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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Healing Foods with Anti-Cancer Properties: Incorporating these healthy foods into your diet can make a difference, says Dr. Krystine Nguyen

Jun 28, 2013 07:18PM ● By Krystine Nguyen, NMD

At any given moment, environmental factors can alter the way our genes are expressed, resulting in millions of our cells undergoing some form of DNA damage that favors cancer development. The statistics from the National Cancer Institute reports that one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer at some point in their lives. According to the 2013 statistics from the American Cancer Society, it is projected that 1,660,290 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and that about 1,600 people per day will die of cancer this year, accounting for one in every four deaths in the U.S. While these statistics are alarming, there are proactive approaches that we can take to avoid becoming one of them. The World Cancer Research Fund estimated that one-third of all cancers are due to poor nutrition, physical inactivity and excess weight that could be prevented. It is evident that dietary choices and physical activity play significant roles in cancer prevention.

What we eat can influence the nutrition our cells receive. Therefore, food variety and types of foods we consume can significantly lower our risk of getting cancer. More than 200 studies have documented that people are less likely to get cancer when their diets are composed of colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods that are rich in color are often high in antioxidants, or “electron donors” that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable free radicals known as “electron thieves” which steal the electrons in a cell membrane to destabilize that tissue. Free radical damage can lead to cancer.

Dr. William Li, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, proposes a new way to defeat cancer by consuming foods that have anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells. Angiogenesis refers to a process through which the body creates new blood vessels under specific conditions as part of the healing process for an injury. However, when this natural system of checks and balances to regulate the growth of blood vessels malfunctions, it opens the door for cancer cells to take over and use our blood vessels to supply the cancer cells with nutrients for their growth and survival at our bodies’ detriment.

Findings of the American Institute for Cancer Research and Dr. William Li’s research show that certain fruits, vegetables and spices have properties that can considerably prevent cancers and reduce the growth of cancers. Here is a sample list of healing foods with anti-cancer properties:

Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower – contain indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which have shown to protect DNA, inhibit tumor formation and enhance detoxification of toxins in the body. When these vegetables are slightly cooked, the anti-cancer effect of sulforaphane is more potent.

Colorful berries: blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries and dark cherries – contain bioflavonoids, anthocyanidins and ellagic acid, which have been shown to have an anti-angiogenic effect on tumors. They also cause cancer cells to self-destruct (apoptosis), provide immune enhancement, increase antioxidant status and enhance detoxification.

Pomegranate: contains polyphenol antioxidants, flavonoids – ellagic acid, which suppresses the proliferation of cancer cells in the breast, prostate, colon, bladder and pancreas.

Garlic and onions: contain allicin, S-allyl cysteine, selenium, flavonoids (quercetin), which have shown to block formation of cancer-causing agents, prevent tumor growth and provide anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells. These foods also provide immune enhancement and antioxidant function. Eat them raw or lightly sautéed to prevent the heat from destroying their anti-cancer properties.

Mushrooms: maitake, rei-shi, shiitake, agaricus brasiliensis – mushrooms are potent anti-cancer foods. They contain beta-glucan, which stimulates the immune system and even lowers blood pressure. Researchers in Australia reported that women that ate 10 grams of fresh mushrooms or four grams of dried mushrooms daily decreased their risk of breast cancer by 64 percent and 47 percent, respectively, compared to those that ate no mushrooms.

Spices: turmeric, rosemary, ginger – contain carnosol, curcumin, flavones which have shown to inhibit tumor formation, enhance the immune system and assist with detoxification, provide antioxidant function, anti-inflammatory, apoptosis and anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells (turmeric), and anti-nausea (ginger).

Green tea: contains polyphenols (EGCG epigallocatechin-3-gallate) with powerful antioxidant function, along with anti-angiogenic effect on cancer cells which include interfering with the signaling for tumor growth, inhibiting tumor formation and preventing genetic damage and cancer formation. Decaffeinated contains no EGCG.

The basic guidelines for cancer prevention are to eat a whole-foods diet and a variety of colorful foods, with emphasis on plant-based diet, and to eliminate refined, processed and packaged foods. Buy organic foods if affordable. Consume sufficient calories to maintain healthy weight and engage in regular physical activities.

Krystine Nguyen, NMD, MPH, RD, practices integrative medicine at the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, with a focus on treating patients with cancer and chronic diseases. For information, visit

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