… test us on ten days of a diet of vegetables and water, then see how we look compared to the other young men…(From the biblical book of Daniel, chapter 1, verse 12)
It’s the “c” word… not the vulgar one, but the scary one. Cancer. The diagnosis no one ever wants to hear (among so many others). According to the Canadian Cancer Society
, 40% of Canadian women and 45% of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes. An estimated 1 out of every 4 Canadians are expected to die from cancer and cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Canada.
Cancer seems to have a smorgasbord of choices - appearing in the lungs, breast, prostate, ovary, pancreas, colon, uterus, thyroid, kidney, brain, lymph and skin, among still others.
With statistics like that, it puts an even greater responsibility on society to practice prevention. While genetics play a certain role in cancer – somatic cancers (acquired during life) are on the rise. Statistically, the message of prevention is dwarfed behind the push for a cure. We run, bike, skip, sail, jump, dance and bake for “the cure” but what are we doing to prevent cancer? This is not to say that major advances have not been made in cancer research, or to imply that miracles have not happened with modern medical treatments – but what part of cancer is the researchers role and what part is society’s?
While doctors are studying the petri dish, we can study our diet. Today’s diet is, well… highly acidic and cancer promoting. Most of our diet today leans toward the acidic side – heavy in meat, dairy, starchy and processed, sugary foods. Cancers love acid
Their cells thrive and survive in an acidic environment. According to Dr. Susan Lark, MD, “The simplest and most dramatic thing you can do for your body is to balance the levels of acid vs. alkaline.” Cancer cells will actually die in an alkaline environment because an alkaline state is oxygen rich and cancer cells cannot survive high levels of oxygenation. Vegetarian and plant-based protein diets, as well as diets rich in antioxidants from fruits and veggies have been shown to help prevent cancer as well as slow the rate of cancer cell growth.
A study by J.H. Cummings, and S.A.Bingham entitled Diet and the prevention of Cancer
concludes that: “...diet contributes to varying extent to the risk of many other cancers, including cancers of the lung, prostate, stomach, oesophagus, and pancreas... Generally, fruit, vegetables, and fiber have a protective effect, whereas red and processed meat increase the risk of developing cancer."
Cancer has and continues to have devastating effects on families and society. We can no longer afford to leave prevention on the sidelines. Food is medicine and medicine is food – whether we believe ol’ Socrates or not. By the way, Daniel mentioned above, well… after ten days, he and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than the kings men who ate rich foods and meat. Seems we’ve known a thing or two about diet for a long, long time. Don’t live to eat, eat to live!
It seems like every time I turn on the television or open a newspaper, I’m hearing about one more food that fights cancer. This is certainly good news, but sometimes it can become a little bit overwhelming. You get to the grocery store and think, “Let’s see, am I supposed to be eating artichokes or avocados to prevent cancer?”
In reality, there are probably some foods that are better than others at preventing cancer, but you can make sure that you are getting the good vitamins, minerals and enzymes your body needs to stay in tip-top shape by eating a variety of healthy foods, especially in the produce aisle.
When you’re scanning the produce section for the healthiest fare, just make sure to fill your cart with all the different colors found in nature so that your body is getting the greatest variety of nutrients.
If (like me) you want something a little more concrete to take to the store with you Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Healthy Kids, has compiled a comprehensive list of the best of the best when it comes to fighting cancer:
Alfalfa sprouts Chicory Pumpkin Seeds
Almonds Evening Primrose Oil Quinoa
Apples Extra Virgin Olive Oil Salmon
Apricots Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil Sesame Seeds
Asparagus Garlic Shitake Mushrooms
Beans Gingeroot Soy Milk
Beansprouts Green Tea Sunflower Seeds
Brazil Nuts Kale Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli Lentils Tofu
Brown Rice Lettuce Tomatoes
Brussels Sprout Mangoes Turmeric
Carrots Peas Pulses
Make sure to incorporate a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains into your diet. If you’re relying on just one or two of these foods to meet your nutritional requirements, you’re probably going to fall short, so mix it up. Throw a new fruit into the basket or try a new recipe, even if you don’t think you’ll like it.
And remember, while you’re taking the time and energy to prevent yourself from getting cancer, think about what you’re feeding your kids, as well. In addition to being great for preventing cancer risk in adults, these foods are superstars when it comes to growing babies into healthy grown-ups!
Cancer: It’s a scary word. But even if we don’t like to talk about it, the fact is that, according to the World Health Organization
, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world — and the number of new cases seems to be increasing every year.
In Canada, 171,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2009, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and, according to the American Cancer Society, 562,340 people died of cancer in the U.S. in 2006. With statistics like those, chances are, you or someone you love has been in for the fight of his or her life.
