Each year, in the United States alone, more than 500,000 people die from cancer. A mind-numbing statistic, wouldn’t you say? Unfortunately, like heart disease, cancer is one of those evils that most people don’t really think about until it’s too late.
I’m seeing an encouraging trend lately, though. More and more people are taking a proactive, preventative stance when it comes to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Say what you will about the Baby Boomers, we are fighters. Baby boomers, as much as any generation before them, actively seek information and advice for living better and living longer. We don’t just love life, we embrace it!
The same can be said for the generation behind the boomers – another generation of life-loving, earth-saving fighters.
One of the greatest rewards of this trend is the fact that more and more information is readily available. Experts have laid everything out for us…
- things we need to eat
- things we need to do
- things we should not eat
- things we should not do
The information’s there. The facts are there. But, as a whole, do we really do all we can to follow the advice? If the answer were “yes,” there’d be no more French Fries. Why would fast food restaurants fry something that didn’t sell?! Instead, there’d be baked chips or vegetables served with a side of pico de gallo, hummus, or guacamole.
We’re the same people who will follow laptop care tips to the letter. We put our digital cameras in cases to protect them, we prune our trees with the care of a surgeon, and Heaven knows the lengths we go to to keep our vehicles running properly.
Yet, experts tell us things we need to do to be healthier and we all but ignore the advice. Why do we even seek the information out if we aren’t going to use it? I’m all up in my own face as much as your’s! I have absolutely no problem eating and drinking the things that are good for me. I love fish, all vegetables, all fruits, green tea, black tea… all tea. My problem area is avoiding the bads, in addition to enjoying the goods.
Over the next week, more articles will center around preventing cancer: Foods and drinks that are thought to cause cancer, activities to prevent cancer, and even more foods believed to prevent cancer.
Below are 10 foods and drinks that experts say are the best of the goods. These foods and drinks have the power to keep cancer out of your life. That, alone, should gain them entry into your kitchen on a daily basis. Along with each cancer-preventing food, I’ll give my own advice on ways to get more enjoyment out of that particular food. Grab your grocery list and take notes!
Prevent Cancer with Garlic
I can’t imagine anyone not liking the taste of garlic – maybe not straight out of the bulb, of course, but garlic truly is a beautiful ingredient. Keep garlic bulbs (or at least jars of chopped garlic in olive oil) on hand at all times. They’re excellent chopped and added to stew, soups, hamburgers, pasta salad, spaghetti sauce, chili…. Garlic contains a great number of compounds that can protect against cancer. These compounds appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances. Garlic seems to be particularly useful against skin cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.
Many extensive studies have linked garlic (as well as onions, leeks, and chives) to lower risk of stomach and colon cancer.
A report published in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly face about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer as people who eat little or none. Garlic supplements weren’t shown to have the same effect.
Roasted garlic is one of my favorite ways to serve it with bread. To roast garlic bulbs, cut off the very top of the bulbs – just enough to expose the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil (another food that’s great for your health), wrap in aluminum foil, and roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Roasted garlic is out of this world when smoothed on toast, buns, wheat crackers, biscuits, and so on. It’s also extraordinary in hummus.
A Little Garlic Trivia
- When cooking, 1 clove garlic = 1/2 tsp minced.
- Garlic is available year round because it stores well.
- Nicholas Culpepper’s The Complete Herbal, published in 1652, praised garlic as having the power to heal the bites of “mad dogs” and venomous snakes, rid children of worms, and cure ulcers.
- As early as 1858, garlic’s antibacterial properties were being published. French chemist Louis Pasteur wrote about the garlic’s power after he exposed bacteria to a garlic bulb (the bacteria died).
- Garlic is sometimes called the “stinking rose!”
- Garlic has been shown to guard against blood clots and high blood pressure.
- You should avoid buying garlic bulbs in the little boxes in your supermarket. They aren’t stored as well as the ones you can buy in bulk.
- If peeling garlic bulbs isn’t something that comes easily, cover the bulb with boiling water for 1 minute. This separates the skins from the cloves and makes peeling easier.
- A garlic press is ideal for when it comes to preparing garlic toast or garlic butter.
Prevent Cancer With Grapes
We almost always have grapes on hand in our house. They’re delicious, nutritious, and very low in calories. At the moment we’re out of them because of an adorable possum that came calling last night. We get many possums, rabbits, and raccoons in our yard… as well as the occasional skunk. Possums and raccoons LOVE grapes as much as I do, so I have to confess: I threw the last of our grapes out for our little visitor. I also provided her with a bread stick and pizza crust. Only after devouring the grapes did she move on to the other items on the menu.
With grapes, the chemical resveratrol is what we have to thank for their medicinal properties. Resveratrol is a very potent antioxidant – it can prevent cell damage before it begins.
The possums and raccoons in this part of Kentucky are surely the healthiest in the world.
Prevent Cancer With Flax
Okay. This one’s a little trickier. But worth the extra toil. Flax contains lignans, which block cancerous changes. Also, many people don’t realize it, but flax is also high in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to protecting against heart disease, omega-3 fatty acids which are thought to protect against colon cancer.
Flaxseed has a wonderful, nutty flavor that’s a great addition to many foods. Below are just a few of the foods you can add flaxseed to with great results:
- cottage cheese and peaches
For a recipe for Apple Flax Muffins, click the link.
Prevent Cancer with Green Tea
The flavonoids in green tea have been shown to slow, and even prevent, the development of several types of cancer including colon, liver, breast, and prostate. All teas are excellent for your health – so much so that one of the healthiest things a person could do would be to completely switch from soft drinks or diet soft drinks to tea.
