Wednesday, 17 Aug, 2022

Best Odds Diet Approach for Fighting Cancer

As a dietitian for more than 30 years, I’ve worked with thousands of people—individually, in group settings, through my social community, and in my..


As a dietitian for more than 30 years, I’ve worked with thousands of people—individually, in group settings, through my social community, and in my writing—who are fighting cancer. Whether they are genetically predisposed to cancer, in the middle of mounting their fight against active cancer, or in remission, the dietary strategies to help fight off this disease are similar. They are pretty basic and intuitive: Eat a plant-based diet filled with a variety of whole plant foods, pay attention to some particular foods with cancer-fighting activities, avoid intake of red meat and processed meats, as well as refined foods, and reduce the intake of environmental toxins in your food stream.

I’ve been practicing this lifestyle for 12 years. That’s me pictured in my garden above, surrounded by dishes from my latest book, California Vegan. Sure, I have eaten a basically healthful, plant-based diet my whole life, but I got really serious about it when my first book—The Plant-Powered Diet—came out. I decided to take a vegan challenge in 2011 (prior to that I was vegetarian) as research for my book, and I’ve been eating that way ever since. After years of research on nutrition—attending several cutting-edge nutrition conferences each year, reviewing the latest research for my work in writing and editing, and interviewing scientists—I put all of this knowledge into The Plant-Powered Diet, carving out what we know today about the best diet for people (and the planet). A variety of plant-based diets have been shown to protect against the 15 leading causes of death in the world, including many cancers. While I believe that a primarily plant-based diet, which could be along a spectrum of flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan, offers benefits, research has shown particular benefits in 100% plant-based diets for disease prevention. While we need much more research on how effective diet patterns, such as vegan, are in helping people with cancer, some studies have found that these diets are linked with significantly lower mortality rates in some types of cancer. The moral of the story: eat as plant-based as you can.

As I’ve shared previously, I was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma in September 2021, and I have been in care for treating it this year. Some (including myself) have questioned how my lifestyle, which is so healthful, could have allowed cancer to take root in my body. I have spent a lot of time researching the roots of lymphoma, which is not particularly linked to genetics and lifestyle as some cancers are. I have no family history at all of lymphoma, yet my history is littered with breast and colon cancer—my mother is a three-time cancer survivor (breast and colon), my sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at 41, my uncle died of colon cancer in his early 50s, and my aunt is also a breast cancer survivor. I would like to think that my lifestyle has staved off these solid cancers, and protected me from finally getting lymphoma—which is often a cancer of the young—for all these years. My diet is also helping me stay strong to fight the battle.

There is an environmental link to lymphoma in particular (other cancers as well). While I have been careful to consume organic produce and limit my exposure to environmental toxins through my lifestyle for more than a decade, I have lived in the metropolis of Los Angeles for 30 years (one of the most polluted cities in the country), breathing in the pollutants and drinking the water. Cancer development is complicated stuff, and I will never know for sure what caused my cancer, but what I do firmly believe is that lifestyle can help me fight it. Research shows that eating a healthy diet is linked with better cancer survival, compared to the typical Western diet, packed with fast foods, red meat, and refined foods. In particular, scientists have found that eating more vegetables was a critical factor among diets of those who had longer cancer survival rates.

The prestigious American Institute for Cancer Research (I proudly collaborate with this organization—check out my plant-based recipes and videos on the site) publishes their expert report on diet and cancer, releasing their top 10 diet and lifestyle recommendations (many of which refer to a plant-based diet) for cancer prevention, which include:

  • Be a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans
  • Limit consumption of fast foods and processed foods
  • Limit consumption of red and processed meat
  • Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
  • For mothers, breastfeed your baby if you can

What’s so special about a plant-based diet pattern and cancer protection? There are multiple ways that diet can impact cancer development. First of all, by their essential nature, plant-based diets are filled with plant foods—vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds—and they restrict animal foods. Why is this a good thing? Plant foods uniquely contain nutrients linked with reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and cancer development, including fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and phytochemicals—compounds in plants linked with cancer protection. This diet pattern is also linked with a healthier weight, which is a big protective factor in cancer risk. And secondly, red and processed meats have been linked with increased risk of certain types of cancer, for several potential reasons, including levels of saturated fat, nitrates, compounds formed in the processing of meats, and heme content.

My Cancer Fighting Diet Tips

Here are my own daily diet tips you can include in your regimen as your best odds cancer-fighting approach. Note that diet and supplements are not a “cure” for cancer. This diet plan may not be appropriate for all people based on their individual needs. Discuss your diet regimen with your health care provider.

1. Choose Your Plant-Based Diet Pattern
Given plant-based eating is a spectrum, find your way to get on the road to plant-based eating, trying to move more closely as possible to a 100% plant-based diet. Start with Meatless Monday and move on from there. Go to pescatarian, semi-vegetarian, and vegetarian. And then move to vegan, if you are ready to take the plunge. Check out my free Go Vegan Toolkit to get started.