The point of all these numbers isn’t to scare you, though. In fact, there’s actually some good news about cancer floating around out there. According to cancer survivor and nutritionist Conner Middelmann Whitney
, 30% of the cancers in the West could be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise and body weight control and another 30% could be prevented by not smoking.
While many people feel like cancer is waiting around to attack them at any time (and, let’s face it, for some people, it is) for a good many of us, the things we do — and eat — in our daily lives can keep us from ever getting the “big C.” Furthermore, whether we are fighting for our lives or cancer survivors, keeping away from the Marlboro man and tweaking our lifestyles can keep us cancer free in the future.
While there are certainly those out there who dispute each of these ideas, here are a few “rules” that can help you and your family prevent cancer from coming in the first place, or, if you’re a survivor, from coming back again:
- Sugar Feeds Cancer: If you’ve read my blogs about sugar, you know I’m not a big fan of the refined stuff and its health consequences. Neither is Patrick Quillin, PHD, RD, CNS. Quillin sites multiple studies that show that in mice and in humans, the more sugar consumed, the higher the risk for cancer. So save the Hershey’s Bars for an occasional treat.
- Eat Whole Grains: According to Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Kids, the fiber in the wholegrains “helps to balance blood glucose levels and to carry toxins and carcinogens out of the body.”
- Go Organic: It might cost you a little bit more, but going organic is a crucial step in any cancer battle. Pesticides are carcinogens. Period. While I would always recommend going as organic as your budget allows, if you are going to eat meat, dairy products and eggs, it’s especially important to go organic in those areas.
- The ideas of bioaccumulation and biomagnification teach us that when a pesticide goes from the environment to the first layer of the food chain (i.e. grass to cow) the effects of it multiply. When it goes to the next link in the food chain (i.e. cow to human) they multiply again. In short, while the pesticides in that grass might not have been so bad, by the time they get to you, you can have some major poison on your hands (and in your body).
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: The American Cancer Society reports that excess weight leads to 90,000 unnecessary cancer deaths every year. That’s 20% of the cancer deaths in women and 14% in men in the U.S. And what’s frightening is that only 1% of the American public, when polled, even realized that weight and cancer could be linked.
Long story short, the bad news is that there will always be people out there who get cancer, even when they do all the right things. The good news, though, is that, for a good many of us, the choices we make can keep us strong, healthy and cancer free.
Mention breast cancer and everything comes up pink! I get a little cranky when I see this, not because pink toasters aren’t fun, or pink dump trucks are not cool! It’s because of the mindset that we must find a cure for breast cancer because that is our only hope. The message is still “more research.” As the leading cancer in women, statistics say that 1 out of every 8 women will experience this disease in Canada. Some major advancements have been made in conventional treatments for breast cancer, but discouragingly, I notice that very little of the focus is on prevention.
Many factors contribute to the development of breast cancer. Too much estrogen has been indicated as a major factor. Nasty substances included in everyday products like cosmetics, bleached tampons, dry-cleaning solvents, hair supplies and even low cal foods to promote weight loss are often loaded with the very substances that can have been linked to breast cancer. Yet, manufacturers of these products are sponsoring and participating in research efforts to find a cure. This is one step forward two steps back if you ask me.
Prevention being swept under the carpet
Why is prevention swept under the carpet – often getting nothing more than a marginal mention? As a nutritionist, I offered to participate in a local charity event for cancer, offering my knowledge and services to the public for treatment options of cancer. I was shocked and well… offended when the coordinator of the event rep told me that the organization did not allow people like me, with holistic nutritional and dietary counsel to participate because they had dieticians in hospitals who can do that if cancer patients want to know about their diet. (Have you tried eating hospital food?)
Society has become complacent and almost accepting of the statistics, as reported in ‘Health Service Journal’ July 2003 which stated:
The acceptance of breast cancer as a disease we have to put up with is affirmed in a survey conducted by the charity Breast Cancer Care. Asked about the challenges for breast cancer over the next 30 years, the majority of the 80 breast cancer experts participating predicted that 30 years from now breast cancer will still be incurable but it will be a disease women live with, like diabetes or asthma, rather than die from, and that the biggest problem will be the sheer number requiring care.
What can you do
Prevention starts with healthy fuel for the body that provide defenses such as:
- Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage). They are very high in a plant nutrient called Indole-3-Carbinol which has been shown to break down the bad, cancer-promoting estrogens in the body to non-toxic forms.
- Antioxidants – if it’s colored, eat it! That is, naturally colored, as in berries and richly colored fruits and veggies. They’re brightly colored like that for a reason. The have strong antioxidant properties within those pigments.
- Low Fat Dairy and Meat – We love our dairy products and thick slices of meat, but they aren’t doing anything for prevention. Keep dairy and meat to a minimum of servings and keep it low in fat.
An ounce of prevention is worth pounds and pounds of cure. And isn’t that why everything is turning pink?