What Can Cause Cancer :While a lot of factors may not be within our control to prevent from such conditions, like genetics or occupational hazards or environmental conditions like air pollution, drugs etc, yet one important factor that can reduce one’s risks of developing cancer apart from the factors mentioned above, is, what and how we eat, besides of course keeping off habits like smoking, alcohol etc. In short, our eating behaviour through our life cycle matters to a great extent. Yes, one can actually eat their way to prevent or fight cancer through our day to day dietary choices and pattern of eating.
Food Diversity :We need to have a diversity of foods on our plate which includes diversity of different types and colours too. No singe food by itself can prevent cancer. What is required is the right combinations of different foods and striking a balance between the good healthy plant based and no more than two third of animal based foods which includes poultry and dairy too. The ‘My Plate’ concept best reflects the concept, wherein you have a plate divided into one half being fruits and vegetables, one fourth comprising the legumes or pulses or an animal based source and the remaining being the whole grains and alongside a portion of dairy and water.
Get the Rainbow :Most of our fruits and vegetables come with different colours in different seasons and these contain the cancer fighting nutrients. More the colours you have on your plate (red and yellow – tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya), blue and purple – brinjal plums blueberries, purple cabbage), orange – carrots, mangoes, pumpkin, apricots), green – spinach, broccoli, cabbage), brown – beans, chickpeas, lentils), more the nutrient diversity you get in the right proportions. Compounds like polyphenols, lycopene, anthocyanins, phytonutrients, beta carotene etc. present in various colours, all have diverse role and action in our body to work against harmful inflammatory compounds or toxins which gradually over a period of time can develop into cancer cells. A point to bear in mind is that the beneficial effects of such foods do not show up overnight. One has to have them throughout their lifetime to reap their benefits.
Folate rich foods :Research shows that folic acid, which is a part of the B complex vitamins, plays a crucial role in prevention by blocking the cancer cells in the early stages, esp. like in colorectal cancers it is considered as a magic bullet. Most of the dark green vegetables, like spinach, lettuce and beans besides animal products are good source.
Junk the Junk :Foods which are ultra processed, high in sugars, polished and refined foods, excessive consumption of processed meats, smoked foods like ham, sausages, deli meat, hot dogs burgers and the like can all lead to production of toxic compounds which over time can be high risk factors for cancer cell growth, examples being stomach and colon cancers.
Tomatoes, The Saviour :Including tomatoes both raw and cooked in our meals is great ideas they excellent sources of anti oxidants which help prevent cancer. The lycopene formed by cooking tomatoes and the ascorbic acid in the raw ones both are powerful cancer fighters.
Grapes, the Elixir :The compound reservertol present in grapes and the juice has strong anti oxidant and anti inflammatory effects which can help prevent cancer.
The Soothing Green Tea :As per the research available, laboratory studies have shown that the polyphenols in the green tea have been shown to have good anti oxidant effect by slowing or preventing the development of cancer in the colon, liver, breast and prostate cells. However, research for more evidence is stil on going.
The Bean family :The compound phytochemicals present in most beans are known to be cancer preventive by action of their role in preventing cell damage that can lead to cancer.
The Cabbage and Green Family :Most of the cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli) and spinach are considered highly cancer protective especially the colon, breast, lung and cervix. This is due to their high folate and carotenoid content.
The desi Curcumin :This is the potent compound in the spice turmeric , an important item of the Indian kitchen pharmacy. It has promising action against most cancers by virtue of its role in suppressing the transformation and proliferation and invasion of cancer cells. The correct dose and mode of consuming it also matters.
Go light weight :
Yes, the lighter your baggage, the better. Excess weight or obesity itself can be an inflammatory condition. Excess fat deposition by way of routine consumption of sugars and sweetened beverages, refined and processed carbohydrates, devoid of fiber can be high risk factor for development of cancer of the stomach, liver and colon.
Cooking Methods Do Matter :Any of the above mentioned foods may still not be of much use if the way they are cooked, stored and combinations of various foods are not right. Cooking foods using dry heat like grilling, baking, toasting, smoking, deep or shallow frying and exposing to high heat for prolonged time can totally alter the chemical structure by producing compounds call acyl glyconated end products (AGEs), which can be potentially carcinogenic. Better methods would include moist heating, stewing, steaming which can retain the beneficial properties of the same foods. Although one may not be able to completely avoid such cooking methods, the saving grace would be to include plenty of salads and vegetables along side or add some lemon juice or vinegar to counter the ill effects to some extent.
Yet friends, it may not be practical to always follow the right track, you can still enjoy occasionally by keeping a tab on portion control and occasional indulgence.