Using Foods to Fight Cancer

By on November 24, 2013 under Cancer, Nutrition

Over $100 billion was spent on cancer in 2010, over twice as much as in 2005. Although survival rates have improved, the incidence of cancer continue to rise. We spend the majority of money on finding new screening tools to detect cancer earlier and new chemotherapy agents to help people live longer with cancer but we are doing very little to prevent cancer from occurring in the first place. In other words, we are mopping up the water instead of turning off the faucet that is causing the flood.


I was giving a talk at a cancer conference to young survivors on how to use food to fight cancer. The keynote speaker, an oncologist at the leading pediatric cancer center in the nation, said to me, “patients ask me questions all the time about food and I don’t know what to tell them”. This statement was very telling of the unfortunate state of health care in our country where we have gradually settled on managing disease instead of striving to prevent it.

There is a plethora of solid evidence that the foods that we eat play a significant role in the rising rate of cancer so why is there a disconnect between that growing body of knowledge and the way doctors are practicing medicine? Food is our most underutilized weapon in the fight on cancer. It is estimated that about a third of cancer cases are directly caused by diet. So if you could cut your risk of cancer significantly by making some simple changes in your diet, would you do it? It is your choice.

Here you go… the most current facts on food and cancer:

  • Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet have both been show to reduce cancer risk by about 30%.
  • Dietary factors proven to be associated with increased risk of cancer include eating red meat, especially processed meats (such as bacon, lunchmeat, and hot dogs), excess sugar and calories, processed foods and excess alcohol.
  • The most consistent dietary factor for reduction in cancer risk is a diet high in vegetables and fruits.
  • Several components found in cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts etc…) have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer.
  • Of the cruciferous veggies, broccoli has shown to give the highest cancer reduction. Eating broccoli 5 time per week cuts your risk of cancer IN HALF
  • Other foods that decrease cancer risk include green tea, turmeric (an indian spice), garlic/onions, and omega-3 fats (from fatty fish and flax seeds).
Chronic inflammation is one of the primary root causes of cancer (in addition to most other chronic diseases). Chronically elevated blood sugar promotes inflammation which is likely the reason that processed foods (which are high in sugar) are linked to cancer. Other contributing factors of inflammation are an inability of the body to adequately rid itself of toxins in the environment. We live in a toxic world with medications, contaminated water, pollution, and foods filled with additives, preservatives, PCBs, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, trans-fats, excess sugar, nitrates and sodium. A diet of processed foods also lacks the nutrients that are required for our detoxification pathways. Stress and lack of exercise and sleep also contribute to inflammation. Blood tests that you should consider in assessing your overall risk for developing cancer include:
  • hsCRP: elevated levels of this protein indicates inflammation
  • A1C and fasting insulin: elevations in these tests indicate a higher than normal blood sugar levels
  • Vitamin D level: low levels of Vitamin D are associated with certain forms of cancer
  • Uric Acid and GGT: elevated levels indirectly measures how hard the liver is working to rid the body of toxins
  • MTHFR: an abnormality in the MTHFR gene can reduce ability of the body to rid itself of toxins and repair DNA, which can lead to more inflammation.

There are few things that we fear more than cancer.  You have a choice and you can lower your cancer risk significantly by doing the following:

  • Eat for health – food is the most powerful medicine
  • Eat at least 6 servings of vegetables and fruits per day
  • Eat 5 servings of broccoli per week
  • Drink green tea and water
  • Cut out all artificial sweeteners which have the surprising effect of causing obesity and higher blood sugar levels which are associated with inflammation and increased cancer risk. Read food labels and know how to identify artificial sweeteners
  • Reduce toxins by buying organic for the Dirty Dozen, and eating only clean (Eco-Best) seafood
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day
  • Limit alcohol to less than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Practice stress reduction techniques such as prayer, meditation, controlled breathing, laughter, music, or yoga.