Do you like taking pills? I personally hate taking pills and try to avoid them as much as possible. Every once in a while I think “I wish I could just eat some tasty foods and cure any disease or problem.” But wait! Actually we can eat good stuff and prevent almost any disease if we include several super-foods in our diet.
Unfortunately I cannot recommend that you eat doughnuts and pizza to cure or prevent all health problems but you can develop a taste for healthy foods and enjoy a healthy life. After some thorough research I have found several foods that are absolute winners when it comes to preventing or even fighting the biggest killers in our modern day world: cancer and heart disease. Here we go …
Cancer is the #2 killer in the US and in most other countries of the world. It would be more logical to start this list with the #1 killer (heart disease) but if you look at the chart below then you will see that over the last 20 years the number of deaths from heart disease has decreased by 12% while the number of deaths from cancer is slowly going up (unfortunately I could find detailed statistics only for the US but I believe that most other developed countries should have similar findings.)
Another factor that makes cancer more dangerous in my eyes is that it affects both young and older people (the rates significantly go up at the age of 45 - reference ). Heart disease on the contrary affects mostly older people (ages 60-79 – read full report here )
I can talk a lot about how horrible cancer is but I think that each one of us knows that already. Let’s look at what we can do to prevent it.
How can foods fight cancer?
We all have cancer cells in our bodies and they are harmless if they do not start growing. In order to grow cancer cells need:
a) new blood supply;
b) local inflammation (it causes cells around the tumor to secrete “growth factors” which in turn cause the tumor to grow);
c) “lose” the ability to self-destruct (cancer cells unlike normal cells do not know that they need to self destruct if they become overcrowded.)
Certain foods can fight cancer by eliminating every one of these factors. Isn’t this wonderful ?
Drum-roll please … Here are our heroes:
The best foods to fight cancer
Green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCC – I am glad that I am no doing a video post because I would not know how to pronounce this monster-word) which prevents new blood vessels from feeding cancer cells. No blood supply, no tumor – it is that simple. Facts:
According to Japanese studies women who drink two cups of green tea per day have a 50% less incidence of breast cancer than those who do not.
Harvard’s Laboratory of Nutrition and metabolism found that green tea reduced the size of tumors by 72%, as well as prevented metastasis or the spread of cancer.
Best way to use it: Steep green tea for 10 minutes for maximum catechin release and drink it within 1 hour. Japanese varieties contain more of EGCC than any others.
Turmeric (curcumin) is the strongest food-based anti-inflammatory compound. It blocks local inflammation around cancer cells (no inflammation – no growth.) Facts:
Rural Indians who consume ¼ to ½ teaspoon of turmeric a day have 1/5 to 1/15 the rates of cancer as Westerners.
Turmeric is currently used in human trials at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.
Best way to use it: Combine turmeric with black pepper whose piperine increases curcumin absorption by 2000%!
Mushrooms teach cancer cells that it is time to commit suicide when they get overcrowded. For a long time only Asian mushrooms like shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms were considered potent cancer-fighters. Today there is evidence that even regular mushrooms like crimini, Portobello and baby button mushrooms have the same super powers. Facts:
According to the study published in The International Journal of Oncology combining lentinan (a compound found in shiitake mushrooms) with chemotherapy is more effective than chemotherapy alone.
The International Journal of Cancer reported that Japanese women who consume 1 to 3 common Japanese mushrooms a day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 64%. When the same women added in 2 cups of green tea per day their cancer risk was reduced by 89%.
Best way to use it: about 100 g (3-4 oz) of your favorite mushrooms a day is your ultimate amount but even smaller amounts can still be effective in fighting cancer and boosting your immune system.
Soy is a controversial topic that can get anyone confused. Natural soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame and miso are rich in isoflavones (compounds similar to estrogens) help to block estrogen-dependent cancers like breast cancer. Isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors without activating them and this way create a barrier between real estrogen and the receptors. However (and it is important!) foods that contain soy protein isolate (a powder made from soy) can have no effect on cancer and according to some studies can even raise the risk of cancer. In a nutshell, whole soy products – good, processed soy foods (protein drinks and bars, supplements) – not good at all. Facts:
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2009 found that women who ate the most soy had a 29% lower risk of death and a 32% lower risk of having a cancer recurrence. (Read more here )
Best way to use it: The best benefit is noticed when women consume about 11g of soy protein which is equivalent to ½ cup of edamame, 1 ¼ cups of soy milk, 4 oz of tofu. Soy is not a miracle food and it is important to keep balance when eating it. Having it a few times a week is a healthy idea but adding it to every meal is overkill.
Berries (finally something really yummy on this list!) like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries contain ellagic acid which cuts off the blood supply to cancer cells. Blueberries have compounds which cause cancer cells to commit suicide. Facts:
With something as tasty as berries do you really need any evidence that they are good for you? There are not as many studies done yet on the cancer fighting properties of berries but some researchers (e.g. Ohio State University) have already provided proof that these tasty foods definitely deserve to be put on our list. Read more about berries and cancer here
Best way to use them: Raspberries and blackberries contain 90% of ellagic acid in the seeds so you will need a very powerful blender to receive anti-cancer benefits. Strawberries on the other hand have 95% of ellagic acid stored in the fruit pulp. Opt for organic berries whenever possible to limit your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.
Cruciferous vegetables (more commonly known as broccoli, cabbage, watercress, Brussels sprouts, kale, nappa cabbage and bok choy)have been proven to be potent against cancer too. Facts:
Various components in cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower cancer risks. Some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver, prostate and cervix, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Best way to use it: Natural anti-cancer compounds in cruciferous vegetables break down quickly so you need to blanche, quick-saute or lightly steam your veggies to get the maximum benefit. Eating them raw or adding them to fresh smoothies is also an excellent way to get all the goodness.
Other honorable mentions. Research and scientific evidence can get quite boring over time so let me give you just a quick list of other foods that proved effective in fighting cancer in one way or another
7. sea vegetables;
11. fresh herbs (particularly mint, basil and rosemary),
12. chocolate (unfortunately only unsweetened cocoa or chocolate with more than 70% cacao can bring any benefit, other varieties can be actually harmful due to high sugar amounts),
Are you wondering how you can remember all these foods and proper amounts? I have created special desktop wallpaper that will remind you to eat these healthy foods. You can also print this image and out it on your fridge to remember which foods to fix during the day.