February is National Cancer Prevention Month and one of the best prevention strategies is to eat a variety of plant based foods. The vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in these foods demonstrate anti-cancer effects. Their low-calorie, high-fiber content provides further anti-cancer benefits by helping to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Including these foods into your plan for healthy eating can be easy. Follow these five simple tips to dramatically boost the nutrition and flavor of your favorite dishes and reap the cancer preventative benefits too.
Easy additions with great benefits
- Add walnuts to hot or cold cereal or to salads
- Add beans to stews, soups, casseroles and salads.
- Add berries as a topping to salad, yogurt, cereal and muffins.
- Chop a garlic clove and add it to meat, sauces and dips. Make sure to use fresh garlic, not jarred or dried garlic.
- When making a salad choose dark leafy greens over iceberg lettuce. Incorporate dark leafy greens in your favorite foods such as spinach in macaroni and cheese or lasagna, or kale in soups.
Meet these most valuable players
Keep in mind that no single food is the answer to cancer prevention. In fact, research in dietary supplements for cancer prevention suggests that the anti-cancer benefits are likely due to a synergistic effect between multiple nutrients in a food, that cannot be met by a supplement alone. The foods listed in the easy additions section were chosen for their promising and/or convincing anti-cancer effects:
- Walnuts are rich in phytochemicals that scour for free radicals, as well as other potentially protective compounds. Additionally, they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which exert anti-inflammatory effects.
- The cancer-fighting properties of dried beans and peas come from a variety of antioxidant-rich phytochemicals and resistant starch which seem to protect colon cells.
- Berries are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant, ellagic acid and fiber. These components have shown suggestive protection from a variety of cancers. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are the powerhouses of the berries.
- Garlic seems to be the most potent of the Allium family of vegetables. Research has shown regular intake can decrease one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer. This benefit is dose dependent, meaning those eating the most garlic showed the greatest decrease in risk.
- Dark green leafy vegetables include spinach, kale, mustard and collard greens, Swiss chard and leaf lettuce. They are excellent sources of fiber, folate, carotenoids and flavonoids, all of which have anti-cancer properties.
The research is strong for a plant-based diet to prevent cancer and cancer recurrence. So start chopping, cooking and adding these MVPs to your diet every day.
Registered dietitians who are specially trained in the field of oncology nutrition provide cancer nutrition services at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. They focus on assessing the individual dietary and nutrition needs of each patient and providing practical, scientifically sound assistance.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.