Reports of exotic sounding herbs and curious looking fruits from far off lands always make headlines for their cancer-fighting properties.
We’ve seen the pictures of bright yellow fruits from Indonesia dotted with spikes or white fleshy fruits from Thailand covered with long hairy tendrils.
But did you know you already may have some cancer prevention foods and supplements as close as your refrigerator or pantry?
Researchers at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) suggest that diets containing plenty of plant-based foods such as apples, cherries, squash and whole grains contribute to lowering cancer risks and fighting cancer.
These types of foods are lauded for their health benefits because of the chemical compounds and vitamins, also known as antioxidants and phytochemicals, which protect the human body.
Many patients diagnosed with mesothelioma often search for ways to improve their diets, especially when the side effects of chemotherapy alter their regular eating habits. If you are looking to incorporate these foods into your diet, be sure to check with your doctor first.
The role of plant-based foods is becoming more crucial in cancer prevention as researchers continue to study their benefits.
So what’s considered a plant-based food? Any food source that comes directly from the ground is considered a plant-based food.
Plant-based foods include:
The plant-based foods that generate the most interest are apples, cherries, walnuts, lentils, berries, green tea, tomatoes, soy and grapefruit.
The list continues to grow as researchers, nutritionists and dietitians discover more plant-based foods with cancer-fighting properties.
The unique anti-inflammatory and protective mechanisms of these fruits stem from their phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Phytochemicals help protect our body from damage triggered by cancer-causing agents, also known as carcinogens. They also protect against heart disease, aging, inflammation, arthritis and macular degeneration, a loss of vision in the center of the visual field.
In short, they fight disease from the inside out.
There are more than 10,000 known phytochemicals, and this number continues to increase.
Some well-known phytochemicals include:
Antioxidants are a type of phytochemical, but they also include vitamins and other nutrients that help protect the body from the damaging effects molecules that can damage healthy cells, also known as free radicals.
Herbs with the highest antioxidant levels include:
Lutein, found in red peppers and corn, and vitamins A (beta carotene), C and E are also well-known antioxidants.
Phytochemicals and antioxidants also give most plant foods their unique colors. For example, lycopene is responsible for the red hue in tomatoes and red carrots. In addition to antioxidants and phytochemicals, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber, another cancer-fighting compound that many of us are lacking in our diets.
AICR recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.
Although there are individual foods, herbs and supplements with anti-cancer effects, experts agree it’s the overall diet and combination of plant-based foods that offers the strongest protection against cancer.
Another recommendation is to aim for 5-12 daily servings of fruit and vegetables. A serving includes half a cup of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, half a cup of cooked vegetables, a medium-sized piece of fruit and a quarter cup of dried fruit or half a cup of cooked beans.