We are in the midst of a global Cancer pandemic. This statement may not come entirely as a surprise as we all likely have known someone who has been diagnosed with this disease, and sadly, also know those who have died during their battle. In fact, current statistics project that cancer rates are set to soar by 70% in the next 20 years. This may sound like a long way away and not an immediate threat on us today, but let’s not be fooled into complacency. The time to act is now.
I am a firm believer that western medicine has provided many important and helpful advances in cancer research and has great potential for future treatments. That being said, we still have a long way to go in finding a ‘cure-all’ treatment for this devastating illness. Despite our best research efforts and billions of dollars invested into finding a ‘cure’ thus far – we have seen some positive advances treating certain types of cancer, but meager improvements in many others. As a result, many modern cancer experts are approaching cancer research not only by looking at aggressive ways to kill cancer cells directly – but also investigating the role diet and lifestyle play in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
As an example, there is an increasing amount of evidence that specific foods (yes, food!) contain cancer fighting compounds, nutrients and phytochemicals that can literally starve cancer cells in animal models. Don’t be fooled, this is indeed powerful medicine. On the flip side of this equation, there are also foods that can promote cancer cell growth (i.e. refined sugar, processed foods, genetically modified foods, trans fats, etc.). As Hippocrates famously dictated – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. While this is an age old adage, it’s message is holding true in the modern world today. Below are my Top 5 Cancer Fighting Foods:
1. Green Tea
Green tea is a powerful storehouse for multiple cancer fighting molecules. EGCG (or epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is one of the most well-known and well-researched green tea compounds, showing to help slow the formation of new blood vessels to cancer cells – thus cutting off the main ‘feeding tube’ for cancer cells to grow, virtually starving them! Green tea is also a powerful cellular detoxifier helping to rid our bodies of multiple carcinogenic compounds we are exposed to daily just by living. 3-5 cups of green tea per day can not only saturate your body with powerful cancer starving nutrients, but also help detoxify essential organs to keep you looking and feeling your best!
This is simply one of my most favorite cancer fighting super-foods. Turmeric is popular spice that is found in curries, etc. It contains enormous anti-inflammatory properties that can act as a natural ‘fire extinguisher’ to quench inflammation. Inflammation provides cancer cells an advantage to grow, thus anything we can do to reduce it will help reduce our risk of not only cancer, but most chronic disease facing developed nations today. The principal molecule in turmeric with beneficial effects is curcumin. Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch for our genes. Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells. Cancer is fueled by inflammatory foods, thus to starve cancer cells we literally need to take away the fuel sources that feed inflammation while also increasing anti-inflammatory foods to combat from both sides. In addition, multiple studies demonstrated that patients who took turmeric during chemotherapy treatments showed increased improvements than receiving chemotherapy alone.
A known fact about cancer cells, is that they LOVE to feed on sugar. Keeping a diet low in processed & refined sugars is paramount to not only treating but preventing cancer. Garlic helps regulate blood sugar levels that reduce insulin production. Low insulin levels in your blood cells help to prevent tumor-growing cells. Garlic is known to reduce the risk for breast and prostate cancer. A phytonutrient in garlic called diallyl disulfide helps prevent cancer of the lung, skin and colon. Diallyl disulfide also helps to kill leukemia cells. Garlic is also a known immune modulator, thus will help fortify your immune system against viral and bacterial invaders keeping your immune system strong and vigilant to prevent cancer cells from proliferating.
Berries are AWESOME… All berries are chock full of antioxidants. Current research is finding that the more antioxidants we can obtain from whole foods the lower the rate of cellular degeneration, which is a fancy way of saying lowering the risk of chronic disease development. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are excellent. The darker the berry the more anti-cancer punch it packs. According to the Stanford Prevention Research Center, phytochemicals called anthocyanosides are present in blueberries and others. These are known to be one of the most powerful antioxidants to prevent cancer. In addition, ellagic acid is a powerful polyphenol found in berries, particularly raspberries and strawberries. Ellagic acid has been shown to significantly slow tumor growth in mice models. Try to get 2 cups of whole berries (not juice) per day.
5. Bok Choy
This type of Chinese cabbage contains brassinin; a powerful cancer-fighter. Brassinin is also found in broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Bok Choy should be eaten 3-4 times a week, in 1/2 cup servings to obtain its full benefits. Many other dark green leafy greens have similar properties and consumption of these should be increased as well. My other favorites are kale, chard, and spinach. As always, do your best to eat organic as much as possible to avoid congesting your detoxification pathways necessary to prevent cancerous agents from remaining in your system.
Yours in good health,
Dr. J. Dempster, ND, FAARM, ABAAHP