Suggesting that people fast or starve themselves to kill a tumor has been the domain of dubious and exaggerated claims over the years, and that is not the suggestion now. In recent trials, metabolic pathways have been targeted though various approaches to changing what people eat. Some research has involved minimizing sugar intake. Indeed, some cancer cells metabolize glucose at higher than normal levels (to support the process of aerobic glycolysis), and depleting their access to sugar can slow growth.
Read: Preventing cancer through good food and exercise
Last year, Siddhartha Mukherjee, the Columbia University researcher and author of The Emperor of All Maladies, and his colleagues found that at least one particular chemotherapy drug can be made more effective by combining its use with eating a low-sugar, protein-and-fat-heavy “ketogenic” diet. In a paper in Nature, the researchers suggest that the effect was related to decreasing the levels of insulin that the pancreas releases into the blood in response to eating.
Around the same time, an international team of researchers concluded in the journal Science Signaling that “only some cancer cells are acutely sensitive to glucose withdrawal, and the underlying mechanism of this selective sensitivity is unclear.” In other words, a low-sugar diet could help combat some cancers, but it’s certainly not as simple as Cancers eat sugar, so low sugar stops cancer.
While the sugar-and-insulin angle has shown promise, more of the research has focused on dietary protein—or, specifically, individual amino acids that make up that protein. Studies have shown that the restriction of the amino acids serine and glycine can modulate cancer outcomes. According to a 2018 study in Nature, the chemotherapy drug methotrexate is affected by the amino acid histidine. Another, asparagine, is involved in the progression of breast cancer metastasis.
The most interest has gone to methionine, which is found in high levels in eggs and red meat. In 2018, a review of existing evidence from the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey deemed restricting methionine “a promising anti-tumor strategy.” That promise has also shown itself in brain tumors and melanomas, as the UC San Diego surgeon Robert Hoffman detailed in February. Methionine is made in normal cells—out of homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B12. However, many types of cancer cells lack the enzyme that makes cellular manufacturing of methionine possible. So they require extra methionine from outside the body—via food we eat—for survival. Cut off that supply, and it should help to slow the tumor without starving the person.
This month, Locasale and his colleagues at Duke released findings showing that restricting methionine decreased tumor growth in mice and human subjects. Locasale’s particular area of research, known as metabolomics, uses enormous data sets to quantify metabolic activity. This allows the controversial field of nutrition research to operate with new levels of precision, where specific metabolic pathways can be monitored. Most nutrition research relies on self-reported data, in which people who say they eat almonds are found to have lower rates of some sort of cancer, and the best we can do is assume these two things are related. Locasale’s paper, by contrast, is full of complex statistical calculus involving “Euclidian distances” and “multidimensional scaling.”
- 10 Foods That Help Fight Cancer
- Anticancer Compounds and Corresponding Cancer Killing Foods
- Why Are These Substances So Important?
- The Future of Cancer Treatment?
- Here Are The Top 10 Anti-Cancer Vegetables From This Study…
- Before You Write Off the “Poor Performers”
- Garlic Is An Anti-Cancer Vegetable
- Top 10 Anti-Cancer Vegetables
- The Best Diets for Cancer Patients and Cancer Survivors
- Food and Nutrition
- One-On-One Nutrition Consultations
- Eating Well
- Evaluating Nutrition and Supplement Information
10 Foods That Help Fight Cancer
Food does more than fill our tummies; it keeps us healthy and sometimes even has cancer-fighting properties. Read on for 10 eats and easy recipes that can ward off the big “C”…
Most of us know the foods that pack on pounds: burgers, ice cream, chips and more.
But what you eat goes beyond whether you’ll fit into your jeans. Healthful foods also may keep cancer at bay.
“Though there’s no one food that will reduce your risk of this disease, it’s the synergy between many nutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants – that’s likely to give you the most protection,” says Colleen Doyle, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society.
These 10 edibles pack a powerful anti-cancer punch.
How they help: Berries contain antioxidants compounds, which may protect your cells from damage linked to cancer. They may also boost your immune system, says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan (Harmony) and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University.
They contain polyphenols, including ellagic acid and anthocyanins – antioxidants that counteract, reduce and repair damage to cells, Doyle says.
