10 Top Cancer-Protective Foods
Cancer is rightly the most feared disease. Yes, there have been advances in early diagnosis, but once cancer is established, so many of even the modern drugs do little more than extend life by months.
So risk reduction and prevention should be top of everyone’s priorities.
Keeping active is crucial.
So is diet. There are foods that decades of research confirm really do reduce your risk. Forget the often-misleading phrase ‘super foods’ and eat more of these cancer-fighting foods.
No one food or nutrient is going to have a big effect, but include the following foods in your diet each week to strengthen your immune system and give you a well-balanced diet.
You won’t be surprised to know that these foods also top the list of the best foods for longevity.
This article was written by Colin Rose, a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine, who has been writing on health science for over 30 years. He is also the founder and Director of Research and Innovation of Uni-Vite Healthcare.
1 Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli - Kale - Brussels sprouts - Cabbage - Cauliflower
Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower all help protect blood vessel walls from inflammatory signalling molecules called cytokines – so they are heart protective.
They also contain a phyto (ie plant) chemical called sulforaphane which activates your natural detoxification system and helps inhibit the development of cancer cells.
Cruciferous foods are also good sources of fibre – the macro-nutrient that 90% of us are deficient in. People with the highest levels of fibre – at least 25 grams per day for women and 38g for men – have the lowest incidence of bowel cancer.
Cruciferous vegetable consumption could be an important modifiable risk factor for ovarian cancer, the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women.
Consuming cruciferous vegetables is also strongly linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer progression. And a high intake of cruciferous vegetables was inversely associated with renal cell carcinoma (liver cancer) risk, based on a meta-analysis published in 2013.
Finally, lung cancer can develop even in non-smokers and population evidence shows that consuming cruciferous vegetables may reduce lung cancer risk among men who currently don't smoke.
2 Curcumin and Turmeric
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It has a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect. That’s important because oxidative damage is a factor not only in cancer (largely because it causes DNA damage), but also in atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases.
Although turmeric is an important part of a healthy ageing diet, it is not well absorbed into the bloodstream – it has poor bio-availability. But curcumin – especially when accompanied by black pepper extract in a supplement – is far better absorbed.
Research published in Anticancer Research confirms that curcumin, when taken orally for three months, confers chemo-preventive properties – and is especially effective against colon cancer.
Eating fruit is linked to a lower risk of cancer generally and particularly in oesophageal and gastric cancer, with a 2016 study showing that for every 100g a day (3.5 oz) increase in fruit consumption, there was a measurable decrease in a range of cancers.
Further evidence is from studies that show that populations with the highest consumption of flavonoids – important plant compounds in many fruits – is linked with decreased colorectal cancer risk.
All fruits have health benefits, but berry fruits in particular not only lower the risk of cancers and heart disease, but are linked to the prevention of cognitive decline.
Add pomegranates to your fruit range – they contain a phyto-chemical called punicalagin which appears to have a particularly potent cancer protective function, as well as being cardio-protective.
5 Green Tea
A fascinating study published in the International Journal of Cancer that covered 1,009 pre- and post-menopausal Chinese women concluded that those with the highest intake of mushrooms had very significantly lower – 38% lower – breast cancer risk. The level of protection was boosted by the combination of mushrooms and green tea.
This not surprising as both have been shown to be cancer protective and DNA protective in individual studies.
In a population-based study, women who reported drinking at least one cup of green tea a day had a 54% reduction in ovarian cancer risk.
The Sloan Kettering Cancer Center confirms that mushrooms generally, and especially reishi mushrooms, contain a compound called 1-3,1-6 beta-glucans. They state:
"Laboratory studies suggest that these compounds may help stop the growth and spread of cancer cells.
"Limited data from clinical studies suggest reishi can strengthen immune response in humans. In addition, reishi mushrooms contain sterols that can act as precursors to hormones in the body, along with substances called triterpenes that may have blood pressure-lowering and anti-allergy effects. Reishi mushrooms have also been shown to slow blood clotting."
In Japan, beta glucans derived from mushrooms are regularly used as adjunct therapy in cancer treatment – and similar research is being done at the Brown Cancer Center in Kentucky using 1-3 beta glucans derived from the cell walls of baker’s yeast.
