TAKE 5: Top Cancer-Fighting Foods

More oranges here: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mounting evidence shows that the foods we eat weigh heavily in the war against cancer.

As researchers continue to wage war against cancer, many have begun to focus on what could be the most promising ammunition to date: diet. That seemingly simple advice could mean a drastic change in diet for many people. You may want to start with some of the following food substances, all of which show promise as cancer-fighting agents.

1. Folate-rich foods

This B-complex vitamin can be found in many “good for you” foods. Plus, manufacturers of cereals, pastas and breads often fortify their products with folate.

How it works:

With low levels of folate, it’s more likely for mutations in DNA to occur, conversely, adequate levels of folate protect against such mutations.

Cancer-fighting abilities:

In a large-scale study, researchers evaluated the effects of folate on more than 27,000 male smokers between ages 50 and 69. Men who consumed at least the recommended daily allowance of folate -- about 400 micrograms -- cut by half their risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

How to get it:

Starting with breakfast, a glass of orange juice is high in folate; so are most cereals (check the box to see how much). For lunch, try a hearty salad with either spinach or romaine leaves. Top it with dried beans or peas for an extra boost. Snack on a handful of peanuts or an orange. At dinner, choose asparagus or Brussels sprouts as your vegetable.

2. Vitamin D

This fat-soluble vitamin which helps absorb calcium to build strong teeth and bones may also build protection against cancer.

How it works:

Researchers suggest that vitamin D curbs the growth of cancerous cells.

Cancer-fighting abilities:

A report presented at the latest meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) showed a link between increased vitamin D intake and reduced breast cancer risk. It found vitamin D to lower the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50 percent.

Vitamin D may also improve survival rates among lung cancer patients, according to a Harvard study reported in 2005. Patients who received surgery for lung cancer in the summer, when vitamin D exposure from sunshine is greatest, and had the highest intake of vitamin D, reported a 56 percent five-year survival rate. Patients with low vitamin D intakes and winter surgeries had only a 23 percent survival rate.

How to get it:

Vitamin D is often associated with milk. High concentrations also can be found in these seafood choices: cod, shrimp and Chinook salmon. Eggs are another good source. And don’t forget sunshine. In just 10 minutes, you can soak up as much as 5,000 IU of vitamin D if you expose 40 percent of your body to the sun, without sunscreen.

3. Tea

If you enjoy sipping tea, you’ll be happy to know that it appears promising against some forms of cancer.

How it works:

Like many plant-based foods, tea contains flavonoids, known for their antioxidant effects. One flavonoid in particular, kaempferol, has shown protective effects against cancer.

Cancer-fighting abilities:

A large-scale study evaluating kaempferol intake of more than 66,000 women showed that those who consumed the most of it had the lowest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Consuming between 10 milligrams and 12 milligrams daily of kaempferol -- the amount found in four cups of tea --offers protection against ovarian cancer. A separate study showed a link between consuming flavonoids and reducing the risk of breast cancer. However, flavonoid consumption had no effect on breast cancer risk among premenopausal women.

How to get it:

Hot tea can be warming in the winter; ice tea offers cool refreshment in the summer. So enjoy tea year-round to boost cancer prevention.

4. Cruciferous vegetables

They may not have been your favorite as a kid, but cruciferous vegetables -- members of the cabbage family that include kale, turnip greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts -- can help you ward off cancer.

How it works:

In lab experiments, substances released during either cutting or chewing cruciferous vegetables produced a cancer-killing effect.

Cancer-fighting abilities:

Recent studies on cruciferous vegetables show promising results against prostate and colon cancers.

How to get it:

Swallowing them whole won’t do. The protective effect of cruciferous vegetables seems to occur when they are cut or chewed. They’re great in stir fry, as side dishes, or tossed into salads raw. Experiment with flavors like lemon or garlic.

5. Ginger

This popular spice, long used to quell nausea, may soon be used to fight cancer, too.

How it works:

Working directly on cancer cells, researchers discovered ginger’s ability to kill cancer cells. While this preliminary evidence shows promise, ginger’s cancer-fighting effects must still be proven in animal and human trials.

Cancer-fighting abilities:

Armed with ginger, ongoing research is taking aim against the most lethal of gynecological cancers: ovarian cancer. Most women [with ovarian cancer] develop resistance to conventional chemotherapy drugs. Because ginger may kill cancer cells in more than one way, researchers are hopeful that patients would not develop resistance to it.

Because ginger’s effects on cancer haven’t been tested directly on human subjects, researchers can’t yet offer specific dietary recommendations.

How to get it:

Go beyond the obvious choices, like sipping ginger ale and eating gingerbread cookies. Countless soups, sumptuous marinades, and zesty sauces call for ginger.

Source : http://www.webmd.com

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