Eat / Drink and Rest for your health

By Linda B. White, M.D.
December/January 2012
Reduce your cancer risk by incorporating these anticancer herbs in your meals and drinks.

 Tea, especially green tea, contains a compound that inhibits cancer cell formation and provokes cancer cell death, among other actions

First off, I’m glad to hear that you want to act now to reduce your cancer risk. Cancer takes years to develop. Prevention, if possible, is preferable to treatment. Avoid known carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, and have the routine screening tests that catch cancer in early, more-treatable stages.

As always, a healthy lifestyle is key. Eat a plant-based diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Those strategies will also help keep your weight under control. Obesity raises the risk of diabetes, and both conditions are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

A plant-based diet can help shield you from cancer because plants are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances that help them (and us) withstand exposure to ultraviolet radiation, air pollution and other noxious substances. (Oxidative damage and inflammation promote cancer as well as a number of other chronic diseases.) Furthermore, some plant chemicals enhance the body’s detoxification systems, stimulate the immune system and have direct anticancer effects.
Weeds are the true survivors. They burst through sidewalk cracks and weather pollution, drought, neglect and outright abuse. Researchers have only begun to investigate the anticancer effects of plants like dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Nevertheless, I recommend including those two nutrition powerhouses in your diet. If you have access to fresh, pesticide-free leaves, you can steam or sauté them. (Use gloves when picking nettles, as they sting until cooked.) You can also drink infusions of the dried or fresh leaves.
Other foods to include are cruciferous vegetables, asparagus, and Alliums, such as garlic and onions, which all contain sulfurous anticancer compounds. Lycopene, a carotenoid chemical found in high concentrations in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava, has anticancer action. Cooked tomato products are best, as the processing increases the body’s ability to absorb lycopene. The same is true of the isoflavone genistein, found in soybeans.
Another simple strategy is to increase your consumption of polyphenol-rich foods. Polyphenols, such as flavonoids, contribute to the plant’s color. For instance, fruits with deep red, purple and blue colors—red grapes, cranberries, blueberries, pomegranates—all have anticancer effects. But some powerful cancer-fighting, polyphenol-rich plants and anticancer herbs, such as green tea, turmeric and milk thistle, do fall outside the blue-purple color scheme.
Black, green and oolong tea all come from the same plant—Camellia sinensis. Population studies link higher tea consumption with a reduced risk of gastrointestinal, pancreatic, bladder, prostate, ovarian, uterine and breast cancer. Green tea is particularly rich in a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate. In lab research, it inhibits cancer cell formation, proliferation, invasiveness, and metastasis and provokes cancer cell death. Aim for three to five cups of green tea a day.
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