The Anti-Cancer Diet

Over the last twenty-five years, cancer research has produced dietary guidelines that have become conventional wisdom when it comes to cancer prevention. In 1991, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation launched a campaign to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to five to nine servings a day for every American.

While there is no specific fruit or vegetable responsible for reducing cancer risk, research shows that the regular consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables reduces risk. Five servings are considered the minimum. For men, the recommendation is nine servings per day; for women, it is seven.

Pack in Phytochemicals

The American Institute for Cancer Study also advises eating produce high in phytochemicals, the nutrients in plants that act powerfully to prevent a healthy cell from turning cancerous. (Tomatoes alone contain up to 10,000 different phytochemicals.) Phytochemicals have been shown to boost detoxification of the cells, stimulate the immune system, and to offer anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that help maintain inner health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Here are just a few of the powerful phytochemicals found in produce, according to Cherie Calbom, M.S., author of The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health.

Ally sulfides, found in garlic and onions, and believed to lower the risk of stomach cancer.

Indoles, isthiocyanates, and sulforaphanes are three phytochemicals found in cruciferous veggies that help break down carcinogens.

Limomene, found in citrus, stimulates enzymes that break down carcinogens.

Ellagic acid, found in strawberries and grapes, prevent cancer-forming substances from altering DNA — the first step in cancer.

Curcumins, found in ginger and turmeric, stimulate cancer inhibitors.

Lycopene, found in cooked tomatoes, lowers the risk of stomach and prostate cancers.

Monoterpenes, found in cherries, lowers the risk of pancreatic, breast, skin, lung, and stomach cancers.

A recent report sponsored by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Study estimated that eating 400 or more grams of fruits and vegetables daily could prevent at least 20 percent of all cancers. In addition, those who eat the highest amount of fruits and vegetables have been shown to have half the cancer risks as those eating the least amounts.

Focus on Fiber

The National Cancer Institute advises eating plenty of fiber. Fiber moves cancer-causing compounds out of the body before they can cause harm. It is also thought to dilute potential carcinogens and may affect hormone production, thus lowering the incidence of hormone-related cancers like breast and prostate cancers. The NCI recommends 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Foods rich in fiber include barley, oats, oat bran, nuts, apples, bananas, blackberries, citrus fruit, pears, prunes, beans (lima, kidney, pinto, and navy), chick peas, black-eyed peas, and especially lentils, Brussels sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and broccoli.

Consume Healthy Fats

Fat isn't really a four-letter word. Some fats are actually good for you when consumed in moderation, and they're essential for the healthy functioning of cells. Studies show some healthy fats, including olive oil, can help reduce your risk of cancer.

Two of the healthiest fats are omega-3 and omega-6 oils, also known as essential fatty acids. Because your body can't manufacture these healthy fats, it is essential to consume an adequate amount in foods that contain lots of these oils, including fish, nuts, avocados, vegetable oils, and leafy greens such as spinach and mustard greens.

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