Cancer has been a challenge for the medical authorities. Its cause and treatment has puzzled many specialists over the years. Still today cancer is a mysterious disease, but one positive thing has appeared in the last few years that is very promising in the prevention of cancer. There are evidences that some populations have lower incidence of cancer due to some common practices mostly the food that they eat. Also research studies following people’s habits for a sequence of years have discovered a strong relationship between certain foods and the prevention of cancer. Mostly the evidences show that foods from vegetable origin or plant-based foods are the ones that protect against several different cancers.
To explain how those foods would act, the researchers around the world conducted their experiments. They figured out that there are several substances in the vegetable kingdom that could explain the anti-cancer benefits. Vegetables are full of antioxidants that prevent damages to the cell DNA, impeding any abnormal development of the cells. Phytochemicals found in vegetables can increase the activity of the immune system, so the body can easily destroy cancer cells. There are other substances that stop the development of tumors and the ability of the cancer cells to multiply and spread. These substances are found in different types of vegetables, mostly fruits, legumes, whole grains, leafs, roots, and even seasonings.
Other studies have shown a potential harmful effect of eating animal foods and increasing the risk of cancer. The Adventist Health Study, realised in California among 34,000 members of the Seventh-day Adventist church, found evidences that meat and fish would increase the risk of cancer in the colon, bladder and prostate. Also Adventists who are vegetarian have lower risk of the majority of cancers compared to non vegetarian ones. Findings from the American Institute of Cancer Research expert report show that diets high in red meat probably increase the risk of colon cancer. But the strong current evidence is that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are the main responsible for the prevention of cancer among vegetarians. Therefore it is really important to follow the recommendations to eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and seven servings of grains, legumes, and roots.
Example of anti-cancer substances found in plant foods
Diet recommendations to decrease risk of cancer:
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables (five or more servings per day) and more than seven servings per day of a variety of grains, legumes, roots, and tubers. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar. If possible follow a vegetarian diet.
2. Avoid alcoholic beverages, choose fresh vegetable juice instead.
3. Avoid meat, specially red meat, smoked meat, and broiled meat.
4. Avoid fatty foods
5. Limit sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg per day
6 Avoid food contaminated by fungi, specially peanuts and nuts.
7. Use refrigerator to preserve perishable foods
8. Body weight, avoid overweight
9. Physical activity, do so in a daily basis.
10.Do not smoke or chew tobacco
Sources: Adventist Health Study, Nutrition Action Healthletter, American Institute for Cancer Research, and World Cancer Research Fund.
by Lifestyle Management Center, Hong Kong Adventist Hospital