: Eat raw or freeze to use in smoothies. Fresh is always preferred.
"While the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids obtained through diet by the first human beings was probably around one to one, the ratio has now become more like twenty to one! This imbalance tipped in favor of Omega-6 fatty acids may have negative repercussions on the development of some chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is because Omega-6s are used by the body to synthesize molecules that play a role in inflammation, but Omega-3s are needed for the synthesis of anti-inflammatory molecules. Increasing the intake of Omega-3s while decreasing that of Omega-6s may significantly reduce the risk of all inflammatory disease and cancer."
Fresh walnuts, nuts, walnut oil, canola oil, flax seeds, sardines, herring, mackerel, Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout.
"Lycopene is the pigment responsible for the tomato's red color, and the tomato, whether considered a fruit or a vegetable, is the best dietary source of lycopene. The lycopene of our cultivated tomatoes is unfortunately much lower than that of the original wild growing species. (All the more reason to grow your own heirloom varieties!!) Products made from cooked tomatoes are particularly rich in lycopene. The rupture of cell walls exposed to heat allows for a better extraction of the molecule and causes changes in its structure that let it be more easily assimilated into the body. Fats also increase the availability of lycopene, so cooking tomatoes in olive oil is an excellent way to maximize the amount of lycopene that can be absorbed."
Tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, condensed tomato soup, canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato juice.
Cooking Instructions: Use olive oil when making sauce. Also great with onions and garlic!
"Citrus fruits are essential foods for cancer prevention. This is due to their capacity to act directly on cancerous cells as well as their potential for enhancing the anticancer effects of other phytochemical compounds present in the diet. Citrus fruit consumption, whether in the form of whole fruit or (fresh) juice, supplies the body with an incomparable source of specific anticancer molecules, while also providing the necessary daily requirements of many vitamins and minerals."
Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, mandarins, clementines, tangerines.
(My favorite subject!!)
"Numerous studies have pointed out that people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol on a daily basis have a mortality risk lower than either those who abstain from alcohol or those who drink to excess. Moderate quantities of alcohol (2-4 glasses of wine per day for men and 1-2 glasses of wine per day for women) significantly diminish the risk of death by 25-30 percent, for all causes of death. However, when these amounts are exceeded the mortality risk increases very rapidly. Red wine is perhaps the most complex beverage in all of the human diet. This complexity is due to the long process of grape fermentation, which causes important changes in the chemical composition of the initial fruit pulp, allowing the extraction of
certain molecules. We should remember that countries where wine consumption has been linked to lower mortality rates, particularly Mediterranean countries, are characterized by a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. These cuisines use olive oil as the principal source of fats and use meat
only in moderation."
Red & green grapes, red wine (pinot noir), white wine.
"Cacao beans are composed of 50-57% fat. True, these lipids are mostly saturated: 35% stearic acid and 25% palmitic acid. However, a good proportion (35%) is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid found primarily in olive oil and known to have positive effects on cardiovascular system health. Chocolate's principal lipid, stearic acid, is only weakly absorbed into the body, where it is partially (about 15%) transformed into oleic acid by the liver. Thus dark chocolate is a food that can be described as neutral as to its impact on blood cholesterol. Chocolate contains an abundance of polyphenols; a small square of dark chocolate has twice the polyphenol content of a glass of red wine and about as much as a cup of green tea brewed for the correct length of time..... Real Chocolate vs. chocolate candy: Fine dark and milk chocolates have little in common with the products consumed in large quantities by North Americans, which are more chocolate-flavored candies than chocolate. These products contain very little cocoa (federal laws prohibit their being labeled "chocolate"). Instead of cocoa butter, they contain fillers, such as saturated fats. This is why "chocolate" candy, which contains more fats and sugar than does dark chocolate, is a source of cholesterol."
Soy Free Brands: Pure Icelandic Chocolate, Theo Organic Fair Trade, Alter Eco Fair Trade, Equal Exchange Chocolates.
Eating Instructions: Should be 70% cocoa or higher. A few small squares pair great with a glass of red wine after dinner.
NOTE: This book (Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer) also devotes a chapter to soy. This is such a complex and controversial vegetable that I will be writing an entire post on it in the future.