Last article, I gave you the recipes that Chef Melissa and I talked about for the American Brain Tumor Association conference. If you missed it, you must try them – Nutrition Through Soothing Superfoods Recipes!
I promised to share why it is that these recipes were chosen and what cancer fighting nutrients you find in these recipes. But first, I need to give you the background nutrition information that you need to understand why these recipes are so healthy. While Chef Melissa was getting set up, I went over the following information with the audience.
Nutrition and Cancer Basics:
It’s important to know that no single food or food substances can protect you against cancer. BUT scientists do know that the right combination of foods in a mostly plant-based diet does play a role in maintaining healthy cells and preventing growth of cancer cells.
Evidence continues to point to the minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals found in plant foods and how they interact to provide extra cancer protection. These nutrients all work together much more efficiently than working on their own, which is why nutrition in FOOD works and nutrition in a pill does not! I believe that phytochemicals really are the basis to a cancer fighting diet.
Why are phytochemicals the basis to a cancer fighting diet?
There are more than 900 different types of phytochemicals and they have their own unique role in the body. Whether you realize it or not, you have heard of them. Antioxidants are one subcategory of phytochemicals, and there are lots and lots of different type of antioxidants. Beta Carotene is a phytochemical as is lutein, lycopene, isoflavones and catechins.
A few examples of ways they function are:
- inhibit the reproduction of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumors
- help to prevent tumors from releasing substances that destroy healthy cells
- it acts as an antioxidant-scouring potentially dangerous “free radicals” from the body before they can do harm.
- anti-inflammatory properties
- it helps the body deactivate specific carcinogens
- cruciferous vegetables help regulate a complex system of bodily enzymes that defend against cancer.
- prevent the kind of damage known to trigger the cancer process
As my co-worker sums it up: phytochemicals go around the body cleaning up the stuff that causes disease!
How do I get phytochemicals?
Food sources of phytochemicals come from:
- PLANTS! You will note that you do not get phytochemicals in animal based
foods. Consuming animal products can be part of a cancer fighting diet,
but only in the context of mostly plant based diet.
- Not processed. Plants that are processed basically have phytochemicals removed. White rice does not have near the phytochemical count that brown rice does.
- Bonus points for phytochemicals from tea, herbs, spices and whole grains, because anything that is a plant, that you can eat (that’s legal!!), has phytochemicals!
Speaking of phytochemicals, for a comparison of how the Typical American vs. the Healthy Survivor line up regarding phytochemical intake, check out my article here: This is What’s Wrong With America’s Diet!
The bottom line is that a big part of what is wrong with America’s diet is the gap between the nutrients our body NEEDS and what we give it. It’s not so much all the junk we eat, although most people eat too much junk. If there is a gap that we’re dealing with day after day after week after month after year after decade, how on earth is our body supposed to function?
How many phytochemicals do I need to create a cancer fighting diet?
more the better! Research CONSISTENTLY shows that the populations of
people who have the
lowest rates of disease consume between 4 and 5 cups fruits + veggies
per day. Bottom line = 1 cup of fruit and breakfast, 1 cup of veggies at
lunch and dinner, fruit for dessert and you’re up to 4 cups.
practical way to help yourself get to this level is to fill 1/2 of your
plate (or bowl) with vegetables (or fruit, at breakfast), 1/4 of your
plate with a whole grain and 1/4 of your plate with a protein (bonus
points for a plant based protein!).
The Bottom Line:
What I want you to learn from this information is to see eating
as an opportunity to promote your health. Each and every time you
decide to eat, or drink something, you can chose promote your health. No
– you will not make the healthy choice 100% of the time. But I think a
good goal is that you make the health promoting choice 80% of the time.
Next time, we’ll dig into what phytochemicals are in our Soothing Superfood recipes!