There is no doubt that there is a connection between diet and cancer development. Healthy eating can reduce the risk of various cancers. Still, it is not possible to guarantee that following a particular diet will eliminate the risk of cancer development. However, many studies have proved that plant-based diet reduces the risk of many kinds of cancer and red meat and processed meat are risk factors for cancer.
Plant-based nutrition is found to be protective against many major causes of death globally, including cancer deaths. It is shown that many cases of cancer can be prevented with diet and nutrition only. Eating adequate fruits, vegetables and legumes is not only important for the prevention of various cancers but also during the cancer treatment (chemotherapy).
In this blog we will discuss:
- What is a plant-based diet?
- Why is a plant-based diet good for cancer prevention?
- Plant-based foods with cancer fighting properties
- Tips to start with a plant-based diet
What is a plant-based diet?
Plant-based diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, oils, whole beans, grains and legumes. It excludes all animal products, such as fish, poultry, eggs, red meat and dairy products.
It provides all the necessary protein, vitamins, fats, minerals and carbohydrates for optimal health. It is usually high in phytonutrients and fiber.
Why is a plant-based diet good for cancer prevention?
Plant based foods support the immune system as they contain essential nutrients, which cannot be obtained from other foods. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals present in plants helps to keep the cells healthy.
A healthy immune system helps to prevent the infections and decreases the risk of various cancers as it is able to recognize and attack the cell mutations before they develop into disorder.
A plant-based diet assists in the maintenance of healthy body weight. Maintaining healthy weight is one of the best ways to decrease the risk for cancer and live a healthy lifestyle.
Obesity or excess body weight causes hormonal imbalance and inflammation, which increases the risk of getting cancers including colorectal, kidney, uterine, esophageal and pancreatic cancer.
Plants are high in fiber thus consuming plant-based diet enhances the gut health and you are able to absorb the nutrients from food which supports the immune system. Fiber rich diet along with some type of physical activity helps to lower cholesterol and maintain blood sugar.
Thus fiber obtained from a plant-based diet is crucial for decreasing the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
Now let’s discuss the foods that can help cancer prevention.
Plant-based foods with cancer fighting properties
Following are some of the foods that have cancer fighting properties:
Vegetables: There are various vegetables that contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.
Let’s discuss some of the vegetables that has cancer fighting properties:
Tomatoes: Consumption of tomatoes is crucial to prevent cancer. A tomato is an antioxidant-rich food that has lycopene, which can help the body in fighting against many cancers.
Garlic and onion: They contain active Sulphur compounds, which can be used to inhibit production of nitrosamines that are carcinogen. It can cause various types of cancers.
Carrots: They contain several essential nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamin K and vitamin A. They also contain high amounts of beta-carotene. Research shows that the beta-carotene has an important role in supporting the immune system. Various studies reveal that beta-carotene has a role in decreasing the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Other studies reveal that higher consumption of carrots reduces the risk of stomach cancer development.
Fruit: Some of the great fruits options that can help to prevent cancer are:
- Blueberries: They are rich in fiber, manganese and vitamin C. They contain antioxidants in abundance, which are known for their cancer-fighting effects. They improve chemo brain, which refers to the impairments in memory and concentration that arise due to cancer treatment.
- Oranges: They are a rich source of vitamin C and contain other important nutrients such as potassium, thiamine and folate. Vitamin C is known to have a major role in the strengthening of the immune system during and after cancer therapy. According to studies, vitamin C may decrease the growth and spread of cancer cell
- Grapefruit: It is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. It is also rich in compounds such as lycopene, which is a carotenoid that possess potent anticancer properties.
- Cherries: It contains copper, vitamin C and potassium in abundance. They are also rich in antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, beta carotene and lutein. Researches show that the antioxidants present in cherries can assist to slow the growth of cancer cells.
- Blackberries: They are high in vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. They also contain various antioxidants such as gallic acid and ellagic acid.
Their consumption may help to protect against DNA damage, neutralize free radicals, and slow down the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Pulses, beans and legumes: Legumes are rich in fiber. According to research their higher intake may protect against the risk of colorectal cancer.
Beans help to prevent and fight cancer as they contain cancer-fighting substances such as protease inhibitors that slow tumor growth, phytates that may help prevent or slow some cancers and manganese that help in the formation of an enzyme, which protects cells from damage.
Pulses contain high amounts of phenolic compounds that are found to decrease the inflammation and prevent the cancer cells growth and spread.
Healthy oils: Certain oils can have cancer-fighting properties such as olive oil, grapeseed oil and flaxseed oil.
Whole grains and oats: Oats contain manganese and vitamins B. They also contain selenium and beta-glucan that assists the immune system to fight cancer. It also contains plant lignans that help to protect against hormone-sensitive cancers.
Flaxseeds: They are found to have protective effects against some cancers. They may decrease the spread of cancer cells.
Tips to start with a plant-based diet
Eat plenty of vegetables: Try to fill half of your plate with vegetables at your lunch and dinner. Include different colors of vegetables.
Change your portion size: If you want to eat meat then enjoy smaller amounts.
Consume good fats: Foods such as nuts, olive, nut butters, avocados and seeds contain good fats.
Incorporate whole grains in breakfast: Start our day with some whole grains such as barley, oatmeal and quinoa. You can add some fruits and nuts to enhance the taste and nutrients.
Add a variety of greens: Make a habit to consume different green leafy vegetables including kale and spinach every day. You can stir fry to make them tasty.
Eat fruit for dessert: If you feel like having desserts after your meal, then add different tasty fruits in a bowl and eat them to satisfy your craving.
Consuming a plant-based diet not only helps to decrease the risk of cancer but also decreases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and various mental conditions.
Many people believe that animal products contain healthy nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 that will be missing in plant based diets. However, it is not true. You can get such nutrients from some plant foods. You can take the help of a dietitian to suggest you some plant-based foods rich in these nutrients.