Cancer is the #2 killer in the United States, and diet may be the #1 cause of cancer. The balance of evidence suggests that a whole food, plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, slow, and even reverse cancer progression. It’s never too late to start eating healthier, as cancer risk may drop after starting a plant-based diet at any age.
Some reasons why plant-based diets may be effective include lowering methionine intake, inhibiting angiogenesis, intercepting carcinogens, and increasing fiber and antioxidants. Populations eating diets centered on whole plant foods have lower rates of cancer. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables—at least 9 daily servings may boost detoxifying enzymes, lower inflammation, lower cholesterol, and make for healthier bowel movements, ridding the body of excess estrogen and cholesterol.
Specific foods that research studies have associated with anti-cancer properties include:
- Apples, especially their peel
- Beans, especially black beans
- Berries, especially cranberries
- Black pepper
- Ceylon cinnamon
- Chili peppers
- Dragon’s blood
- Flax seeds
- Green and herbal tea
- Indian gooseberries
- Licorice (small amounts)
- Mushrooms, especially white button
- Nori seaweed
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Red rice
- Sweet potatoes
Other lifestyle habits that appear to help prevent cancer include an hour of exercise every day, 7-hours sleep every night, and reduced exposure to tanning beds, cell-phone radiation, CT scans, and dental x-rays. Meditation may also improve DNA health, preventing premature shortening of our telomeres.
Consumption of animal products appears to increase the risk of cancer. Research has shown an association between increased risk of cancer and the consumption of the following foods:
It may be the inflammatory Neu5Gc molecule found in meat that accounts for some of the increased cancer risk. Certain tumors thrive in an inflammatory setting. The insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) may also been linked to cancer. Heme iron found in the blood and muscle tissue of animal foods may also increase risk of cancer, as may the chemical pollutants in meat, which can lead to premature puberty, putting children at higher risk for cancer later in life.
After a cancer diagnosis, cutting down on saturated animal fat appears to improve cancer survival. A neutropenic diet (one devoid of fresh fruit and vegetables) may not help those undergoing chemotherapy, but oatmeal lotion may help with chemotherapy induced rashes.
Other exposures that appear to increase cancer risk include:
- Acrylamide in foods such as French fries
- Ayurvedic supplements
- Betel nuts
- Caramel coloring
- Chlorhexidine found in some mouthwashes
- Fungal toxins sometimes found in apple juice
- Industrial chemical pollutants, including cadmium
- Lutein supplements
- Red dye No. 3
- Statin drugs
- Yerba mate
Topic summary contributed by Linda.