Louisiana is rated among the highestranking states in cancer incidence and cancer-related death rates across America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this is discouraging, there is good news — many cancers can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. Diet and exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, which can substantially reduce your risk of cancer. Plantbased diets have also been shown to reduce risk. Research has also found that many protective components in specific foods can help lower your risk for cancer.
Broccoli Broccoli is a type of cruciferous vegetable. Cruciferous vegetables are known as cool weather vegetables, and they contain sulfur, which gives them a distinct bitter taste and aroma. Many vegetables fall in the cruciferous vegetable family including brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, turnips and cabbage, to name a few. Digestion of cruciferous vegetables breaks their sulfur compounds into compounds that have anti-cancer effects. Cruciferous vegetables may detoxify and block cancer-causing substances known as carcinogens. These vegetables may also restrict production of hormones linked to cancer and prevent tumor growth. The serving size for broccoli is a half-cup. There are several ways to enjoy broccoli, including steaming, roasting, baking or even munching on raw florets.
Berries Berries are rich in antioxidants, which are known to block cell damage caused by waste products called free radicals. Too many free radicals in the body can lead to cancer development. The phytochemicals that give berries their rich and appealing coloring are also known for their cancerfighting roles in our bodies. These phytochemicals block carcinogens, which help to prevent damage to our DNA. Berries are also a good source of vitamin C, which is known for its benefit to our immune systems. The serving size for berries is a half-cup. Fresh, frozen and dried berries are all nutritious choices.
Coffee Coffee contains many different cancerinhibiting ingredients. Caffeine can help suppress cancerous cell growth and may even be beneficial for weight management, which significantly reduces your risk for certain cancers. Chlorogenic acid is a major component of coffee and is known for its antioxidant properties, specifically fighting free radicals. N-methylpyridinum, another compound in java beans, can make coffee’s antioxidants more potent. This compound is created when coffee beans are roasted. When preparing your hearty cup of joe, keep in mind that added sugars, flavorings and creams can quickly turn a healthy choice into a calorie-laden dessert drink. Opt for skim or reduced-fat milk and limit added sugars.
Grapes Grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which may halt cancer development in the stomach, liver, breast and lymphatic system. Resveratrol works by preventing damage in the body that leads to cancer development. Be sure to eat the skin, because that’s where the most resveratrol is found. Also, red and purple grapes tend to have more resveratrol than green grapes. About 15 grapes makes one serving. Grapes make a great snack and can even be used in some recipes. Freezing grapes makes for a tasty cool treat on a hot day.
Green, Leafy Vegetables Green, leafy vegetables are known for being very nutritious. They are rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, and sometimes even B vitamins. They have a high amount of antioxidants that protect our cells and help block cancer of the early stages. Dark, leafy greens also contain folate, which helps protect against cancer development by repairing and duplicating our DNA. Research has shown that two to three weekly servings of green, leafy vegetables may reduce breast, skin, colon and stomach cancer risk. When choosing which green, leafy vegetables to eat, keep in mind that the darker the green, the more nutrients your leafy greens have. The serving size for greens can vary depending on if they are cooked or raw. One serving of raw, leafy greens is one cup, while a serving of cooked leafy greens is a half-cup. Enjoy dark, leafy greens in a salad, wrap, stir-fry, soup, omelet or steamed as a side dish.
While there are certain foods that can protect against cancer, it is important to maintain balance by including anticancer superfoods in your meals and snacks while still following a general healthful diet. There are also many other foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, that can protect against cancer and provide additional health benefits. For cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests avoiding sugary beverages and eating mostly plant foods, which include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A good rule of thumb is to make at least half of your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. What we feed our bodies can make a substantial impact on long-term health, disease prevention and overall well-being. Cancer rates are skyrocketing, but you have the opportunity to make a difference in your own risk for disease.
Abigail Scallan is an asssistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.