A landmark study pitted 34 common vegetables against 8 different lines of human cancer cells.
But anyway, back to beans. In terms of nutrient density, nutrients per calorie: are beans the most nutritious class of whole foods? Or is it fruit, nuts and seeds, vegetables, or whole grains? What should go on the base of a healthy eating pyramid? Beans, fruits, nuts, veggies, or grains?
Definitely vegetables, but which are the healthiest ones? A major advance was made this year ranking vegetables. Graphs like this that I’ve shared over the years that compare the antioxidant power of foods were all based on very primitive methods—basically just measuring how much a food slows down an oxidation reaction between two chemicals in a machine. That was the best we had, but it required a leap of faith that what was happening in the test tube could be extrapolated to what might happen in living human tissue.
This year, though, a landmark study was published, pitting 34 common vegetables against 8 different types of human cancers. Breast cancer, brain tumors, kidney cancer, lung cancer, childhood brain tumors, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.
Let’s look at breast cancer—I’ll cover up the. What’s being measured is tumor cell proliferation. Here’s the control. You drip some water on a human breast tumor, and nothing happens—it’s still powering away at 100% growth rate. And these 7 vegetables appear useless against breast cancer, no different than placebo. But these 6 cut the cancer growth rate in half. And these 5 at the end stopped cancer growth completely—stopped these tumor cells dead in their tracks.
Take-home message #1: we need to eat a portfolio of vegetables. Take a look: radishes, do nothing against pancreatic cancer, in fact if anything they might accelerate growth but, against stomach cancer, they completely eliminated tumor cell growth. On the other hand, orange bell peppers don’t do much for stomach cancer, but can cut prostate cancer growth by more than 75%. So we need to eat a variety of vegetables, because each one tends to target different cancers.
If you’re particularly concerned about a specific cancer, like if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, then you can narrow it down and really nail those 5 or 6 veggies every day that excel at targeting breast tissue. But otherwise, to fight against any kind of cancer, we’ve got to eat a portfolio of vegetables to cover all our bases.
That doesn’t mean some veggies aren’t better than others. Some of these vegetables target multiple cancers at the same time. So using this groundbreaking new data, let’s play “Which is healthier.”
Imagine you’re standing in line at one of those custom made-to-order salad places, where you get to choose your lettuce, choose your toppings, then choose your dressing. Lets assume that you don’t have a strong family history of any particular cancer, and so aren’t trying to hone in on avoiding one tumor over another.
First, let’s choose our lettuce. Boston, endive, radicchio, romaine, or spinach?
Out of the five, spinach is #1 against breast cancer—remember, the farther right the better it is at slowing down these cancer cells. #1 against brain tumors, #1 against kidney cancer, #1 against lung cancer, #1 against pediatric brain tumors—feed your kids spinach! #1 against pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and #1 against stomach cancer.
Now note it’s not #1 overall—there are 16 vegetables more powerful at stopping stomach cancer growth than spinach, but out of those five salad greens, spinach wins out across the board, against every cancer type tested.
What if the salad place said they were out of spinach, though? Which comes in second out of the four left to choose from.
For breast cancer, radicchio is #2. against brain tumors. radicchio, kidney cancer, radicchio, radicchio, romaine, radicchio, radicchio, and radicchio. So overall, out of those choices for greens, radicchio is number 2.
Back to the menu. Next we get to choose 4 toppings. Now there’s a long line of people behind you, all staring at you to make your choice. You don’t have time to ponder and pick the 4 absolute best, but you can at least make a guess as to roughly where on the graph they are.
Yes or no? According to this amazing new data, do carrots slow cancer cell growth rates more than 50%? Yes or no?
The answer is no. No, no, no, no, no, no, and no. So shredded carrots aren’t going to make our top four toppings choice.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.
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Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on vegetables and cancer. Also, there are 1,448 other subjectscovered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!
For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Breast Cancer and Diet, NutritionFacts.org: the first month, Foods That May Block Cancer Formation, and Which Common Fruit Fights Cancer Better?