Cancer rates are increasing globally at a high pace! Most of us have a family member or friend struggling with cancer, and some people reading this blog might have been diagnosed with cancer themselves.
A healthy diet can help in both cancer prevention and treatment. It has been estimated that a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle can prevent between 30 to 50 percent of new cancer cases every year, which means that your food choices are game changers in minimizing your risk.
In this article I will analyze the 4 key features of the Anticancer Diet, so get ready to learn the basics on how your diet can help in keeping cancer away!
4 key features of the Anticancer Diet
1. Boosts the Immune System
The Anticancer Diet is a diet that boosts the immune system thus making it more capable to identify and kill cancer cells. One of the best examples of immune boosting foods is the medicinal mushroom Reishi (Ganoderma Ludicum). Reishi mushrooms are strong immune system modulators. They increase the activity of natural killer cells in the body – our tough soldiers that fight invaders and pathogens. The polysaccharides found in mushrooms trigger a wide spectrum of immune responses that enable the immune system to recognize cancer cells and selectively lead these cancer cells to death. In some studies women who ate mushrooms regularly had up to 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms.
Other kinds of medicinal mushrooms have also been studied extensively for their ability to boost the immune system and fight cancer. These are the shiitake, maitake mushrooms as well as the Portobello and oyster (pleurotous mushrooms).
2. Enriches the body with anticancer compounds
Every day, at every meal, we can choose foods that will defend our bodies against cancer. A great number of naturally occurring bioactive compounds found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices have proven to be very potent cancer fighters. The evidence clearly shows that a carefully planned diet can rebalance the body’s physiology and reverse the conditions that nurture cancer cells.
A few examples of foods with powerful anticancer compounds are:
- Berries and pomegranates. They are rich in ellagic acid, a natural compound found to kill cancer cells in lab studies.
- Broccoli. The best known source of sulforaphane, a natural substance found to destroy many types of cancer cells by inducing their death and to prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body.
3. Detoxifies the body
The body has several detox pathways that need to work in balance in order to achieve optimum detoxification. This is of crucial importance as today’s world is challenging our body with an ever increasing number of toxic pesticides, food additives, preservatives and environmental toxins like mercury, dioxins and PCBs.
Hundreds of new chemicals are being released in the environment every year and unfortunately most of them are being only minimally tested for their safety. A large number of environmental toxins and man-made chemicals have recently been classified as probable human carcinogens by the WHO.
A basic feature of the Anticancer Diet is that it ensures that the body’s detoxification channels are working optimally in order to neutralize and excrete these toxins effectively. To give a helping hand to the body’s detox system:
- Use Milk Thistle, a plant used by herbalists for many centuries to treat various liver disorders. Milk Thistle stimulates the two main detoxification pathways of the liver. It can be particularly useful for people who drink alcohol regularly, for people undergoing chemotherapy or those who take medication on a regular basis.
- Eat garlic, rosemary, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli often as they are all known to increase the activity of phase II enzymes in the liver and support better detoxification.
- Ensure regular bowel movements. Constipation must be avoided, as the large bowel is the main exit route for toxins. Consider using chia seeds, linseeds, a good probiotic supplement, kefir, plain live yogurt and ensure a good supply of fiber and fluids through your diet.
4. Ensures minimal exposure to carcinogenic conditions / substances
Under certain circumstances cancer cells grow faster. They also travel through the body, create new blood vessels and metastasize more efficiently. Our exposure to carcinogenic substances from the diet greatly affects all the steps of cancer development.
The nutritional factors below were found by research to be initiating cancer development and progression and should therefore be avoided:
- Diets high in salt
- Diets high in sugar, especially if they co-exist with insulin resistance and a high blood sugar measurement
- Meat and fish that has been cooked at high temperatures and / or slightly burned
- Meat that has been exposed to smoke as well as processed meat (rich source of nitrates)
- Diets rich in omega 6 fatty acids – as they are linked to inflammation
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as BPA (from plastic food containers) and arsenic (in rice).
My personal message for you
I hope my article inspires you to make some changes in your diet and to spread the word on how optimum nutrition can be life changing and keep you and loved ones cancer free.
- If you want to minimize your cancer risk take a closer look at the foods you eat.
- If you know of someone who faces a cancer diagnosis, encourage them to learn more about the role of diet on cancer treatment and prevention by sharing this article.
- If you want to learn more about how changing your diet can help you prevent or treat cancer have a look at my latest book “Anticancer – The Preventive Power of Food”.
- Shin, Aesun, Jeongseon Kim, Sun-Young Lim, Gaeul Kim, MiKyung Sung, Eun-Sook Lee, and Jungsil Ro. “Dietary mushroom intake and the risk of breast cancer based on hormone receptor status.” Nutrition and cancer 62, no. 4 (2010): 476-483.
- Ghadirian P, et al. Breast cancer risk in relation to the joint effect of BRCA mutations and diet diversity. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Sep;117(2):417-22.
- Patel S, Goyal A. Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review. 3 Biotech. 2012;2(1):1-15. doi:10.1007/s13205-011-0036-2.