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Foods That Fight Cancer

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Last updated July 25, 2018 (originally published January 1,

By Tom Szharek, Contributing Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness
professionals and other members of our Editorial Board.]

For years, researchers have puzzled over a mystery about
cancer.  Why do the Japanese and Chinese have such low
cancer rates?

Japanese and Chinese women, for example, have breast
cancer rates that are five times lower than those of American
women.  The Japanese have almost no incidence of stomach
or colon cancer.

Now, the long-suspected link between the Asian diet and the
low prevalence of cancer is emerging as the key factor. The
Japanese consume about five times the amount of
cruciferous vegetables as Americans do.  

Before we begin to list foods which may help you fight
cancer, it's important to bear in mind the limitations of this
or any other information about cancer prevention.

Cancer is a complex disease whose exact causation has
successfully eluded great minds for many decades.
Moreover, researchers have begun to think of cancer not as
a single disease but as many different diseases, each of
which must be attacked with different treatment strategies.  

Therefore, not even the university studies below which have
found that certain foods may help prevent or help slow the
progression of cancer can reliably be thought to apply
universally to
all forms of cancer. As always, seek your
doctor's advice before you add any food to your diet if you
already have cancer.

That said, here is a list of foods which have shown promise
as cancer-fiighters:

Cruciferous vegetables ---all the various cabbages and root
vegetables such as green and red  cabbage, broccoli,
Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, kale and
watercress, radishes, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga and
kohlrabi ---are  unique protectors of your health.

These special vegetables contain natural substances called
"glucosinolates".   Inside your body, glucosinolates break
down to form compounds called "indoles" and other
compounds which are especially effective in fighting the
development and spread of cancer.

The indoles from cabbages and root vegetables fight cancer
essentially by creating speed bumps.  These vegetables slow
down the enzymes that activate carcinogenic substances.  
They also act as green lights for the helpful enzymes,
speeding up their delivery to areas in your body that need to
detoxify carcinogens.

Another important
cancer-fighting food is the lowly beet.
Beets contain betacyanin, a powerful natural compound
which studies have found retards the growth of cancer cells.

[Update: In general,
deep red or purple colored foods inhibit
cancer initiation and proliferation.

Nuts Can Help You Fight Cancer

Several kinds of nuts help to fight cancer.  Mice fed walnuts
experienced a 50% lower rate of breast cancer than mice
that were not, according to a 2009 study from Marshall
University of  Medicine. And cashews, potent sources of
Vitamin E, can confer protection against lung cancer.

So, to give yourself a needed boost of cancer protection,
follow a
diet plan which emphasizes these special vegetable
cancer fighting foods. (Read more about
Top 10 habits that
fight breast cancer.)

Vanilla and Coffee Help to Protect Against Cancer

New research has identified several common foods as
powerful allies against cancer.
Vanilla, in particular, has been
found to discourage the spread (metastasis) of breast and
colon cancer.  Also,  coffee may inhibit cancer growth,
according to studies of breast cancer patients.  

Several studies have linked
foods rich in Vitamin D with
cancer prevention. One 2007 study from Creighton
University found that Vitamin D may lower the risk of many
forms of cancer in older women by 57% and a 2010 study
from the State University of New York found that Vitamin D
may actually kill breast cancer cells.

Green Tea May Help Fight Cancer

Several studies have found interesting links between the
amount and type of tea you drink and your risk for
developing various kinds of cancer.
Green tea, in particular,
has been singled out in various research studies for its
potentially powerful effect on your immune system and your
resistance to developing cancer.

Lentils and Beans Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer

Lentils and beans are rich in antioxidant compounds called
flavonols. A
2009 study from the Harvard School of Public
Health looked at data from the Nurse's Health Study II of
90,000 participants and concluded that eating lentils and
beans lowers your risk of cancer. The study notes that no
such connection could be definitely made between cancer
risk and other foods. As the researchers noted:" Among the
major food sources of flavonols, we found a significant
inverse association with intake of beans or lentils but not
with tea, onions, apples, string beans, broccoli, green pepper
and blueberries."

Tamarac (Curcumin) Helps Cells Resist Cancer

New research has found that curcumin, the yellow spice, can
help cells fight cancer.

Curcumin also helps improve cells receptiveness to
chemotherapy, slows the growth of cancer cells, and
improves the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

Nonetheless, despite the many studies indicating that
curcumin has broad anti-carcinogenic properties, experts
such as the
Mayo Clinic believe it is still too early to tout
curcumin as a possible "cure" to cancer.

One of the problems with using curcumin as a cancer
therapy is its low bio-availability.  For every 1000 milligrams
of curcumin ingested, studies show than less than 1
milligram is absorbed by the body. One promising solution
may be the use of "piperine" the active ingredient in black
pepper. One 1998 study, from St. John's Medical College in
India found that piperine increases the absorption of
curcumin by as much as 2000%.

That study showed that you only need a tiny bit of piperine
to dramatically boost curcumin's bioavailability. In that
study, the ratio of curcumin to piperine used was 2000
milligrams of curcumin to 20 milligrams of piperine.

We will need to see these type of studies replicated by other
universities to increase our confidence in curcumin but,
certainly, the early findings are promising.

Saffron Spice Has Anti-carcinagenic Properties

Saffron spice, technically called, has been found to inhibit the
formation of cancerous tumors, although the mechanism and
dosages required are still under investigation. In 2009,
scientists from in Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in
Iran reported that saffron caused the natural cell death
("apopstosis") of breast cancer cells in a laboratory dish.
More studies are needed to confirm this result, particularly
studies on the human body rather than studies solely in
laboratory settings.

Foods Rich in Vitamin K May Help Prevent Cancer

Several research studies have suggested that Vitamin K may
improve your chances of avoiding cancer. Natto, the
Japanese fermented soy breakfast food is the world's
highest natural concentration of Vitamin K, which may
explain the exceptionally low incidence of cancer in those
regions of Japan where natto is eaten. (Read more about
Vitamin K's role in cancer prevention.)

Rhubarb also contains a form of Vitamin K which scientists
believe retard the proliferation of cancer cells.
Read more.

Peppers Cause Prostate Cancer Cells to "Suicide" Themselves

Peppers are rich in capsaicin, which causes cancer cells to
enter apoptosis, a natural cell suicide. This natural suicide
has been observed in studies involving prostate cancer cells.

But the effect could be more general. A 2012 study from
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo,
Texas, also found that capsaicin causes apoptosis in certain
pancreatic cancer cells. The study, led by Dr. Sanjay K.
Srivastava, was in vitro -- lab study -but holds promise for
later human studies.

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Eating lentils is one of the best
ways to lower your risk for
Peppers grown in the greenhouse of one of our editors. Peppers
cause certain types of cancer cells to "suicide" themselves".