By Sayer Ji • Originally published on GreenMedInfo
There are thousands of natural compounds that have been studied with demonstrable anticancer activity (check out over 600 on our cancer research database). But only a small subset of these have been proven to target and kill the cancer stem cells which lie at the root of cancer malignancy. Turmeric, for instance, has been featured a number of times for this “smart kill” property of targeting just the heart of cancerous tumors. More recently, ginger has been found in pre-clinical research to contain a compound up to 10,000 times more effective than the chemotherapy drug Taxol at killing breast cancer stem cells. Even common food like blueberries are cancer killing foods with special properties, as discussed in a previous article: Research: Radiotherapy Causes Cancer, Blueberry Kills It
A new study published in the journal Anticancer Research titled, “Natural Products That Target Cancer Stem Cells,” has made our job much easier of identifying this special category of cancer killers by reviewing the extant literature on the topic and listing the top 25 substances in this category. They are listed here below, along with some of their commonly recognizable dietary sources.
Anticancer Compounds and Corresponding Cancer Killing Foods
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) – Green Tea
6-Gingerol – Ginger
β-Carotene – Carrot, Leafy Greens
Baicalein – Chinese Skullcap
Curcumin – Turmeric
Cyclopamine – Corn Lilly
Delphinidin – Blueberry, raspberrry
Flavonoids (Genistein) – Soy, red clover, coffee
Gossypol – Cottonseed
Guggulsterone – Commiphora (myrrh tree)
Isothiocyanates – Cruciferous vegetables
Linalool – Mint
Lycopene – Grapefruit, tomato
Parthenolide – Feverfew
Perylill alcohol – Mint, cherry, lavender
Piperine – Black pepper
Placycodon saponin – Playycodon grandifloruim
Psoralidin – Psoralea corylilyfolia
Quercetin – Capers, onion
Resveratrol – Grapes, plums, berries
Salinomycin – Streptomyces albus
Silibinin – Milk Thistle
Ursolic acid – Thyme, basil, oregano
Vitamin D3 – Fish, egg yolk, beef, cod liver oil (Editor’s note: vegan supplement options are also available)
Withaferin A – Withania somnifera (ashwaganda)
Why Are These Substances So Important?
The primary reason why conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy have failed to produce any significant improvements in cancer survival rates is because cancer stem cells are resistant to these interventions. In fact, chemotherapy and especially radiation are both capable of increasing the number and virulence of these cells in a tumor, while at the same time having the well-known side effect of further damaging the patient’s immune system.
While the cancer industry is still very much resistant to incorporating the implications of these findings into their standard of care (which is highly unethical), there are an increasing number of health practitioners that will not turn their back on the truth and are very much interested in alternative ways to prevent and treat cancer using food and/or plant-based approaches.
The new study addresses the relevance of cancer stem cells as follows:
The cancer stem cell model suggests that tumor initiation is governed by a small subset of distinct cells with stem-like character termed cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs possess properties of self-renewal and intrinsic survival mechanisms that contribute to resistance of tumors to most chemotherapeutic drugs. The failure to eradicate CSCs during the course of therapy is postulated to be the driving force for tumor recurrence and metastasis. Recent studies have focused on understanding the unique phenotypic properties of CSCs from various tumor types, as well as the signaling pathways that underlie self-renewal and drug resistance.
At present, the cancer industry has failed to produce a single drug that targets the cancer stem cell population of cells within a tumor, as confirmed by the study:
If indeed the CSC response is a vital criterion for cancer treatment evaluation, there are still no drugs in clinical use that specifically target CSCs.
The Future of Cancer Treatment?
The ability to selectively target cancer cells, and cancer stem cells in particular, while leaving intact the non-tumor cells in tissue is extremely important. We have created a section on our database that indexes research on these substances and now includes sixty-seven of them here. We are also building a section that collates research cancer stem cells, a topic that will no doubt become a central part of the future of cancer treatment (assuming the priority is to actually alleviate suffering and not just make money off of patients).
Tell us in the comments:
- Do you or does someone you know have cancer?
- What cancer killing foods do you already eat?
- See why pomegranate may also be a great choice to add to your healthy diet.
