Top 5 Cancer Preventative Foods by Brita Mutti, ND, FABNO

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice and is a common ingredient in curries and sauces. It is a key ingredient in mustard. A compound in turmeric called curcumin has many anticancer properties. Curcumin plays an important role in prevention as well as in inhibiting all of the required steps involved in cancer development, progression, and metastatic spread.
The studies on curcumin are numerous. Several studies indicate that curcumin inhibits the growth and progression of prostate and colon cancer cells. In addition to reducing the risk of cancer development, curcumin can even promote cancer regression by increasing the body’s ability to kill cancer cells. It is known to decrease the ability of environmental toxins to promote cancer development and growth, and it has direct anti-oxidant effects.
Turmeric has a mild taste and is easy to incorporate into many meals. It can be added to any vegetable dish or sprinkled on meat before or after cooking. Turmeric is fat-soluble and needs to be taken with fat in the diet.

Mushrooms! There is more and more evidence emerging about the anticancer benefits of mushrooms. All mushrooms have a compound called beta-glucans, one reason why they are a powerful medicine. Maitake, reishi, and shitake mushrooms have high levels of beta-glucans, that immunologically activate the immune system.  Beta-glucans have been shown to possess antitumor activity by stimulating the immune system and activating natural killer cells. Natural killer cells detect and eliminate abnormally dividing cells, eliminating tumor cells and virally infected cells.  Research suggests that mushrooms can slow cancer growth, as well as prevent tumor occurrence in healthy tissues.

Another compound from mushrooms called polysaccharides have the effect of lowering blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity.  This can help to normalize blood sugar, and in turn support the liver and cardiovascular system.  When blood sugar is stable, inflammation levels are lower and the body s less susceptible to cancer growth. Mushrooms also promote the healthy breakdown of cholesterol by the liver.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts have a compound called indole-3-carbinol that alters hormone metabolism, decreasing hormones that stimulate cancer cell proliferation and growth. A metabolite of indole-3-carbinol called DIM has been studied due to activity against breast cancer cells. It demonstrates estrogen receptor antagonistic activity and inhibits the growth of breast tumors in animals. DIM has been shown to induce cell death in human breast cancer cells. DIM has been shown to have anti prostate cancer activity as well.

Another compound in cruciferous vegetables called isothiocyanates inhibits carcinogenesis and tumorigenesis through liver pathways leading to cancer cell death

Studies show that ground flax seed can be beneficial in treating everything from diabetes to heart disease and various forms of cancer. It has been touted as being the most powerful plant food on the planet. Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. By the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it.

Ground flax seed plays a role in promoting healthy hormone metabolism and decreasing levels of hormones that promote cancer cell growth. Ground flax contains phytoestrogens – a plant-based substance with weak estrogenic activity that attach to estrogen receptors and reduce harmful effects of estrogen in breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate tissue. Flax also provides extra estrogen activity in bones to encourage density and strength. Ground flax is safe to take with estrogen-sensitive cancer and will not further stimulate cancer cell growth.

Ground flax is a good source of fiber. As a whole grain, flax contains high levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber, so it can be helpful with both constipation and diarrhea. It helps bind cholesterol in the gut and inhibit its reabsorption into the blood stream. It is a high source of ALA, an omega-three fatty acid shown to inhibit tumor growth and incidence, particularly in colon cancer.

Other studies indicate that diets high in lignans, found in ground flax, reduce the risk of developing colon, breast and prostate cancers. Research that has been done in relation to breast and colon cancer has focused on the lignans in flax seed increasing SBHG, a sex hormone binding globulin that interferes with the hormones that promote those cancers.

When taking ground flax, it is important that it is ground. I recommend buying a small electric coffee bean grinder and grinding it yourself. You can grind a week’s worth at a time and keep it in the refrigerator. This will optimize freshness and decrease the risk of the seed becoming rancid. There are many ways to use ground flax. Mix in cold or hot cereal, sprinkle on salad, mix in pancakes or any baked good, or mix into mayonnaise or mustard.

Green Tea
Green tea – don’t leave home without it! Polyphenols and catechins in green tea are powerful antioxidants, inhibiting tumor cell replication, and preventing new blood supply to tumors. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent polyphenol and medicinal constituent in green tea, has been shown to support and enhance the immune system.  Polyphenols are known to possess strong antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and antibiotic properties.

Green tea has been shown to inhibit the mutagenicity and/or chromosomal damage caused by cancer promoting carcinogens. Green tea has been shown to induce cell suicide (apoptosis) selectively among cancer cells, not in normal cells.

There is evidence that catechins in green tea may boost the basal metabolic rate, making it a safe addition to a weight loss program. Green tea also guards against cardiovascular disease in several ways, including balancing total cholesterol levels.

Green tea can be consumed hot or cold.

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