2. Focus on Whole Plant Foods
The true beauty of plant-based eating is to eat the plant foods in their whole form. After all, French fries and cola are plant-based. We know that the healthiest plant-based diets are based on minimally processed foods—cooked whole grains in their kernel form, seasonal vegetables simply prepared fresh or cooked, fruits eaten whole with their peel, simmered pulses like beans and lentils, a handful of nuts and seeds, and generous additions of spices and herbs.

3. Eat a Greater Variety of Plants
There are more than 40,000 edible plant species on the planet, so move beyond your basic carrots, peas, and potatoes! The more variety you have in your diet, the more cancer-fighting nutrients you have flooding your bloodstream and tissues. Look for color and seasonality to increase the diversity of plants on your plate.

4. Include Super Star Foods in Your Daily Diet
Some particular plant foods have been linked to cancer protection, as noted below:                                                                             

  • Cruciferous Veggies. These hearty vegetable, including kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, are rich in carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K, folate, minerals, and fiber, as well as compounds called glucosinolates—these in particular have been linked with protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens, reducing inflammation, inducing cancer cell death, and inhibiting tumor cell migration.
  • Flax seeds. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids called ALA, fiber, and lignans, flax seeds have been linked with reduced risks of certain cancers, such as breast; compounds in flax are converted to other compounds which have been shown to bind to cell receptors, and decrease cell growth and tumor size.
  • One of our oldest spices, ginger has been found to have a number of anti-cancer effects, exhibiting antiproliferative, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory activities. In addition, ginger has well known anti-nausea effects, in particular those associated with chemotherapy.
  • Studies show that curcumin—the active component in the spice turmeric—has anti-cancer action, including inhibiting the growth of tumor cells and promoting cancer cell death.
  • Black pepper. The active compound in black pepper called piperine not only increases the bioavailability of curcumin, it also has its own cancer-fighting actions, including reducing oxidation and inflammation, and inhibiting the proliferation and survival of cancer cells.
  • Mushrooms. Varieties like reishi, turkey tail, shitake and maitake have been used as medicinal treatment in cancer for hundreds of years, and are an approved adjunct to standard treatment in Japan and China. They are generally safe, and have been linked to improved immune response and anti-cancer activity, mostly due to their unique compounds, like beta-glucans and glycoproteins known as PSK.
  • Green tea. Composed of numerous polyphenols, such as EGCG, EGC, ECG, and EC, green tea has significant antioxidant activity, protecting cells from DNA damage, inhibiting tumor cell proliferation, inducing cell death, and boosting immune function.

5. Reduce Processed Foods and Sugar
When you fill your diet with low-nutrient, refined foods—candy, sodas, refined crackers, cookies—you crowd out those whole plant foods that can help protect you from cancer. In addition, these refined foods are linked with weight gain, as well as increased blood glucose levels, both of which are linked to increased risk of cancer.

6. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Research shows that even moderate intake may increase your risk of cancer development. The more you drink, the higher your risk. If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation (one drink per day for women; two for men).

7. Avoid Toxins in the Food System
From pesticides and compounds in plastics to certain preservatives and heavy metals, more experts are recommending limiting your exposure to contaminants in the food system. While we need more research to understand these risks, focusing on whole, minimally processed plant foods produced organically without the addition of chemicals is a wise strategy.

Cancer-Fighting Sample Plant-Based Meal and Lifestyle Plan

Check out this sample meal and lifestyle plan for an example of how you can create a cancer-protective regimen.

10-minute meditation
8 ounces water

1 cup cooked steel cut oats
½ cup berries, unsweetened
2 tablespoons flax seeds
½ cup soymilk, unsweetened
1 cup green tea, unsweetened

Mid-Morning Snack
Antioxidant Smoothie
10-minute activity break (stretch or walk)
8 ounces water

Tofu Kale Power Bowl with Tahini Ginger Dressing
8 ounces water

Mid-Afternoon Snack
1 cup seasonal fruit, unsweetened
1 ounce nuts or seeds (i.e., walnuts, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
8 ounces water
10-minute activity break (stretch or walk)

Herbed Lentil Patties with Mushroom Sauce
½ cup cooked brown rice
Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower
8 ounces water

Post Dinner
30 minutes physical activity (I.e., gardening, dancing, biking, hiking, jogging, walking, tennis, basketball)

Evening Snack
1 cup seasonal fruit, unsweetened
1 cup chamomile tea

No caffeine after lunch
No screens at least 2 hours prior to bedtime
8 hours of high-quality sleep

Note that diet and supplements are not a “cure” for cancer. This diet plan may not be appropriate for all people based on their individual needs. Discuss your diet regimen with your health care provider.

Learn more about diet and cancer in my Live Chat here.                                                        


By: Cheryl Bell
Title: Best Odds Diet Approach for Fighting Cancer
Sourced From:
Published Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2021 08:00:54 +0000

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