If there were 10 cancer fighting foods worth eating on a regular basis, what would they be?
By Chris Wark • Originally published on ChrisBeatCancer.com
If you haven’t noticed, we are constantly bombarded with pleas from charities for cancer research money.
- Race for the Cure
- Stand Up to Cancer
- Buy Pink products
- Grow a Movember mustache
This is often accompanied by the message that “we are running out of funding for cancer research.”
And, of course, this is a problem because “without funding for more research, we will never find a cure.”
Cue the shots of bald women and children poisoned by chemo, accompanied by dramatic music.
Then, insert a high-profile celebrity to say, “The cure is just around the corner. Together, we can make cancer history. Please give today.”
Here’s the reality…
The mega-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry has plenty of money to fund research.
They would just prefer that you fund it with your donations instead of theirs.
Real problem #1 They are running out of your money.
Real problem #2 They are only interested in medicines they can patent.
Real problem #3 Research on nutrition and natural therapies is ignored.
There are literally thousands of published peer-reviewed studies demonstrating that the 100,000+ phytonutrients in plants have the ability to prevent and reverse cancer.
But because the pharmaceutical industry can’t figure out how to extract these compounds, synthesize them, and patent them for profit, they are ignored.
100,000+ phytonutrients in plants have the ability to prevent and reverse cancer.
Doctors can’t even use this published information or they risk losing their license.
But you can!
One of my favorite studies was published in Food Chemistry, January 2009 called,
“The antiproliferative and antioxidant activities of common vegetables: A comparative study.”
Researchers studied the inhibitory (cancer-stopping) effects of 34 vegetable extracts on 8 different tumor cell lines. They basically just ran vegetables through a juicer and then dripped the extracted juice on different cancer cells to see what would happen.
Here Are The Top 10 Anti-Cancer Vegetables From This Study…
The #1 most powerful anti-cancer food was garlic.
Garlic stopped cancer growth COMPLETELY against these tumor cell lines:
- Breast cancer
- Brain cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Childhood brain cancer
- And stomach cancer
Leeks were #1 against kidney cancer. Garlic was #2.
But not just garlic and leeks, almost all vegetables from the Allium and Cruciferous families completely stopped growth in the various cancers tested.
Here they are:
- Yellow and Green Onions
- Brussels sprouts
- Red cabbage and curly cabbage
Spinach and Beet Root also scored in the top ten against many of the cancers tested.
- Green beans
- Acorn Squash
- Bok Choy
- Boston Lettuce
- English Cucumber
- Fennel Bulb
- Orange Sweet Pepper
- Romaine lettuce
Here is an excerpt from the paper’s abstract:
“The extracts from cruciferous vegetables as well as those from vegetables of the genus Allium inhibited the proliferation of all tested cancer cell lines whereas extracts from vegetables most commonly consumed in Western countries were much less effective. The antiproliferative effect of vegetables was specific to cells of cancerous origin and was found to be largely independent of their antioxidant properties. These results thus indicate that vegetables have very different inhibitory activities towards cancer cells and that the inclusion of cruciferous and Allium vegetables in the diet is essential for effective dietary-based chemopreventive strategies.”
- Allium and cruciferous veggies stopped cancer cell growth.
- Commonly consumed vegetables did not work as well.
- The antioxidant content of veggies was not a key anti-cancer factor.
- Different vegetables work for different cancers.
- Allium and cruciferous veggies should be eaten to prevent cancer.
So the most commonly consumed vegetables in Western countries had very little effect on cancer cell growth.
The top three (potatoes, lettuce, and carrots) account for 60% of the vegetables we Westerners are eating. 32% of our vegetable intake is potatoes, and half of that is actually french fries. Nice.
Dark greens, cruciferous veggies, and garlic account for less than 1% of our Western diet! Hello?
An interesting note:
Radishes were found to stop tumor growth by 95-100% for breast and stomach cancer, but may have even increased tumor growth by 20-25% in pancreatic, brain, lung and kidney cancer. Definitely something to keep in mind.
Have a look at the charts in the study to see which veggies worked best against which cancer. Read the full study here. The charts are on page 3.
Now if you are familiar with my story you may be thinking, “Wait a minute Chris, didn’t you drink tons of carrot juice every day?”
