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Using Plant-Based Dieting to Improve Cancer Prevention and Recovery – Dennis Lee

Researchers have known for years that tobacco causes cancer, but the World Cancer Research Fund says 20 percent of malignancies not related to cancer are caused by preventable causes like obesity, lack of exercise, heavy drinking and poor nutrition. Environmental hazards like asbestos and radon also play a role, and so do genes. Studies show, however, that less than 1 in 10 cancers result solely from bad genes. Diet matters, but which diet helps the most?

The Environment and Cancer

While eating the right foods is important, even the right foods aren’t healthy if they’re contaminated. The recent lawsuit by lymphoma patients against the makers of glyphosate is one example, but other studies show that toxins in foods contribute to cancers of the breast, brain, prostate and more. Other connections include a link between processed meat and colon cancer to diacetyl in popcorn and lung cancer. But not all cancers come from what we eat. Carcinogens like asbestos, which causes a deadly cancer called mesothelioma, build up in the body after exposure but don’t affect the food supply.

Cancer and cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and medications, affect healthy and diseased tissues. Side effects vary but may cause fatigue, brain fog, lack of appetite, swelling, infection and problems with digestion and sleep. A healthy, balanced diet strengthens the immune system, speeds recovery and improves quality of life.

Cancer and Diet

Nutritionists suggest a plant-based diet for improved cancer prevention and recovery. While it stops short of suggesting a vegan or vegetarian diet, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says two-thirds of a healthy diet should comprise fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Both vegan and vegetarian diets meet those goals if they include sources of the vitamins, minerals and protein normally consumed in animal-based foods. A vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish and poultry while a vegan diet excludes meat, fish, poultry, dairy and egg products.

A new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund also recommends a plant-based diet. The report, “Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective,” reaches these conclusions: A healthy lifestyle and plant-based diet can reduce cancer cases by 40 percent. The phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can prevent cancer, and no amount of processed meat can be considered safe.

Foods for Cancer Prevention and Recovery

The fibre in plants is important because it reduces the risk of cancer, keeps hunger at bay, stabilizes insulin levels, lowers cholesterol, and aids digestion. Phytochemicals are natural chemicals that give plants their colour, scent, and taste. Harvard researchers estimate there are over 5,000 phytochemicals, and researchers are just beginning to understand how they work. Below are examples of important phytochemicals and examples of foods that contain them:

  • Flavonoids in chickpeas, licorice, and soybeans
  • Carotenoids in carrots, yams, and squash
  • Antioxidants in berries, leafy vegetables, and green tea
  • Sulfides in onions and garlic
  • Anthocyanins in grapes, cranberries, and blueberries
  • Resveratrol in red wine, dark chocolate, and peanuts
  • Sulfides and thiol in leeks, onions, and olives
  • Zeaxanthin and lutein in dark, leafy vegetables
  • Terpenes in cherries and citrus
  • Proanthocyanidins and flavanols in cocoa, grapes, and apples
  • Isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables

Eric Rimm, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says most benefits come from eating healthy foods, not by taking supplements. He adds that one carrot has over 100 polyphenols and recommends “a rainbow” of foods, preferably including five to nine servings per day. The more varied the diet, the greater the health benefits.

Article Written by Educator And Editor in Cancer Studies: Dennis Lee)