An unhealthy diet is linked to about one third of all cancer cases. Here, the top "all-star foods" that can protect you.
The Expert Report by the World Cancer Research Fund (2007) found that the food we eat and other lifestyle choices such as daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight are key to preventing cancer. This epic report -- which was five years in the making and reviewed 7,000 large-scale studies -- found that an unhealthy diet is linked to about one third of all cancer cases.
In fact, according to U.S.-based The National Cancer Institute (NCI), serious diseases that are linked to what we eat kill an estimated three out of four Americans each year. These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer.
But while the foods you eat can hurt you, they can also help you. And not surprisingly, fruits and vegetables are "All-Star foods" when it comes to protecting yourself against cancer.
Foods you gotta love
Research shows that diets most protective against cancer are predominately plant-based. Here are just a few ways food can help in the battle against cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale) contain two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin that may help decrease prostate and other cancers.
Foods that contain folate such as liver, spinach, beans, broccoli, oranges, lettuce, avocado, and asparagus are thought to help protect against cancer of the pancreas. Avocados are also rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body. They also provide even more potassium than bananas.
Onions, chives, leeks and garlic may help prevent stomach cancer. Garlic also has immune-enhancing allium compounds that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer.
The beta carotene found in carrots may help reduce a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast. (Some research suggests beta carotene may actually cause cancer, but it has not proven that eating carrots, unless in very large quantities -- 2 to 3 kilos a day -- can cause cancer.) Sweet potatoes also contain many anticancer properties, including beta-carotene.
Certain types of mushrooms such as Shitake, maitake, and reishi are thought to help build the immune system and prevent cancer cells from multiplying.
Fruits are also thought to provide protection against cancer. Grapefruits, like other citrus fruits, help to rid the body of carcinogens. Red grapes contain bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that work as cancer preventives. Like red wine, they are also a rich source of resveratrol, which inhibits the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth. Papayas are thought to reduce absorption of cancer-causing nitrosamines from the soil or processed foods. Raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are also thought to contain many cancer preventing properties.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that attacks the free radicals that are suspected of triggering cancer.
Selenium, a mineral found in brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and fish is thought to provide protection against prostate cancer.
Tip: To eat healthfully, experts say a good rule of thumb is to fill 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans and 1/3 or less with animal foods. Look for recipes for casseroles, stews and stir fries that use meat almost as a condiment.
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