Palate-Pleasing Cancer Prevention

Help prevent cancer and boost health with these delicious dishes.

| March/April 2007

  • Avocado and mango are perfect complements to this healthy spinach salad.

  • A healthy taste of the topics: This blend of fruits makes a light, satisfying dessert.

It’s true. You are what you eat, at least when it comes to your health. According to the National Cancer Institute, a poor diet is the cause of serious diseases in three out of four Americans; scientists estimate that 50 to 75 percent of cancer deaths are due to smoking, physical inactivity and poor dietary choices. In fact, what you eat could be one of the most important factors in preventing cancer. The consensus is in—diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains not only have been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases in general, they also lead the way in cancer prevention.

Fruits, vegetables and other plant foods contain thousands of cancer-fighting compounds in the form of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that occur naturally in plants. Nutrients and compounds like vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, flavonoids and carotenoids act as antioxidants that protect cells from the ravages of free radicals—highly unstable oxygen molecules that can damage normal cells and lead to cancer. Certain B vitamins found in foods—especially B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), folate and pantothenic acid—also can help reduce your cancer risk.

There is no one food in particular that can prevent or treat cancer. The key is to make sure your diet includes a range of colorful plant foods to ensure you’re getting a healthy balance of anti-cancer compounds. Diets that include a wide variety of plant foods also include a wider variety of nutrients and plant chemicals that, when combined, have a greater ability to protect against cancer than by way of their individual effects alone.

So go ahead and take action against cancer. Include at least five (and preferably 10) servings a day of colorful fruits and vegetables. Consider cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. Look for dark leafy greens, such as spinach. Include carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and other onion family members in the mix. Add soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, eat more nuts, and focus on whole grains, such as brown rice and bulgur. Feature a variety of different-colored fruits, such as figs, grapes, citrus and especially berries. The following recipes will help you work these flavorful foods into every meal.
Chicken, Broccoli and Tomato Pizza

Makes one 12-inch pizza

This pizza has pizzazz, with food pairings bound to boost cancer protection tenfold. Combining foods that are rich in selenium (such as chicken) with foods rich in sulforaphanes (such as broccoli) may protect against cancer up to 13 times more than consuming these food compounds alone. Broccoli and tomatoes are another synergistic combo that may boost cancer protection, courtesy of the broccoli compounds sulforaphane and glucosinolate combined with lycopene and apigenin, two flavonoids found in tomatoes.

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