Yes, I did. (More about that here)
Before You Write Off the “Poor Performers”
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a laboratory study showing only what a vegetable extract did to when applied directly to cancer cells.
The study does not take into account the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that indirectly support your body’s ability to repair, regenerate, detoxify, and heal.
Cancer is a product of a toxic body, so detoxing your body is critical in healing cancer.
For example, carrots are a potent source of beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports your liver. Your liver is a critical component of your immune system because it detoxifies your body. Cancer is a product of a toxic body, so detoxing your body is critical in healing cancer, and so on.
Having said all that, it makes sense to focus on eating tons of the veggies that were actually killing cancer in the lab.
Also, this study confirms why what I did in 2004 worked.
I ate copious amounts of these cancer-fighting vegetables every day in my Giant Cancer-Fighting Salad, specifically spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, red cabbage, and garlic powder. I had no idea about leeks or else they would have been in there, too.
Garlic Is An Anti-Cancer Vegetable
And I ate several cloves of garlic per day.
If garlic kills cancer, then I wanted to saturate my body with garlic.
So I would just crush up the cloves and swallow them with a mouthful of water.
I also took Kyolic Garlic Extract.
And yes, I reeked. But I lived to tell the tale!
Top 10 Anti-Cancer Vegetables
- Yellow and Green Onions
- Brussels Sprouts
- Red Cabbage and Curly Cabbage
- Beet Root
- Green beans
- What are your favorite cancer fighting foods?
- What are your experiences with cancer?
© Getty Bottle of Olive oil pouring in a glass bowl with olives and branch What you eat and drink can be the main causes of cancer. But simple changes in your regular diet can help reduce your risk of having the disease.
Aside from having a list of foods to avoid to prevent cancer, you must know what you should eat more often to stay healthy and away from any types of the disease. Why not try a cancer stem cell-killing diet?
These stem cells support the process of carcinogenesis. They play a key role in a cancer’s progression, drug resistance and recurrence after treatment.
Previous research suggested that there are certain foods that can stop the cancer causing stem cells from triggering the development of a disease. Read on to know what you can add to your diet to avoid cancer.
Eating one purple potato every day for a week has been found effective to block harmful stem cells that can cause colon cancer. Researchers from Penn State University said the bioactive anthocyanin in the food helps reduce tumours and the aggressiveness of the cancerous cells.
Researchers from universities in China found that green tea can help kill cancer stem cells. It provides epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which triggers cancerous cells suicide and could reduce growth of colon cancer stem cells by 50 percent, according to DrAxe.com.
A study from the University of Salford in England showed that matcha green tea can also kill cancer stem cells by cutting their energy sources. It mainly fights breast cancer.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It provides the body with secoiridoids, which were effective in reducing growth of breast cancer stem cells during lab tests. Extra virgin olive oil was able to prevent cancer development in animals subjects and to reduce tumour growth in those that already have the disease.
© Getty walnut
Colon cancer is also the main target of walnuts. It could help cut the risk for developing the disease and improve survival in patients.
Researchers from South Korea found that exposure to a walnut extract daily for a week helped reduce colon cancer stem cell growth by 86 percent. Walnuts contain bioactives such as gallic acid, chlorogenic acid and ellagic acid.
Pictures: 50 Foods That Lower Your Risk of Cancer
The Best Diets for Cancer Patients and Cancer Survivors
Lifestyle changes often follow a cancer diagnosis, both during treatment and after. Eating well is often the first step. And there is good reason for it.
A healthy diet can help prolong life for cancer patients and cancer survivors, says University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center member Suzanna Zick, N.D., MPH.
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Surveys show as many as 48 percent of cancer patients, or those at increased risk of cancer, turn to special diets often promoted in pop culture, including the alkaline, Paleolithic, ketogenic, vegan/vegetarian and macrobiotic diets.
“People with cancer often learn about diets from their friends, their family and what’s trendy in pop culture. Then they say, ‘Could this diet help me to cure my cancer or to have a better quality of life on my cancer journey?’” says Zick, a research associate professor of family medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan.
Seeking complete wellness
Avoiding other serious illnesses is likely part of this push. Oncology doctors stress that cancer patients are four times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease compared to people who are of the same age without a history of cancer.
