Doctors and dietitians recommend eating a lot of fruits and vegetables in order to improve our overall health. After all, fresh fruits and veggies contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect us from various diseases, and according to some studies – even from cancer. In order to find out how fruits and vegetables help us prevent or beat cancer, keep reading this article.
What does science say about cancer fighting foods?
A Recent study revealed that eating 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day is associated with about 2.5% reduction in the risk of getting cancer. The 5 a day plan was created in 1990 by World Health Organization that came up with the strategy to prevent the incidence of cancer and chronic diseases. This plan has been promoted in Great Britain for last 10 years and in the United States for more than 20 years.
The new study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and their findings were published in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The study included 500,000 Europeans from 10 countries.
Scientists revealed that taking extra two portions of fruits and vegetables a day could prevent 2.6% of cancers in men and 2.3% of cancers in women. It is important to mention that lifestyle fitness (exercise, smoking, etc.) were also accounted in for during this research.
After the results of this study had been published, media didn’t approve the findings and described them as simply too low and insignificant. Indeed, 2.5% seems too low when you look at the number individually. But, is it really that insignificant on a global scale? Let’s find out.
Dr. Rachel Thompson, the science program manager for World Cancer Research Fund, explained the importance of this study’s findings. For example, if we all ate two additional portions of fruits and vegetables per day, about 2.5% of all cancers would be prevented. If we take into consideration figures from the UK, that’s about 7000 cancers a year, which is a staggering number.
Let’s put it this way, 2.5% of people beating cancer is a much higher number of people than was found to have benefited from both drugs and chemotherapy in both the United States and Australia, according to Australian analysis conducted by a Cancer Watch.
This isn’t the only research that associated fruits and vegetables with prevention of cancer. For example, a Harvard research revealed that lycopene from cooked tomatoes and indole 3 carbinol from broccoli can prevent and reduce the symptoms of prostate cancer.
How can fruits and vegetables protect us from cancer?
According to scientists, fruits and vegetables can protect us from cancer in two ways:
- Through anti-carcinogenic agents
- By improving our health, maintaining a healthy weight, and destroying free radicals.
Fruits and vegetables are well-known for high levels of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that protect our body from cancer. It is believed that a combination of all these components aides in reducing risk of getting some cancer, and if we add to that the fact that some fruits and veggies contain anti-carcinogenic component, you get another reason why you should include them in your diet.
Also, fruits and vegetables help you maintain a healthy body weight, which is why your personal trainer at the gym recommends eating them in order to lose weight effectively. So, how can weight loss help against cancer? Simple, excess fat and obesity are well-documented risk factors for cancers such as gastrointestinal cancers, breast cancer, kidney, etc.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that destroy free radicals in your body. Free radicals attack and destroy healthy cells; which causes numerous diseases, even cancer. It is needless to mention that all fruits contain components that are known for anti-cancerous properties.
How to know what fruit or vegetable to eat then?
This is one of the most common questions about the prevention of cancer through healthy diet and it also indicates where people usually go wrong in seemingly healthy lifestyle. There is no one precise fruit or vegetable that cures all cancers. According to experts, all fruits and vegetables contain protective properties coupled with vitamins, nutrients and other compounds.
Further, all fruits and vegetables are different which means they have unique abilities and benefits that other types don’t have. This is why; scientists suggest eating a rainbow i.e. including a wide range of fruits and vegetables of different types and colors into your diet. Every color contains a different pigment that can only benefit your health.
What if I am already diagnosed with cancer?
When you’re diagnosed with cancer eating, fruits and vegetables won’t miraculously cure it. However, these foods can help you beat your cancer.
American Cancer Society produced a report that since 2006 there had been numerous researches into complementary therapies when fighting cancer and there was significant number of evidence, which suggested that weight control, exercise, and healthy foods that fight cancer improved survival chances and prevented cancer from recurring again.
Anti-carcinogenic components in fruits and vegetables
It was mentioned above that all fruits and veggies contain unique anti-carcinogenic components that prevent cancer. Here are some of them:
- Sulphur phytochemical compounds – prevent cancer cells growth and protect our cells from carcinogenic substances. It can be found in garlic and onions.
- Silymarin – reduces proliferation and induces apoptosis (cancer cells’ self-destruction) in liver cancer and leukemia cells. It can be found in artichokes.
- Betacyanin – prevents stomach, lung, and skin cancer. It can be found in beetroot.
- Luteolin – decreases the risk of gastric, prostate, lung, and colon cancer. It is found in carrots, celery, etc.
- Isothiocyanates – anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Found in the cabbage family.
- Lycopene – decreases DNA damage, suppresses cancer growth, inhibits cancer’s proliferation. Found in tomatoes, watercress, spinach, etc.
- Quercetin – prevents various cancers like breast cancer, skin, lung, and color cancer. You can find this compound in apples.
- Alpha-carotene – induces apoptosis, found in avocado.
- Ellagic acid, anthocyanins, etc. – prevent cancers that occur in the colorectal tract, cervix, breast, stomach, intestine and occurrence of leukemia. These compounds are found in berries.
- Anthocyanin’s – inhibit the growth of come cancers, found in cherries.
- Terpens and polyphenols – inhibit cancer cell growth and their proliferation. Found in citrus fruits.
- Lutein – inhibits the growth of colon cancer, found in peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.
- Punicalagin – inhibits colon, prostate, and oral cancer cells, found in pomegranate.
This is just a short list of all anti-carcinogenic compounds found in fruits and vegetables.
According to numerous studies, fruits and vegetables have the ability to prevent cancer from occurring and also coupled with therapy, exercise and healthy lifestyle, they can aide in beating cancer for good. It is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables of different types and colors into your diet. They are both delicious and beneficial.
Linda Daniels, MA in English literature, a freelance health and beauty consultant. She has many articles published for different categories like health, lifestyle fitness, beauty and skin care. She has experience researching as a passion as well as a profession. She is an inspirational person who strongly believes in the power of self-motivation. Her goal is to guide through my writing skills.