Read an Excerpt
Foods That Act Like Medications
From ANTICANCER: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD
Foods That Act Like Medications
If certain foods in our diet can act as fertilizers for tumors, others, to the contrary, harbor precious anticancer molecules. As recent discoveries show, these go far beyond the usual vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In nature, when confronted with aggression, vegetables can neither fight nor flee. To survive, they must be armed with powerful molecules capable of defending them against bacteria, insects, and bad weather. These molecules are phytochemical compounds with antimicrobial, antifungal, and insecticide properties that act on the biological mechanisms of potential aggressors. They also have antioxidant properties that protect the plant’s cells from dampness and the sun’s rays (by preventing cellular “rust” from forming when the cell’s fragile mechanisms are exposed to the corrosive effects of oxygen).
Plums, Peaches, and Nectarines: It’s Time for Stone Fruit
Berries have recently found some competition: peaches, plums, nectarines, etc. (collectively known as stone fruit), whose anticancer virtues were previously unknown. According to a group of researchers in Texas who reviewed more than a hundred species, these fruits—particularly plums—are at least as rich in anticancer elements as small berries. In this time of economic recession, it’s good to know that a single plum contains as many antioxidants as a handful of berries and costs far less. In laboratory tests, stone fruits have also demonstrated their efficacy against breast cancer cells and cholesterol.
The intestines ordinarily contain “friendly” bacteria, which help digestion and facilitate regular bowel movements. They also play an important stabilizing role for the immune system. Among the most common of these bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus.
It has been demonstrated that these probiotics inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Their effect on the facilitation of bowel movements also lowers the risk of colon cancer by reducing the time the intestines are exposed to carcinogenic substances in food. Probiotics thus also play a role in detoxification. In addition, according to a 2006 Korean study, probiotics improve the performance of the immune system, as well as increasing the number of NK cells. Organic yogurts and kefir are good sources of probiotics. Soy yogurts are usually enriched with probiotics. These precious bacteria are also found in sauerkraut and kimchi. Finally, certain foods are prebiotics, which means they contain polymers of fructose, which stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria. Examples are garlic, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, bananas, and wheat.
Rich in polyphenols, including catechins (and particularly epigallocatechin gallate-3, or EGCG), which reduce the growth of the new vessels needed for tumor growth and metastases. It is also a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier (activating enzymes in the liver that eliminate toxins from the body), and it facilitates the death of cancer cells by apoptosis. In the laboratory, it enhances the effects of radiotherapy on cancer cells.
Turmeric and Curry
Turmeric (the yellow powder that is one of the components of yellow curry) is the most powerful natural antiinflammatory identified today. It also helps stimulate apoptosis in cancer cells and inhibit angiogenesis. In the laboratory, it enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduces tumor growth.
Take note: To be assimilated by the body, turmeric must be mixed with black pepper (not simply with peppers). Ideally, it must also be dissolved in oil (olive, canola, or linseed oil, preferably). In store-bought curry mixes, turmeric represents only 20 percent of the total. So it’s better to obtain turmeric powder directly.
Recommendations for use: Mix ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder with ½ tablespoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper. Add to vegetables, soups, and salad dressings. A few drops of agave nectar can remove the slightly bitter taste.
Ginger root also acts as a powerful antiinflammatory and an antioxidant (more effective than vitamin E, for example) and has protective effects. It acts against certain cancer cells. Moreover, it helps reduce the creation of new blood vessels. A ginger infusion tea also helps alleviate nausea from chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Recommendations for use: Add grated ginger to a vegetable mix while it is cooking in a wok or frying pan. Or marinate fruits in lime juice and grated ginger (a touch of agave nectar may be added for those who prefer more sweetness). Make an infusion by cutting a small piece of ginger (about an inch) into slices and steeping in boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes. Can be drunk hot or cold.
Cabbages (brussels sprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols (I3Cs), which are powerful anticancer molecules. Sulforaphane and I3Cs are capable of detoxifying certain carcinogenic substances. They prevent precancerous cells from developing into malignant tumors. They also promote the suicide of cancer cells and block angiogenesis. In 2009, at the Cancer Research Center of the University of Pittsburgh, biologist Dr. Shivendra Singh and his team studied the impact of sulforaphane— an antioxidant contained in cruciform vegetables—on prostate cancer in mice.
They made two radical new discoveries. First, consumption of sulforaphane three times a week considerably increases the action of NK cells against tumors (by more than 50 percent). Second, tumor-carrying rats that consumed sulforaphane were shown to have half as much risk of developing metastases as those that did not.
Take note: Avoid boiling cabbage and broccoli. Boiling risks destroying sulforaphane and I3Cs.
Recommendations for use: Cover and steam briefly or stir-fry rapidly in a wok with a little olive oil.