Cancer is largely a nutritionally preventable disease. In fact 35-60% of cancers are due to diet, yet most Americans are unaware of this fact. Learning how your food choices can impact your health destiny can be empowering. It means you are not the victim of fate or genetics. While some people can eat right and still get cancer and others can eat poorly and live to a ripe old age, a healthy diet can dramatically reduce your risk factors. If you or someone you know has cancer, please set aside blame. Thinking, "What could I have done to prevent my illness?" is not helpful. You're learning this now and with this information you have the power to change the direction of your health and your life.
In with the Good, Out with the Bad
Some so-called "experts" tell us that there are no "bad foods" and that everything is OK in moderation. I strongly disagree. There are bad foods. Moderation kills and one person's idea of moderation is another's idea of excess. It is also very easy to rationalize unhealthy "treats" on a regular, even daily basis. Foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, foods that are refined, full of sugar and chemicals are bad foods.
Foods to Avoid
Research shows that cancer is more common in populations that consume diets rich in meat and fat. Those populations who eat a lower-fat diet, low in meat and rich in fruits, vegetables and beans have a much lower risk of cancer. There are several reasons for this:
- Meat contains no fiber.
- Meat is high in fat, particularly saturated fat.
- Meat contains heterocyclic amines (HCAs) - carcinogens that form when meats are cooked.
- Meat is low or devoid of antioxidants and phytochemicals - powerful cancer-fighting compounds found in abundance in whole plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Fish and eggs have qualities similar to meat. In fact, eating just ½ egg per day increases your risk of cancer. In a case-control study done in Argentina researchers found that people consuming just 1½ eggs per week had nearly 5 times the colorectal cancer risk compared with individuals consuming less than 11 eggs per year! The more animal products we consume, the less room we have in our diets for nutrient-dense, whole plant foods.
The purpose of cow's milk is to facilitate the rapid growth of a baby cow. Cow's milk is quite different from human milk, but all animal's milk (including human milk) is designed to be consumed by infants at the beginning of life to facilitate rapid growth. Dairy products contain fat, protein, cholesterol, sugars, and growth hormones.
When we humans take cow's milk and concentrate it into cheese, we also concentrate the fat, calories, cholesterol and growth hormones present in milk. Several of the components in dairy products contribute to cancer growth. The hormones in dairy products elevate our levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a growth factor in our bloodstream which is a biomarker of cancer risk.
Casein - dairy protein - has been called by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, "the most significant chemical carcinogen ever discovered." When his research team placed casein in a test tube with cancer cells, they grew like crazy. When he fed lab rats a diet of 20% vs. 5% casein, he was able to, in effect, turn on and turn off cancer growth. In the largest population study ever conducted, Dr. Campbell and his team found that the areas in China where people consumed the most animal products also got the most cancer.
High-Fiber and Low-Fat
Fat raises levels of hormones in the body. Both fat on the body and fat in the bloodstream from dietary fat increases hormone levels. Elevated hormone levels increases the risk of cancer - especially breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. Avoiding animal products and vegetable oils like olive oil and margarine reduces cancer risk.
Fiber, found only in whole plant foods, helps rid the body of carcinogens and excess hormones. By eating a whole food, plant-based diet, our hormone levels will be adequate but not excessive.
Only plant foods contain fiber. Animal products contain none. Most Americans only consume 10-12 grams of fiber per day, while experts recommends 40 grams (you can't eat meat and then take fiber supplements - it doesn't work that way!)
Cancer Fighters and Immune Boosting Foods
Antioxidants are the powerful cancer fighters found in abundance in vegetables and fruits. Eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables every day for maximum cancer protection. These antioxidants help protect against free radical damage - this is the damage that can lead to cancer development. Vegetarians have double the NK cells (natural killer cells that engulf and destroy cancer cells) compared to non-vegetarians.
The New Four Food Groups - Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains & Legumes
When planning a cancer prevention diet, think about how you can makeover some of your current favorites. Start with oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, a bean and vegetable burrito for lunch (no cheese or sour cream!) and whole wheat pasta marina with vegetables for dinners or other similar familiar recipes. Try a few new recipes, then jump in and do it 100% for 3 weeks. By committing 100%, you'll see and feel dramatic results. You'll want to stick with it.
To learn more about what foods to eat, visit www.thepowerplate.org. Sign up for PCRM's 21-Day Kickstart at www.21daykickstart.org
A cancer prevention diet is one that is high in fiber, low in fat (especially animal fat), and includes generous portions of fruits and vegetables. It also minimizes or excludes alcohol. The best diet is a low-fat whole foods vegan diet.