There are many diets out there that could help you protect yourself from cancer, but rather than sticking to one strict diet, you can focus on the underlying principles they all have in common. The DASH diet, Mediterranean diet, and other cancer-prevention diets all focus on whole, unprocessed foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables. While different cancers have different causes and ideal methods of prevention, eating an all-natural diet and keeping toxicity low is surely a good idea for preventing cancer, supporting the system while undergoing cancer treatment, and keeping one’s body healthy to avoid recurrence. Here are some other diet tips that can help fight free radicals and protect your system:
1. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables multiple times a day
Fruits and vegetables are full of phytochemicals, which are produced by plants and can help reduce risk of cancer. For the most benefits, eat a rainbow of different fruit and vegetables. Each different naturally occurring color has different phytochemicals with unique benefits.Here’s how a rainbow diet day might look:
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with blackberries, peaches, chia seeds, and raw pumpkin seeds; organic coffee, green tea, or herbal tea
- Snack: Apple
- Lunch: Big salad with mixed dark leafy greens, sprouts, sliced cucumber, tomato, lentils, and a lemon garlic herb vinaigrette
- Snack: One or two organic carrots, thoroughly washed but not peeled
- Dinner: Wild caught salmon seasoned with turmeric and lime and your favorite whole grain
- Dessert: Blueberries and raspberries
2. Get plenty of fiber
Fiber helps protect against colorectal cancer and probably other types as well. More foods on the market now have functional fiber, which is fiber added to the product during processing. While any increase in your fiber intake is a good idea, focus on getting your fiber from whole grains and legumes, not processed foods, as much as possible. Follow the same principle as you do with your produce- eat a variety of grains and beans, aiming for different colors. Some interesting ingredients you can try include red quinoa, farro, amaranth, buckwheat, wild rice, chickpeas, dark red kidney beans, different varieties of lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, adzuki beans, black-eyed peas, and black beans.
3. Get enough vitamin D
There’s evidence that vitamin D could improve your health in a lot of ways, and studies have observed correlation between higher vitamin D intake and lower cancer risk. While studies have shown that vitamin D has a beneficial effect on breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer, these studies are observational, so they do not prove causation. It’s possible that people with higher vitamin D levels also have other healthy behaviors that are the cause of the anti-cancer effects. Regardless, vitamin D is safe unless taken in excess. To get the right amount of vitamin D each day, get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a day. If supplementing vitamin D, be sure you are taking vitamin D3, and dosage will depend on your serum levels of vitamin D. Get a blood test to determine your levels and discuss supplementation with your doctor. Vitamin D also makes a great cancer prevention supplement, as long as you don’t overdo it.
White, green, black, and herbal– all types of tea have protective benefits. Tea, like fruits and veggies, has antioxidants that help fight free radicals. White, green, and black tea are all parts of the tea plant, but at different ages and processed differently. White tea is processed the least, green tea second least, and black tea the most. The least processed tea contains the most antioxidants. Green tea is known for it’s EGCG content, which may help protect against cancer through a number of actions. Many medicinal herbs have antioxidant compounds that promote good health. Although many are not yet isolated, consuming a variety of herbal teas will help boost your overall antioxidant intake.
5. Cook with herbs and spices
Flavoring herbs and spices may have medicinal properties in addition to being delicious. For example, curcumin is a well-studied compound found mostly in turmeric, but in small amounts in ginger as well. One study showed that curcumin could reduce risk of colorectal cancer. Garlic is an incredible herb that can help with a number of common ailments; one study showed that cancer risk was cut by 60% for those who consumed the most allium-containing vegetables, including garlic. Clove, peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, and other common spices also have high antioxidant contents.
6. Avoid: toxins, heavy metals, BPA & BPS, trans fats, too much alcohol
Environmental chemicals can increase cancer risk, so avoid toxins and chemicals in your diet as much as possible. Remember, toxins not only come from the chemicals that are actually in the food, including animal growth hormones and pesticide sprays, but also the containers in which they are sold or served. Some of these compounds are not known to directly cause cancer, but they might influence cancer risk in other ways – for example, by acting as hormone-like substances in the body. Look for BPA-free cans, as BPA can leach into foods, especially with acidic foods like tomatoes. Make sure your dishes and food storage containers are BPA and BPS-free; invest in glass storage containers so you can safely store and reheat leftovers in the same container.
USDA Organic certification means the food was not treated with synthetic chemicals and was raised with certain standards. Unless a product is certified organic by a third party organization like the USDA or QAI, you cannot be 100% sure how it was grown and processed. Keep in mind that the USDA organic program is designed for larger producers; small, local farms may not be able to achieve organic certifications due to price. You can also look for the Certified Naturally Grown seal, which is based on the same principles and requirements as organic certification. Last but not least, you can always visit your local weekly farmer’s market and talk directly to farmers about how they raise their animals and grow their produce. Ask questions (click here for some ideas), get to know your local producers, and enjoy your seasonal, delicious, and nutrient-dense finds.