That’s the type of beta glucans in ImmunoShield.
It’s best to cook mushrooms as raw mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, which is significantly reduced by cooking.
In another randomised clinical trial, green tea was given to prostate cancer patients prior to prostatectomy (prostate removal), and reduced inflammation and oxidation prompted the researchers to suggest it was worthy of further research in preventing and treating prostate cancer.
A 2016 meta-analysis showed a clear link between coffee intake and a reduced risk of oral, pharynx, colon, prostate, endometrial and liver cancers, as well as melanoma. Quite a list!
The evidence for the cancer-fighting properties of coffee against liver cancer is especially strong. A huge study involving 30,824 subjects showed that coffee consumption significantly reduced the risk of liver cancer risk. Overall, an increase in consumption of 2 cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43% reduced risk of liver cancer.
A 2020 meta-analysis of 38 other international studies was able to draw a clear conclusion:
“Nut consumption is inversely associated with the risks of cancer incidence and mortality; a higher intake is significantly associated with a lower cancer risk. Inverse associations were observed with colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer.”
It’s true that nuts are calorie-dense, but they are linked to reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower risk of heart disease.
A breakfast cereal based on wholegrains, nuts and seeds is an ideal way to start the day – as the combination is also high in fibre. Add some flax seeds which are high in Omega 3 and cancer fighting phyto-estrogens.
8 Garlic, Onions, Leeks
A 2019 meta-survey in Food Science and Nutrition on allium vegetables – that’s garlic, onions and leeks to you and me – concluded that:
“… allium vegetables might be beneficial for cancer prevention. In particular, garlic was comparatively safe and is recommended as a long-term dietary component for patients with diabetes, and hypertension”.
Other studies show that increased consumption of allium vegetables is associated with a lower risk of gastric and prostate cancers. Allium vegetables contain organo-sulphur compounds which help to prevent the development of cancers by detoxifying carcinogens, halting cancer cell growth, and blocking angiogenesis – ie the development of cancer cells.
These sulphur compounds are best released when you chop or crush the vegetables for cooking.
Globally, liver cancer – officially called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – is the sixth most diagnosed cancer and the third important cause of cancer-related death.
There are only two targeted drugs for the treatment of advanced HCC, and they merely extend survival by a few months. So the need for alternative treatments is fuelling a lot of research.
Lycopene is a carotenoid that is most abundant in red tomatoes and tomato-based products. It has been investigated for its anticancer activity in various types of cancers including breast and prostate cancers and HCC.
A study on animal models concluded that:
“Administration of lycopene appears to inhibit the initiation and progression of cancer in animal models of HCC.”
Whilst cancer in humans is generally considerably more complex than in animal models, this is not the only study to make regular consumption of tomatoes as part of a cancer defence strategy advisable.
Note that lycopene is a fat-soluble nutrient and is made far more bio-available when cooked with a fat source – eg in olive oil.
10 Beans, peas and lentils
If some of the foods on our top 10 list are a little expensive, the last are cheap.
Eating beans, peas or lentils twice a week has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer – because their high fibre content encourages the production of a fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate protects the lining of the gut and prevents ‘leaky gut syndrome’, where breaches in the lining of the gut allow toxins or even minute food particles into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation.
Consuming beans is also linked to a reduction in other cancers including breast and prostate cancers.
Beans do more. They reduce swings in blood sugar levels – good for diabetics. And they help stabilise weight because they are digested slowly, which blunts the rise in blood glucose after a meal. Reducing excess weight is itself cancer protective, because excess fat cells release toxins into surrounding tissue which can be carcinogenic.
Food Plan companion to Delay Ageing
There is a Food Plan which incorporates all these foods, based on all the advice in my book Delay Ageing.
Access it from here – together with other useful resources.
Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive health supplement with OPTIMUM levels of 43 essential nutrients including soy isoflavones, polyphenols and flavonoids from fruits, vegetables and other plants, Omega 3, betaine and green tea.
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How Eating Certain Beans Cuts the Risk of These 5 Cancers - Natural Society. https://naturalsociety.com/eating-certain-beans-cuts-risk-5-cancers/