Having a well-balanced diet boosts your immunity and helps to protect against cancer and other diseases. Here’s what to eat
What we eat impacts our health. Making smart food choices may help reduce our risk of developing cancer, especially foods with beneficial compounds that can fight the disease. Here are some superfoods to add to your grocery list:
Garlic is a potent superfood you want to add to your list. Not only does it help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but it also contains sulphur compounds that can shore up your immune system to fight against cancer, as well as potentially reduce tumour growth.
Antioxidant-filled berries of any kind are one of nature’s best superfoods. They contain polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals, and two active cancer-fighting compounds – anthocyanins and ellagitannins – which work together to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Specifically, green or black tea. Black tea and green tea are derived from the same plant, but black tea is made from the fermented leaves of the plant. Green and black tea contain polyphenols, antioxidative plant compounds that help to fight and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, all types of nuts have cancerfighting properties, but none more so than walnuts. In one animal study, mice that were fed whole walnuts and walnut oil showed higher levels of tumoursuppressing genes than those that were fed vegetable oil.
Fatty, oily fish like salmon, mackerel and anchovies are rich in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B and potassium, which may
help guard against heart disease and cancer. A diet high in freshwater fish can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 53 per cent, while another study showed that eating fish oil and fish oil supplements can significantly lower the risk of prostate and colon cancer.
Milk ‘increases risk of prostate cancer’
DRINKING milk can raise the risk of prostate cancer, a study shows.
It found those who downed around three-quarters of a pint a day were 25 per cent more likely to develop the disease than men who drank less than a quarter of a pint a week.
Scientists believe milk contains hormones and proteins that stimulate fuel cell division which can lead to cancer. In the latest, large-scale study, more than 28,000 men in the US were monitored for nearly eight years.
Results showed the connection to prostrate cancer applied to all milk – full-fat, semi-skimmed and skimmed.
But no link was found in other dairy products, such as yoghurt and cheese, potentially because hormones and proteins are lost during fermentation.
As studies continue, lead author Prof Gary Fraser, of Loma Linda University, California, said men with a family history of prostate cancer should be cautious and consider non-dairy milks like “soy, oat or cashew”. The same team previously found a link between traditional milk and breast cancer.
Close up vitamin D and Omega 3 fish oil capsules supplement on wooden plate for good brain , heart and health eating benefit
Cancer research is ongoing at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In addition to testing new drug therapies, the researchers are investigating dietary factors to combat deadly cancers. Their latest study involved investigating the benefits of a low-fat fish oil diet for men with prostate cancer. They published their findings online on November 18 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
The study authors not that it is estimated that more than 230,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013 alone, and more than 29,000 will die from the disease. The researchers examined the cell cycle progression score (CCP) in men who consumed a low-fat fish oil diet, compared to men who ate a typical Western diet. The cell cycle progression score is the measurement of a cancer’s aggressiveness. The higher the score, the more aggressive the cancer. “We found that CCP scores were significantly lower in the prostate cancer in men who consumed the low-fat fish oil diet as compare to men who followed a higher fat Western diet,” explained lead author William Aronson, a clinical professor of urology at UCLA and chief of urologic oncology at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center Aronson. He added, “We also found that men on the low-fat fish oil diet had reduced blood levels of pro-inflammatory substances that have been associated with cancer.”
Dr. Aronson and his team conducted a previous prostate cancer study in 2011, which found that a low-fat fish oil diet consumed for four to six weeks prior to prostate removal slowed the growth of cancer cells in human prostate cancer tissue compared to a traditional, high-fat Western diet. It also found that men on the diet had a change in the cell composition membranes of both healthy and cancer cells within the prostate gland. Blood test revealed that the men had increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and decreased levels of the more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil in the cell membranes. Dr. Aronson noted that this finding may have directed affected the biology of the cells. He explained, “These studies are showing that, in men with prostate cancer, you really are what you eat. The studies suggest that by altering the diet, we may favorably affect the biology of prostate cancer.”
In the earlier study, the men were divided into two groups. One group consumed the low-fat fish diet and the other group consumed the Western diet. The low-fat diet comprised 15% of calories from fat. In addition, five grams of fish oil per day (five capsules: three with breakfast and two with dinner), which provided omega-3 fatty acids. The study author note that Omega-3 fatty acids have been reported to reduce inflammation, and may be protective for other malignancies.
The Western diet comprised 40% of calories from fat, similar to a typical Western diet. The fat sources, which were also typical of a Western diet, included high levels of omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil and low levels of fish oil that provide omega-3 fatty acids
The new study focused on determining what protection the diet would provide against cancer spread. They measured blood levels of the pro-inflammatory substances and examined the prostate cancer tissue to determine the CCP score. Dr. Aronson explained, “This is of great interest, as the CCP score in prostate cancer is known to be associated with more aggressive disease and can help predict which patients will recur and potentially die from their cancer.” In addition, the investigators analyzed one pro-inflammatory substance called leukotriene B4 (LTB4) and found that men with lower blood levels of LTB4 after the diet also had lower CCP scores. Dr. Aronson noted, “Given this finding, we went on to explore how the LTB4 might potentially affect prostate cancer cells and discovered a completely novel finding that one of the receptors for LTB4 is found on the surface of prostate cancer cells.” He noted that further studies will be none regarding LTB4 and prostate cancer progression.