“We have good data to support that some cancer treatments can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and that’s why good nutrition, along with weight control and exercise, is emphasized,” Zick says.
Zick wanted to know more. She partnered with University of California San Francisco’s Donald Abrams, M.D., and U-M’s Detrick Snyder, MPH, to review which popular diets best support a cancer patient’s goals of improving survival and preventing recurrence. Their findings appear in the journal Oncology.
SEE ALSO: Shop Smart to Fight Cancer with This Grocery List
They examined five popular diets: the alkaline, Paleolithic, ketogenic, vegan/vegetarian, and macrobiotic. All five diets had benefits and failings, but only the alkaline and macrobiotic diets are in step with the American Cancer Society and World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s dietary guidelines, according to Zick and her colleagues.
Here is a rundown of their findings:
The philosophy behind the alkaline diet, Zick says, is that cancer is caused by having an acidic environment in the body.
According to the framers of the alkaline diet, the Western diet contains too many refined carbohydrates and animal fats, like red meat, pork and white flour, which are acid-rich foods. If a person eats more fruits and vegetables and limits red meat, sugar and white flour/rice, more alkaline ions are available after digestion. The extra alkalinity decreases the acid load and helps reduce the strain on acid-detox systems, she says.
“You need to eat about 80 percent alkaline foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, according to this diet,” Zick says.
“There is very limited data that the acid nature of your body causes cancer, but by increasing fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and by limiting red meat and simple carbohydrates, you’re essentially following the American Cancer Society and WCRF/AICR guidelines and eating foods that decrease cancer mortality and recurrence,” she says.
The Paleolithic diet attempts to replicate the dietary pattern of Stone Age humans — the hunter-gatherers who ate fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat and eggs — while excluding grains, legumes, dairy products and processed foods.
Devotees believe chronic diseases such as cancer arise from the consumption of foods available only after the agricultural revolution. Humans, adherents say, are not genetically equipped to digest these foods.
“It’s based on the belief that our ancestors had a superior diet,” Zick says.
But strict adherence eliminates food groups, like beans and whole grains, proven to be beneficial for cancer prevention, decreasing cancer mortality and general health, she says.
Also, she cites anthropological evidence that there is no single Paleolithic diet and that grains have been processed and consumed since Paleolithic times.
This diet tends to have people eat too much red meat, she says, although it does emphasize whole foods, fruits and vegetables.
The keto diet emphasizes a high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal plan, with 65 percent or more of calories coming from fat.
It works to shift the energy source of cancer cells away from glucose to ketones, Zick says.
The research is mixed on this, she says. Evidence suggests that some cancer cells appear less able to metabolize ketones compared with healthy cells, while other experiments show tumor cells use ketones for energy.
SEE ALSO: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk When Grilling Meat
The biggest stumbling block, Zick says, is the diet is difficult to follow long term and patients often fail to reach the proper level of ketones. It also promotes nutrient deficiency, offering meals high in saturated fat that are low in fiber. It also includes processed foods.
“Sadly, there are not many fruits or vegetables consumed here, nor are there any beneficial whole grains or beans, making the ketogenic diet the least in agreement with the ACS and WCRF/AICR guidelines” she says.
The heart of the vegan diet is abstinence from eating animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. It encourages so-called “cancer-fighting” foods, including berries, greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
But not everyone chooses those foods and there are many highly processed and sugar-filled vegan and vegetarian foods. “The problem is you can eat poorly while being a vegan or a vegetarian,” Zick says. Vegans often are low in calcium and vitamin B12 compared with omnivorous diets.
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An analysis of several studies found that vegan diets are associated with a 15 percent reduction in total cancer incidence, but that figure stems from vegan followers who also exercised, partook in stress reduction and had a social support network in place, leaving scientists to wonder if the other factors influenced the drop.
Vegan diets can come close to ACS and AICR guidelines, but patients would need dietary advice to make sure no nutrients are forgotten and that whole foods are emphasized, she says.
Imbalance in the body can cause illness such as cancer, according to the Eastern philosophy behind a macrobiotic diet, Zick explains.
