If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is very important for you to nourish your body, mind and spirit to be as healthy and strong as possible. This includes making food choices which are going to help your body stay well.
For your family members who have not been diagnosed with cancer, but who may have an increased risk for developing cancer (depending on your family's medical history and family members' health habits), you will want them to know that there are many things they can do to decrease their risk of developing cancer.
They can work toward a normal weight for their height, not smoke, not drink too much alcohol and be more physically active.
But they can also choose to eat foods which are known to decrease our risk of getting cancer. This is not new information, but not very many people are aware of it.
There are several food groups which have been shown to help prevent cancer. We're going to talk about four of those groups: cabbage family, citrus fruits, garlic and green tea.
The cabbage family of vegetables includes cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and collard greens. There is medical evidence from around the world that eating these vegetables 5 or more times a week can help prevent a variety of cancers, such as breast, bladder, lung, colorectal and prostate.
They work best if eaten raw or cooked in little or no water, in other words, steamed.
Garlic, too, has been observed worldwide to be related to decreasing some cancers. It seems to work in several ways. One of them is to prevent known cancer-causing chemicals called ni-trites from being activated in our intestines. Nitrites are a preservative in meats, such as Spam and lunchmeats like bologna ("baloney") and salami. So if we eat these meats, we should eat fresh garlic (or garlic's cousin, onions) at the same time.
Citrus (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes) appear to act in several ways to prevent cancer. One of the easiest to remember is, like garlic, they can prevent nitrite meat preservatives from turning into their cancer-causing form. So eat citrus fruits or drink their juices often, especially if you're eating preserved meats.
The cancer-preventing qualities of green tea aren't as solidly proven as for cabbage, garlic and citrus. And there is much variation in the amount of healthful ingredients from one green tea product to another. However, steeping the tea for long periods, such as 10 minutes, increases the amount of cancer-preventing chemicals in the tea.
Research is on-going to identify more possible cancer-preventing foods. Examples of foods being studied are tomatoes, berries, soybean products and omega 3 fats. If you would like to read more on this subject, see Foods that Fight Cancer, Beliveau and Gingras, McClelland and Stewart, 2005 (Canada).