Dr. Aronson’s team have received funds to begin a prospective (forward-looking), randomized trial at UCLA in 2014. They will study 100 men who have elected to join the active surveillance program, which monitors slow-growing prostate cancer using imaging and biopsy instead of treating the disease. The subjects will undergo a prostate biopsy at the beginning of the trial and again at one year. The men will be randomized into a group that eats their usual diet or to a low-fat fish oil diet group. The prostate biopsies will be measured for cell growth and CCP score.
Prostate cancer is a leading cause of death among men in the United States.
Can exotic foods from places with less disease and obesity make Americans healthy and thin too?
You can hardly push a shopping cart through a supermarket these days without bumping into so-called superfoods — exotic edibles like acai, goji berries, and chia seeds that are purportedly packed with health-boosting nutrients. Step over to the health-and-wellness aisle, and you’ll find many superfoods in supplement form, promising all that lifesaving goodness in a single, easy-to-pop pill.
If you’re tempted to buy, you have good reason. The term superfood has colonized both mainstream and natural-food stores, even though the word has no scientific or FDA-approved meaning, says Dr. Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health. “It’s just a term somebody dreamed up. The trendy term used to be nutraceutical. Now it’s superfood, and the public needs to be very, very skeptical.” Today’s leading experts use the term to refer only to such everyday natural foods as salmon, broccoli, and blueberries, whose health benefits are supported by reams of research.
But where does that leave the latest crop of foreign-sounding edibles — acai, goji, maca, maqui, chia, and more — that barely existed in the market 10 years ago and are now hailed as superfoods? “The way these things work,” says Christopher Gardner, a nutrition researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, “is that you find some superhealthy population, you ask what they eat, you discover that they eat something others don’t, and then you get a biochemist to look at it.” The biochemist then identifies a new antioxidant compound in the food, and you — if you’re a savvy manufacturer — start cranking out a line of juices, smoothies, or cereals that contain the “superfood.” You claim your product has incredible health benefits and credit it to one or more of three top-selling buzzwords: antioxidants, omega-3, and nutrient density.
Buzzword #1: Antioxidants
Antioxidants are produced by plants to mend cell damage caused by photosynthesis. When combined with cancer cells in test tubes, antioxidants inhibit the growth of malignant cells and limit oxidative damage, which contributes to aging and disease. While lab results have been promising, human studies haven’t been as auspicious, in part because some antioxidants break down in our digestive tract, preventing the compounds from even entering our bloodstream. What’s more, large-population studies of people taking antioxidant supplements show that the pill form has no benefit and may even increase the risk of cancer.
Why do manufacturers continue to bottle and sell antioxidants if there’s no definitive proof that they improve human health? For that answer, one need look only to the supplement and fortified-food industries, both worth billions of dollars. While there’s no big monetary payoff in reminding people to eat broccoli, manufacturers can make hefty profits selling a pricey pill or drink that promises easy-to-swallow optimal health.
“The main thing to keep in mind is that all plant foods — all plants — contain antioxidants,” says Michael Pollan, best-selling author of In Defense of Food. “Do some fruits or vegetables have more than others? Probably. But is that significant? Do they survive in the body? No one knows. The best bet is to consume a wide variety of plant foods. To put all your chips on one berry” — or all your berries on one chia chip — “is probably not smart.”
Buzzword #2: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s have far more conclusive health benefits than antioxidants do. These fatty acids, found in fish as EPA and DHA and in plants as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, are essential to human health: We can’t live without them, and our bodies can’t make them. Research shows that omega-3s from marine life may help prevent cardiovascular and cognitive diseases, but there’s less evidence for health benefits from ALA — the selling point of chia, hemp, and flaxseeds — partly because fewer studies have been done.
“We don’t have the best-quality clinical trials for ALA, but we do have a big scientific database of population studies showing that people eating higher levels of ALA have a lower incidence of heart attacks,” says Sacks. In other words, there’s a good reason to consider ALA beneficial, but Sacks cautions that no one knows how much of the fatty acids are optimal or even if more ALA is always better. “It could be a deficiency thing, that if you have a very low amount, you’re at a higher risk of disease,” he says. “At least, that’s the working hypothesis.”
As for chia, the seeds have the highest ALA concentration of any plant food, but walnuts are also rich in the compound. However, chia does have one unique effect not found in other foods with ALA: Once consumed, the seeds produce a viscous gel in the stomach that may trigger fullness and satiety. Studies, though, have yet to conclude that this in turn leads to weight loss.
Buzzword #3: Nutrient Density
Nutrient density measures the concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other compounds in a food relative to its total calorie count. Eating nutrient-dense foods like acai and pomegranates certainly beats a diet of such nutrient-void foods as white bread and candy, but since most fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense, you can find many of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in, say, goji berries, in more common foods like oranges and carrots.
None of this means that exotic superfoods aren’t healthy additions to a balanced diet. What it does suggest, however, is that scientists aren’t sure how antioxidants, omega-3s, and other specific nutrients affect our overall health — a statement that also applies to more traditional superfoods like salmon, blueberries, walnuts, kale, and Greek yogurt. What we do know is that the more processed a food is, regardless of whether it’s called a superfood or not, the less healthy it is. So no matter what you choose to consume, be sure to eat it in as close to its natural form as possible.