Eating — and exercising and meditation — for balance and homeostasis is the goal, so the diet is predominantly vegetarian and emphasizes unprocessed, organic, whole foods. Cereal grains, like rice and millet, make up 40 to 60 percent of the diet, while vegetables and legumes split the rest. It is high in fiber and free of red or processed meat.
The diet was found to have a lower percentage of energy from fat, higher total dietary fiber, and higher amounts of most micronutrients than the Recommended Daily Allowance, with the exceptions of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium, which were lower than the RDA, Zick says. It remains a good choice because it meets most of the dietary ACS and AICR guidelines.
Diet flexibility is key
The ACS and WCRF/AICR dietary guidelines do not endorse any particular diet, but rather offer guidelines on what to eat, what to avoid and what to limit in the diet.
“What surprised me as I was doing this review is that a lot of different dietary patterns can actually meet the ACS and WCRF/AICR guidelines, so there is a lot of flexibility based on your beliefs, your culture, your religion and your desire to bring something meaningful to your lives,” Zick says. “I think that’s really important for people.”
Patients should talk to their care team about their dietary needs during cancer treatment. For more information about anti-cancer diets, call the Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125.
If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, there will be questions. These may include: What should I eat?
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We talked with dietitian Anna Taylor, RD, who offered these four diet tips for those undergoing cancer treatment:
- Stay hydrated. Aim for at least 2 liters to 3 liters of fluid per day — about 66 ounces to 99 ounces — mostly from caffeine-free fluids.
- Get enough calories. Forget the calculator — the best way to know whether you are eating enough calories for energy is to weigh yourself once or twice a week. If your weight is trending down week after week, speak with a dietitian to make a plan. Remember to eat regularly throughout the day. Small meals five to six times a day typically work well.
- Focus on nutrients and get the most nutrients per calorie. Choose foods from the food groups — things like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, meats/eggs and dairy products. A balanced diet helps ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to keep your body strong.
- Don’t forget protein. Protein helps maintain lean body mass/muscle. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy and dairy products. Smaller amounts of proteins are found in vegetables and whole grains.
What to eat during breast cancer treatment
If you don’t have nutrition-related side effects from your cancer treatment that limit your ability to eat and/or digest food, Taylor says you can follow a generally healthy diet that includes:
Fruits and vegetables: 5+ servings a day. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant and anti-estrogen properties. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are especially good to include and are rich in phytochemicals.
Whole grains: 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Whole grains are unprocessed foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, phytochemicals as well as vitamins and minerals. A study by researchers at Soochow University in Suzhou, China, found that high fiber intakes may have a positive effect by altering hormonal actions of breast cancer and other hormone-dependent cancers.
Lean protein — and soy, too. For good protein sources, increase your intake of poultry, fish and legumes like beans and lentils. Minimize your intake of cured, pickled and smoked foods. Soy in moderate amounts, which means one to two servings/day of whole soy foods (like tofu, edamame and soy milk) also can be included. Studies, including research reported in the American Institute for Cancer Research, show that animals metabolize soy differently than humans. Not only is soy safe in moderate amounts, but research shows that soy contains isoflavones, a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties. Up to three servings of whole soy foods per day doesn’t increase a breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence or death.
Alcohol in moderation, if at all. Drinking alcohol is a known risk factor for breast cancer. A large, observational study of 105,986 women suggested that drinking three glasses of wine or more per week throughout life increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by a small but significant percentage. The study saw a 15% increased risk of breast cancer when women drank an average of three to six drinks per week, compared to women who did not drink. Try to avoid intake of alcoholic beverages when possible.
After treatment, maintain a healthy weight
Obese women have higher levels of estrogen circulating in their bodies than women who are in their ideal body weight range.
Many studies including a study conducted by researchers from the Iranian Institute for Health Sciences Research in Tehran, Iran, have demonstrated an association between body mass size and breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
If you’re overweight, Taylor recommends losing weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise once you’ve finished treatment. Weight loss during treatment isn’t typically encouraged, as this is often associated with undesired muscle loss, leading to fatigue, a suppressed immune system and a slower healing process.
“Allow your body the nutrients it needs to fight cancer,” she says. Once your treatment is done, consider meeting with a dietitian for individualized recommendations to decrease recurrence risk and support a healthy weight.