My oldest daughter Emily (The Crazy Tea Chick) and I love green tea with a particular passion. Hot, cold.. doesn’t matter, it’s all good. I’ve finally won my husband over to green tea, but he wants in on ice – never off ice. If it’s not on the rocks, he’s not on board. Emily and her dad don’t add any sweetener or lemon slices to their green tea. As for me, I vary. One day I’ll drink my green tea straight up, the next day I’ll add a packet of Truvia and maybe a lemon slice. I prefer lemon slices in my green tea, but it’s not an absolute requirement. When our herb garden’s in full bloom, I’ll often float a little mint and stevia in my green tea.
Green tea can be an acquired taste for many people, but once it’s acquired, it almost becomes an addiction.
Prevent Cancer With Tomatoes
If you’ll notice, many foods that prevent cancer are the same very foods that prevent heart disease. They’re also the foods that nutritionists recommend for people who are watching their weight. So many benefits simply by eating smart! Tomatoes are another one of these foods that have multiple benefits and serve multiple purposes.
The much-celebrated compound lycopene in tomatoes, has been shown to prevent prostate cancer, as well as cancer of the breast, lung, and stomach. Lycopene, of course, is also loved by experts for its benefits to heart health. You can increase the lycopene in your diet by drinking tomato juice, using tomaotes on your sandwiches and in your salads, serving sliced tomatoes with each meal, and using tomatoes in your cooking. Lycopene is most easily absorbed from cooked tomatoes, so adding tomatoes and tomato sauce to spaghetti sauce, soup, stew, and chili makes delicious sense.
More About Tomatoes and Lycopene:
- Lycopene attacks roaming oxygen molecules, known as free radicals, that are suspected of triggering cancer.
- Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant which can prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer.
- If you’re allergic to tomatoes, similar substances can be found in watermelons, carrots, and red peppers. However, these foods have less lycopene than tomatoes.
- Scientists in Israel have shown that lycopene can kill mouth cancer cells.
- An increased intake of lycopene has already been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, pancreas and colorectal cancer. Interestingly enough, recent studies indicate that for ultimate absorption, the body also needs some oil along with lycopene.
Prevent Cancer by Eating Your Veggies!
There are so many good reasons to eat more vegetables – heart health, brain health, weight management, and cancer prevention are each aided and maintained by eating the right vegetables. When it comes to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, a bonus is this: When we fill up on things that are good for us, we’ll automatically eat less of the ones that are bad for us.
Since we’re focusing on cancer prevention in this article, we’ll stick with the vegetables that are associated with this admirable duty.
- Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower have a chemical component (indole-3-carbinol) that combats breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety. Broccoli, especially sprouts, also have the phytochemical sulforaphane, touted as aiding in the prevention of colon cancer and rectal cancer.
- Carrots, which contain a lot of beta carotene, may help reduce a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast. What’s more, a substance called falcarinol (found in carrots) has been found to reduce the risk of cancer.
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin that may help decrease prostate and other cancers.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain strong antioxidants that may help decrease cancer risk.
- Sweet potatoes contain many anticancer properties, including beta-carotene, which may protect DNA in the cell nucleus from cancer-causing chemicals outside the nuclear membrane. Try preparing sweet potatoes just as you would a baked potato. Topped with a little butter and a pinch of cinnamon turns it into a really special treat. Sweet potatoes can also be cut like fries and baked in the oven for something different.
- Dark greens are rich in antioxidants called carotenoids. These antioxidants hunt down dangerous free radicals in the body before they can promote cancer growth.
Prevent Cancer by Eating More Fruit
- Oranges and lemons contain Iimonene which stimulates cancer-killing immune cells.
- Raspberries are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are believed to protect against cancer.
- The powerful blueberry is positively rich in cancer fighting compounds. Blueberries aid in the prevention of all types of cancer.
Prevent Cancer With Nuts
Nuts contain antioxidants that may suppress the growth of cancer. Nuts are also very healthy for your heart’s health as well as your brain’s health. I’ve learned a wonderful trick around my house. I fill “candy dishes” with pistachio nuts, almonds, walnuts (in addition to heart-healthy dark chocolate, raisins, and dried fruits), and other healthy nuts. When I, my husband, daughters, son-in-law, future sons-in-law (or any other human) walk by, we almost invariably grab a healthy snack to accompany us to wherever our next destination is.
It’s the perfect way to get healthy food into those you love. You’ll find that they especially visit the bowls as mealtime approaches.
Bait the trap!
Prevent Cancer With Mushrooms
This one kind of surprised me, though I’m not sure why. I guess I always thought mushrooms were one of those foods that were ‘taint…. ‘taint good for you but ‘taint bad for you either! Shows what I know. Many different varieties of mushrooms contain compounds that can help guard against cancer and build the immune system as well. For years, one of my favorite pizza toppings has been good for me and I never knew it.
Large mushrooms can even take the place of burgers. Grill, season, and dress as you would a burger. Pair the mushroom with other cancer fighters like garlic and peppers for bonus points.
Prevent Cancer With Peppers
Chili peppers and jalapenos contain a chemical called capsaicin which seems to neutralize certain cancer-causing substances and may help prevent cancers such as stomach cancer.
Pairing a lot of these cancer preventives in a tossed salad would be delicious and nutritious – especially if you serve it with a large glass of iced green tea. Dark green lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, chopped garlic, mushrooms, and grapes – drizzled with a healthy vinaigrette and sprinkled with nuts. Brilliant!
Photo Credit: The gorgeous pictures in this post are actually art prints and/or posters available from allposters.com. Click through each beautiful picture to take a closer look at the art print.