The Best Anti-Cancer Diet
As a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition I have a passion for empowering people to put the control back into their own hands when it comes to cancer prevention. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), 1 in 3 cancers can be prevented by diet and exercise. When we add smoking cessation to the equation this number jumps to 2 in 3 cancers. Although the causes of cancer are multi-factorial and still somewhat misunderstood we definitely know that there are aspects we have control over.
All of us create cancer cells in our body every day. Did you know that? It’s true. It’s not just a random act that afflicts some people and not others. If we accept this as true, then why is it that some of us seem to properly manage these cells while others have cells that continue to grow uncontrollably eventually creating a tumor? Of course, genetics play a role but definitely not the only role. We have more power to influence our genes than was ever thought before. We can actually turn genes on or off based on our lifestyle choices. This is a topic of medicine known as epigenetics, which I personally think is quite interesting and exciting.
There are 2 other body systems that are arguably even more important than our genetics. First, our immune system. Our first line of defense. If the immune system is working in an optimal way it should easily recognize cancer cells and properly destroy them. Second, our detoxification pathways. We are exposed to more toxins now than ever before in our history. They come from a plethora of sources; air, water, food, cleaning products, body care products, medications, etc. If our detoxification pathways become impaired we no longer process toxins properly, which allows for build-up in the body. So what can we do about this? How do we support both our immune system and our detoxification pathways?
In order to support the immune system we need to lower inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is a constant distraction and drain on our immunity. You can refer back to the Anti-Inflammatory Blog Post for strategies on lowering inflammation. In essence we need to maximize the nutritional quality of our diet while we identify and eradicate both internal and external stressors. This is accomplished by a combination of eating a high quality Rustic Diet, supporting microbial health and diversity in the gut, getting good quality sleep, managing stress, getting regular exercise, and being a part of a supportive community.
What about detoxification? How do we maximize these pathways in the body? Of course, all the above points that support immunity will also support detoxification with a few add-ons. First and foremost, reducing your exposure to toxins is key. We can't control everything we're exposed to but there are quite a few places of exposure that we have control over. Here's a list of some actions you can take today to start reducing your toxic burden:
- Buy organic whenever possible.
- Drink filtered water.
- Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel for containers -- stay away from plastics.
- Buy BPA-free cans and bottles.
- Use natural cleaning and body care products -- the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a fantastic resource for helping you identify which products are safe.
You can also support detoxification by staying properly hydrated, sweating regularly, and eating foods that nourish the liver, one of our primary detoxification organs. Here are some top liver-supporting foods:
- Alliums -- garlic, onions, shallots, leeks
- Cruciferous Veggies -- broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage
- Dark Leafy Greens -- kale, swiss chard, collards, bok choy, spinach, dandelion, arugula
- Others -- asparagus, radishes, beets, milk thistle
How do we put all this together into one plan? Click on this link to download my Anti-Cancer Chart. Use it like a grocery list and make it your goal to include as many of the Anti-Cancer Foods listed as possible, every day.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, what do all the above recommendations look like? If you said a Rustic Diet and Lifestyle, you’re right. What is good at reducing your risk for cancer is also good for longevity and overall lowered disease risk. Thankfully, we don’t need to apply a separate diet for every condition that ails us or every health goal that we have. There are overarching dietary and lifestyle principles that support good health and lower our risk for ALL diseases.
In upcoming blog posts I will dive deeper into some of the more common questions and uncertainties out there regarding cancer and nutrition but I felt it was important to start the conversation with an understanding that the Rustic Diet and Lifestyle is an anti-cancer, anti-disease, health-promoting plan. And by simply starting with that you will be well on your way to a cancer-free life!