Potential cancer fighters in foods
Phytonutrients support human health and are found in plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. Below, you’ll find common foods that contain important phytochemicals.
If you have side effects
Nausea. If you experience nausea, your dietitian may recommend that you try to eat more foods that are cool or at room temperature because they don’t have a strong odor. It may also help to eat lower-fat food since fats take longer to digest.
“Don’t skip meals entirely if you have nausea, since an empty stomach can make nausea worse,” Taylor says. “Instead, focus on small bites of food throughout the day.” Avoid strong flavors. Feel free to incorporate ginger root into your recipes, as this can help settle a nauseated stomach.
Constipation. If constipation becomes an issue, your dietitian may encourage you to eat fiber-rich foods and increase your fluid intake, Taylor adds. Low-intensity walking and warm beverages also can help encourage regular bowel movements.
Fatigue. To combat fatigue, choose high-protein snacks and small frequent meals rather than large meals. People often experience more fatigue when they’re not eating well, or when they’re losing weight during treatment.
If you’re experiencing any side effect that affects your ability to eat regularly, ask your care team if you can meet with a dietitian to review individualized nutrition recommendations.
Research shows certain plant foods contain powerful compounds — called phytochemicals — that can help fight cancer and reduce the risk of its development. These specific foods may hold a key to prevent the growth of cancer cells in the body, says Andrew Woodward, MS, RD, CSO, an oncology nutritionist at Loma Linda University Cancer Center.
“Inflammation, which can be controlled through diet, has been known to promote cancer cells to grow and spread,” Woodward says. While there are many diets claiming to reduce inflammation and enhance health, some are very restrictive or confusing, he says.
Instead of looking at where these diets exclude certain foods, Woodward suggests trying to see where these dietary approaches intersect. Doing this encourages people to eat from many categories of foods that should be consumed daily, he says. By choosing to follow a strategic dietary plan, health-conscious people can effectively manage many risk factors and battle their disease — all while increasing their quality of life.
Woodward recommends seven functional foods to combat cancer, increase nutrition and enhance health:
Berries — Blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, raspberries and others add sweetness to the palate, but are relatively low in natural sugar, Woodward say. Many varieties provide an abundance of blue-purple pigments called anthocyanins that reduce inflammation and protect the brain from oxidation. Berries also contain ellagic acid, which neutralizes carcinogens and has anti-tumor benefits. Blueberries contain pterostilbene — a powerful antioxidant and can reduce inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables — Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and kale are all considered cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables contain chemicals called glucosinolates that fight cancer in several ways. These chemicals include indole-3 carbinol, which reduces hormone-sensitive cancers; sulforaphane, which deactivate carcinogens; and fiber, which is a cancer preventive. Try these raw, in smoothies or lightly cooked with your favorite seasonings. Or try kimchi for a tangy alternative to cabbage that adds zest to salads or bland foods.
Garlic and onions — The National Cancer Institute suggests garlic and onions may reduce the risk of stomach, colon, esophageal and breast cancer. Woodward says garlic has measurable anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as cancer-fighting properties. Cancer prevention comes from many sulfur-containing substances, including allicin and diallyl sulfide (DAS), which appear to deactivate carcinogens and prevent DNA mutations. Onions offer many of the same benefits, providing quercetin and sulfur-containing molecules that block some carcinogens and induce apoptosis, a process that kills abnormal cells.
Mushrooms — In addition to adding flavor to foods, mushrooms have an assortment of immune modulation benefits. Immunomodulation goes beyond stimulating the immune system by selectively bolstering your immune system against foreign microbes, but not your own cells. Other noteworthy benefits include antioxidants, reducing hormone-related tumors and reducing excess inflammation. These benefits can have the most impact when eating mushrooms that are fresh, cooked, powdered or dried.
Turmeric — Turmeric is a golden-yellow colored seasoning used in many Indian dishes, curries and mustards. Woodward says it contains the polyphenol curcumin that has been examined in more than 6,000 studies. Its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties help fight cancer. Curcumin appears to reduce tumor reproduction, reduce blood vessel formation, reduce invasion and induce tumor cell death.
