Recently released studies have shown that black raspberries, blueberries and cloudy apple juice may help prevent colon cancer. In addition, black raspberries also show promise for preventing cancer of the esophagus.
But these aren't the only foods that help fight cancer. TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer offers these five lifestyle guidelines to help reduce your overall risk of the disease:
1) Eat at least five servings of produce each day – but aim for nine!
All plant foods — especially fruits and vegetables — contain phytonutrients, naturally occurring chemical compounds that are important for maintaining health. There are thousands of known phytonutrients, many of which have demonstrated that they have the potential to protect us against cancer.
Different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of phytonutrients, so to ensure that you get as many different protective compounds as possible, I recommend and eat at least FIVE – but better yet NINE servings of fruits and vegetables per day… and go for variety. That’s about 3 cups raw or cooked vegetables plus 2-3 pieces of fruit.
Cruciferous vegetables(including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage),contain phytonutrients known as glucosinolates, which help inhibit the metabolism of some carcinogens, may stop the proliferation of cancer cells, and cause the body to produce detoxification enzymes.
Diets high in vitamin C rich produce (like citrus fruit, strawberries and peppers) have been linked to a reduced risk of cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, bladder, breast, and cervix.
Studies have shown that people who eat a diet high in beta carotene—found primarily in leafy green and orange-colored vegetables (like spinach and carrots)—have a reduced risk of cancer, particularly of the lung, colon, and stomach. (These results are for beta carotene from food sources only).
Lycopene, found in high amounts in tomatoes (as well pink grapefruit and watermelon), seems to be a powerful cancer preventive compound. In studies, eating tomatoes and tomato products reduced risk of most digestive tract cancers by between 30 and 60 percent. In addition, men who ate diets rich in tomato have been able to reduce their levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA)—a marker for increased risk of prostate cancer.
2) Get enough Vitamin D
Many experts consider the United States to be in the middle of an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. In previous generations, vitamin D deficiency wasn’t a problem because people took in large amounts of sunlight – and our skin makes all the vitamin D we need when exposed to the sun. But nowadays, most of us responsibly use sunscreen regularly to protect our skin from wrinkles and ultraviolet radiation (that can potentially cause skin cancer). Unfortunately, sunscreen also keeps our skin from using sunlight to produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cancer of the colon, breast, ovaries, and prostate. Scientists believe that vitamin D can help block the development of blood vessels that feed growing tumors, and help stop the proliferation of cancerous and precancerous cells. I recommend eating plenty of vitamin D–rich foods including fatty fish (like salmon and sardines) and vitamin D–fortified skim milk, non-fat yogurt and reduced fat cheese. Because few foods provide vitamin D, you should consider a daily multivitamin that provides 100% DV of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, the most potent form). If you think you’re a candidate for even more, speak with your personal physician.
3) Limit salty, pickled and smoked foods
Excessive salt is thought to increase the risk of stomach and esophageal cancers by damaging the lining of the throat and stomach. Also, salt allows Helicobacter pylori bacteria to thrive, which can increase the risk of stomach cancer. If you like salty, pickled foods, eat them only in moderation. This includes salt itself, sauerkraut, pickles, all pickled vegetables and fish, and salt-cured fish and meats. Depending on the type and brand you buy, the following meats may be cured: bacon, sausage, bratwurst, pepperoni, salami, pastrami, hot dogs, bologna, and cured ham. Be sure to check the label to see how it’s prepared.
Smoked meats, including smoked ham and sausages, and fish such as smoked lox and whitefish also seem to increase the risk of stomach cancer. These foods, too, should be eaten infrequently.
4) Limit meats cooked at high temperatures
Cooking meats at high temperatures produces chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer of the stomach, colon, pancreas, and breast. Studies have shown that the risk is higher among people who eat meat (specifically beef) four or more times per week, and who cook their meats more thoroughly. The most HCAs are found in meats that have been fried, broiled, or barbecued—all cooking methods which typically use high temperatures.
Roasting and baking produce fewer HCAs, and poaching, stewing, or boiling meat produce the least. I recommend limiting your intake of red meat altogether (aim for no more than 3 times each week), and cut back on your consumption of meat cooked at high heat. When you do grill steak,…. just be sure to trim excess fat, flip often, and cut off charred or burnt parts of food before eating them (you may also want to cook meat slightly in the microwave or oven first, to lessen high-temperature cooking time).
5) Limit saturated fat and trans fat
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, including beef, butter, lard, whole-milk dairy products (including regular yogurt, cheese, and ice cream), fried foods, fatty marbled meats (including hamburgers, hot dogs, salami, pastrami, and spareribs), and poultry skin.
Trans fats, developed to improve the shelf life of processed foods, are found in most stick margarines, some packaged baked goods and snack foods, fried foods, and fast food dishes that use or create hydrogenated oils. (All food labels must now list the amount of trans fats, right after the amount of saturated fats—good news for consumers.).
The role of saturated and trans fats in cancer is not entirely clear – but they’re generally bad for your health and should be dramatically limited by everyone. A few studies have shown an increased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer… and we know that these unhealthy fats can increase levels of inflammation throughout the body, which may cause cellular damage over time. In addition, a healthy body means a healthy, cancer-fighting immune system.
For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutrition expert, Joy Bauer’s website (and check out her new book Joy Bauer’s Food Cures) at www.joybauernutrition.com