Read the blog post on the July Theme ~ FOOD
Everyone knows someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Receiving Cancer news is just so shocking. It makes us feel completely helpless and makes us ask: why him/her/me? Will he/she/I survive? Could he/she/I have prevented it?
A friend once told the story about her father who was diagnosed with colon cancer. The whole family was filled with fear and despair, unable to imagine a world without his beautiful eyes and his wisdom! At the same time, the now grown children were very angry. Why did he not do anything to prevent that? They knew little about cancer but enough to realize that a healthy lifestyle can prevent some diseases. Her father was an obese, sedentary smoker which increased his risk in developing cancer.
Luckily the surgery was successful and he recovered. As a result, the whole family started to explore how lifestyle can actually reduce risks of developing cancer and even prevent it. According to an American study only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their root cause in the environment and lifestyle, with as many as 30–35% linked to diet.
A comprehensive review of thousands of studies on diet, physical activity, and weight conducted for the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research pointed to the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet. At the same time, several studies demonstrated that long-term consumption of red meat and particularly of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Some superfoods in a plant-based diet appear to be particularly healthy and useful in cancer prevention. Here are 10 superfoods that can greatly contribute to lowering risks factors for developing cancer:
- Cruciferous – Cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc, contain not only antioxidants but also glucosinolates like indole-3-carbinol, which have been found to help prevent cancer cells from spreading, improve your body’s detoxification system, and may play a role in preventing bladder, breast, colon and prostate cancers. Cruciferous are also a rich source of anti-inflammatory nutrients.
- Berries – Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, … any type of berry is a rich source of antioxidants called anthocyanins. These super nutrients may help suppress the spread of cancer cells and inhibit mutations caused by mutagens in cooked foods, as well as provide strong anti-inflammatory activities.
- Garlic – Garlic’s anti-cancer activity appears to stem from its allyl sulfur compounds and phytochemicals common to the allium family, which also include onions and scallions. Most of the research related to garlic and cancers have focused on colorectal and stomach.
- Kiwi – One kiwi will not only give you 120% of your daily-recommended value of vitamin C, but this fruit also contains phytochemicals that help repair damaged DNA, thereby helping to prevent cancer.
- Spinach – There are more than a dozen different phytonutrients known as flavonoids in spinach, making this leafy green one of the best around. Along with potent anti-cancer properties, flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory, which also may lower your risk of cancer.
- Watermelon – Watermelon is a source of the carotenoid lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is known to help prevent many types of cancer, including prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colorectal. While tomatoes are often mentioned as a go-to source for beneficial lycopene, watermelon actually contains a higher concentration of this antioxidant than any other type of produce.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoe’s cancer preventive potential comes from being a non-starchy vegetable as well as a source of vitamin C, carotenoids and the antioxidant lycopene. Your body may absorb lycopene better from processed tomato foods such as cooked sauce.
- Green tea – The leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) contain antioxidants called catechins, which may help prevent cancer in a variety of ways, including keeping free radicals from damaging cells. Lab studies have found that catechins in tea can shrink tumors and reduce tumor cell growth.
- Turmeric – This orange-colored spice contains curcumin that can inhibit some kinds of cancer cells and slow the spread of cancer or shrink tumors. This cancer-fighting food is easy to find in Qatar’s grocery stores, and you can use it in a variety of recipes on your anti-cancer diet.
- Whole Grains – Oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread and pasta are all examples of whole grains. Whole grains contain many components that might lower your risk of cancer, including fiber and antioxidants. After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, The American Institute for Cancer Research linked whole grains and dietary fiber to lower risk for colorectal cancer.
Choosing these superfoods adds to our plant-based diet and climate action because a more plant-based diet could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 percent, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts are plants that grow by transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen and require much less processing to bring to market, therefore have a much lower carbon footprint.
So, let’s fill up our shopping cart with wonderfully fresh plant-based super-food! This is not only good for our health, but has a positive impact on the environment, too. As a new Tulane University study states, healthier diets are more climate-friendly: people whose diets are healthier typically eat less red meat and dairy – which contribute to a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions – and consume more healthful foods like whole grains, fruits, plant-based proteins, poultry and fish – which have a smaller carbon footprint.
And try to buy organic. A new French study has reported that the most frequent consumers of organic food had 25 percent fewer cancers overall than those who never ate organic. We can choose organic rather than non-organic considering the quantity of pesticides typically used for a specific product. Find out for which food products it is more important to choose organic in EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.
We can reduce our risk factors for developing cancer through lifestyle choices including a healthy diet. As suggested by the World Cancer Research Fund, other cancer risk reducing behaviors include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting “fast foods” as well as red and processed meat and sugar-sweetened drinks, limiting alcohol consumption, abstaining from smoking, and choosing supplements wisely.
My friend’s father has started to incorporate valuable superfoods into his meals and to follow the advice above! We all can do the same today to potentially stop cancer in its tracks. We create our future; we are responsible for our health. By taking these simple steps, we can contribute to delivering UN Sustainable Development Goals #3 Health and wellbeing, #12 responsible consumption and production, and #13 Climate Action.
- ScienceDaily, Lower-carbon aren’t just good for the planet, they’re also healthier, 24 Jan 2019
- World Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Prevention Recommendations, Accessed 30 Jun 2019
- Pharmaceutical Research, Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes, 15 Jul 2008
- International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, Health Risks Associated with Meat Consumption: A Review of Epidemiological Studies, 2015
- American Institute for Cancer Research, AICR’s food that fight cancer, Accessed 30 Jun 2019
- JAMA Internal Medicine, Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk, Dec 2018
- Environmental Working Group, EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, Accessed 30 Jun 2019
- UN Sustainable Development Goals, Accessed 30 Jun 2019