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables — Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients whether eating raw, juiced or lightly cooked. Spinach is loaded with: vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting; carotenoids, which supports eye health and antioxidants; fiber; folate, which aids DNA formation and repair; and other phytochemicals. Several studies suggest that phytochemicals glycoglycerolipids and carotenoids fight cancer; especially prostate, breast and stomach types. Baby spinach has less oxalate, so the absorption of calcium and iron is greater. Spinach and arugula also contain plant nitrates that produce nitric oxide and nourish the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels.
Ginger and other seasonings — Certain compounds found in ginger make it a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food to reduce oxidative stress that your body has to fight on a daily basis. Ginger is also useful to calm the stomach and reduce nausea. Woodward suggests using a variety of seasonings such as basil, oregano, dill, cinnamon, clove and many others to flavor foods as well as reduce inflammation. Using these in their dry form maintains their shelf life for about two years, while also preserving them in a concentrated form. Adding seasonings to recipes also reduces the need for excess salt, adding more antioxidants and add flavor.
Many other plant foods have cancer-fighting properties and health-enhancing benefits. “Add variety to a healthy diet with beets, carrots, chili peppers, citrus fruits, seaweed, tomatoes, etc,” Woodward says. “The more colors on your plate, the better.”
He says the quality of a diet is linked to overall health and ability to prevent cancer and other diseases. However, other factors are also important for cancer-prevention, such as exercising, avoiding toxin exposure, not smoking or consuming too much alcohol, sleeping well and controlling stress.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions about cancer, or other disease concerns. To learn more about a variety of resources and support for both patients and their loved ones battling cancer, visit the Loma Linda University Cancer Center or visit your primary care physician by scheduling an appointment online or calling 909-558-6600.
Food and Nutrition
One-On-One Nutrition Consultations
Patients and caregivers may receive free one-on-one phone and email consultations with a registered dietitian with expertise in oncology nutrition. If you’d like more information, .
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PearlPoint Nutrition Services® is offered by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for information purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for the advice of your healthcare team or provide medical diagnosis, treatment or therapy. Please seek the advice of your healthcare team before making any changes to your medical plan, diet or physical activity.
Eating well can help you feel better and stay stronger during and after cancer treatment. Patients who eat well and maintain a healthy body weight often tolerate treatment side effects better. And good nutrition also helps the body replace blood cells and tissues broken down by treatment.
A healthy lifestyle plays a key role in keeping the body strong, supporting the immune system (the cells and proteins that defend the body against infection) and reducing risk for some diseases, such as certain kinds of heart disease and some cancers. Most nutritionists agree that eating a variety of foods is the best method to ensure intake of all the nutrients the body requires.
A healthy diet for everyone, including cancer survivors, incudes:
- Variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat free or low fat dairy
- Low fat proteins such as poultry or lean meat
- Healthy oils like olive oil
A healthy diet also limits saturated fats and trans fats (e.g. butter) to less than 10% of all calories consumed each day. Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars. Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium (salt) per day.
Drink water, tea and coffee to maintain hydration. Consider decaffeinated beverages if you experience diarrhea or reflux as caffeine can make these symptoms worse. Avoid sugary drinks such as soda.
Discuss drinking alcohol with your doctor. If you do drink, do so in moderation. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
Good nutrition should be part of a healthy lifestyle that also includes:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Drinking enough fluid
- Relaxing (managing stress)
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night for adults)
- Not using tobacco or abusing drugs or alcohol
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It can reduce anxiety, fatigue and improve heart function and mental well-being. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Gradually increasing your exercise levels, through low risk activities like short daily walks, can be the best method to start an exercise program.
Foods cannot be used to treat cancer, but some things you eat or drink and some actions you avoid can make a difference in your health and how you feel.
Evaluating Nutrition and Supplement Information
Nutrition and cancer research is still in its early stages, therefore you may find it difficult to sort out dependable, science-based advice from misinformation and myth. Before you try any supplement or herb on your own, talk with your doctor about the risk of it interfering with your cancer treatment. For example:
- St. John’s wort, an herbal product used to treat depression, reduces the effectiveness of imatinib (Gleevec®), a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia and Philadelphia-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Talk with your doctor about safe treatment options for depression.
- Green tea supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of bortezomib (Velcade®).