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Top Cancer-Fighting Foods

Elizabeth Heubeck

As researchers continue to wage war against cancer, many have begun to focus on what could be the most promising ammunition to date: diet.

When it comes to a diet rich in cancer-fighting substances, most experts agree that it should consist of a predominantly plant-based diet. That seemingly simple advice could mean a drastic change in diet for many people.

Folate-Rich Foods
This B-complex vitamin can be found in many 'good for you' foods. Plus, manufacturers of cereals, pastas, and breads often fortify their products with folate.

In a large-scale study, researchers evaluated the effects of folate on more than 27,000 male smokers between ages 50 and 69. Men who consumed at least the recommended daily allowance of folate -- about 400 micrograms -- cut by half their risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Starting with breakfast, a glass of orange juice is high in folate; so are most cereals (check the box to see how much). For lunch, try a hearty salad with either spinach or romaine leaves. Top it with dried beans or peas for an extra boost. Snack on a handful of peanuts or an orange. At dinner, choose asparagus or Brussels sprouts as your vegetable.

Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin which helps absorb calcium to build strong teeth and bones may also build protection against cancer. Researchers suggest that vitamin D curbs the growth of cancerous cells.

When it comes to a diet rich in cancer-fighting substances, most experts agree that it should consist of a predominantly plant-based diet.

A report presented at the latest meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) showed a link between increased vitamin D intake and reduced breast cancer risk. It found vitamin D to lower the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50%. Vitamin D may also improve survival rates among lung cancer patients.

While vitamin D is often associated with milk, high concentrations also can be found in these seafood choices: cod, shrimp, and Chinook salmon. Eggs are another good source. And don't forget sunshine. In just 10 minutes, you can soak up as much as 5,000 IU of vitamin D if you expose 40% of your body to the sun, without sunscreen.

If you enjoy sipping tea, you'll be happy to know that it appears promising against some forms of cancer.

Like many plant-based foods, tea contains flavonoids, known for their antioxidant effects. One flavonoid in particular, kaempferol, has shown protective effects against cancer.

A large-scale study evaluating kaempferol intake of more than 66,000 women showed that those who consumed the most of it had the lowest risk of developing ovarian cancer. A separate study showed a link between consuming flavonoids and reducing the risk of breast cancer.

Hot tea can be warming in the winter; ice tea offers cool refreshment in the summer. So enjoy tea year-round to boost cancer prevention.

Cruciferous Vegetables
They may not have been your favourite as a kid, but cruciferous vegetables -- members of the cabbage family that include kale, turnip greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts -- can help you ward off cancer.

In lab experiments, substances released during either cutting or chewing cruciferous vegetables produced a cancer-killing effect.

Recent studies on cruciferous vegetables show promising results against prostate and colon cancers. In mice grafted with human prostate tumours and then treated with one of these cancer-killing substances, tumours began to shrink to half their size after 31 days.

The protective effect of cruciferous vegetables seems to occur when they are cut or chewed. They're great in stir fry, as side dishes, or tossed into salads raw. Experiment with flavours like lemon or garlic.

By sprinkling curcumin (Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric) into your favourite dishes, you could be adding much more than a little zest to your meal -- you could add years to your life.

Experts credit curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects for its ability to fight cancer. Recent studies have shown curcumin to interfere with cell-signalling pathways, thereby suppressing the transformation, proliferation, and invasion of cancerous cells.

Curcumin's protective effects may extend to bladder and gastrointestinal cancers. Some say they don't stop with these types of cancer. "Among all the cancers we and others have examined, no cancer yet has been found which is not affected by curcumin. This is expected, as inflammation is the mediator for most cancer," Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, a biochemist at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center tells WebMD.

This popular spice, long used to quell nausea, may soon be used to fight cancer, too.

Working directly on cancer cells, researchers discovered ginger's ability to kill cancer cells in two ways. In apoptosis, the cancer cells essentially commit suicide without harming surrounding cells. In autophagy the cells are tricked into digesting themselves. While this preliminary evidence shows promise, ginger's cancer-fighting effects must still be proven in animal and human trials.

Armed with ginger, ongoing research is taking aim against the most lethal of gynaecological cancers: ovarian cancer. Most women [with ovarian cancer] develop resistance to conventional chemotherapy drugs. Because ginger may kill cancer cells in more than one way, researchers are hopeful that patients would not develop resistance to it.

Go beyond the obvious choices, like sipping ginger ale and eating gingerbread cookies. Countless soups, sumptuous marinades, and zesty sauces call for ginger.

Other foods that are also known to fight cancer are:
Peppers, crisp, sweet and brightly colour, are a great source of cancer fighting Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folic acid and potassium.

Lycopenes are found in tomato-based pasta sauce, tomato paste, ketchup and salsa and contain powerful antioxidant properties. Lycopene has an apparent ability to reduce the risk of prostate and certain other cancers, and it plays a key role in the body's defence against aging and many degenerative diseases. Heating tomatoes is the key to breaking down the fibrous material inside tomatoes and releasing the lycopene.

Olive oil, extra virgin, which is mechanically pressed without any heat or chemical alteration, is one of the healthiest types of fat and includes phytochemicals with antioxidants and Vitamin E. Olive oil may help prevent breast and colon cancer.

Apples, especially the peel, contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals and have been proven to inhibit the growth of both colon and liver cancer cells.

Pumpkins, sweet potatoes and acorn squash are all described as virtual battalions of cancer-fighting carotenoids, particularly beta carotene.

Source: webmd.com and National Foundation for Cancer Research


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