GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US, killing over 580,000 Americans each year. While some cancers have known direct causes, such as smoking and exposure to chemicals, risk for a broad span of cancers can be linked to one common denominator: diet. Research indicates that the nutritional qualities of certain foods can act to create an anti-cancer environment within the body, and work to inhibit cancer cell growth once an individual is diagnosed.
“We often think solely of medications as cures to our ailments,” says Registered Dietician Renie Tharp. “However, we should be considering what really influences every cell in our body, and that is food.” Some research suggests that diet may even modify one’s genetic susceptibility to some cancers. With over 20 years of experience in the field of nutrition, Tharp recommends three key ingredients in a cancer-fighting diet:
A diet comprised primarily of fruits and vegetables is rich in phytochemicals like carotenoids, polyphenols and terpenes. Phytochemicals are found to protect and strengthen the healthy cells of the body, creating an environment in which it is difficult for cancer cells to survive. There are eight types of cancer-fighting phytochemicals recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research. To increase these in the diet, Tharp encourages her patients to choose a variety of brightly colored and strong flavored fruits and vegetables at each meal.
Inflammation, the body’s production of white blood cells to fight infection, can be dangerous to the health of normal cells when it persists at a chronic level. Elevated blood glucose is one of several factors that have been found to contribute to chronic inflammation. Keeping tight control of blood glucose levels (74 mg/dl – 99 mg/dl) can prevent inflammation and promote healthy cells. Tharp recommends replacing concentrated sweets and desserts with fruit, increasing fiber in the diet by choosing high fiber whole grains, and combining low fat protein with carbohydrates to balance the metabolic process.
Balance Essential Fatty Acids
Two key omega fatty acids are omega-6 and omega-3. Omega-6 fatty acids are commonly found at higher levels in the average American diet, yet they are also a culprit in promoting inflammation. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids are found to enhance the immune system and inhibit inflammation. Sources of omega-3 include salmon, fish oil, walnuts, soybeans, flax seed, and cauliflower.
Additional resources on foods that fight cancer include the American Institute for Cancer Research http://www.aicr.org and “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” cookbook by Rebecca Katz.
Renie Tharp is a Clinical Dietician at Carson Valley Medical Center. Her specialties include lipid management, heart disease prevention and management, and Type II Diabetes management and reversal. Prior to joining CVMC Renie worked at the VA Medical Center in Reno, NV as well as Stanford Children’s Hospital and Duke University Medical Center. Contact 775-782-1667 or visit cvmchospital.org for more information.