From red wine and berry smoothies to tomatoes and garlic, there are many foods that are thought to help prevent cancer, and in some cases, promote recovery. There are no official claims of what foods can have an effect on the aggressive disease, but there is a lot of talk around what products and recipes might be helpful to cancer patients. Whether there are a lot of studies available to support the claims or not many feel that cancer-fighting recipes are worth a try, especially in combination with other common treatment options.
Can Foods Fight Cancer?
There is a huge lack of evidence around whether or not certain foods can help prevent and fight cancer. Reports from cancer patients and human studies have helped shed light and potential correlations, but they are all observational and lack proper testing. Some individuals seek to implement a cancer-fighting diet into their daily regimen, in addition to common modes of cancer treatment, such as surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. For particularly aggressive cancers, such as mesothelioma, life expectancy is low and any option for expanding survival rate and improving quality of life is put into consideration.
Fruits and vegetables have drawn a particularly large amount of interest in their role with preventing cancer, hugely due to their antioxidants. Some researchers and patients feel that including some of these foods into a healthy diet can create helpful, cancer-fighting recipes.
In general, there is a certain amount of fruits and vegetables that humans should consume to maintain a healthy diet. However, the question arises whether or not this can help prevent cancer or speed up recovery after diagnosis.
Berries are one item that frequent the list of cancer-fighting smoothies and recipes. There have been some preclinical studies that show many health benefits of berries that could potentially help prevent against cancers based on anticancer activities. With a high content of phytochemicals, these fruits exhibit many antioxidant properties and could assist preventative and therapeutic treatment with suppressing:
- Oxidative stress (antioxidant levels are too low to counteract and detoxify)
- Proliferation (rapid cell growth)
- Angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels)
Tomatoes are another top contender for cancer-fighting ingredients, also due to their antioxidant properties. Tomatoes have a strong antioxidant carotenoid called lycopene. Lycopene is seen by some to help prevent prostate cancer and other forms of the disease, with some studies suggesting that it inhibited the growth of tumor cells in animals. Again, there is no conclusive evidence or substantial proving studies.
Tomatoes and tomato products are the main source of lycopene in foods, making up about 80% of lycopene intake in an average American diet. However, there are others that contain small amounts.
- Tomato-based products (salsa, tomato juice, ketchup)
- Pink grapefruit
Overall health impacts treatment options available to diagnosed patients, as well as their life expectancy. Maintaining good health can help your body fight off any harmful diseases and conditions, and can potentially extend life expectancy, which is particularly important for patients diagnosed with aggressive cancers like mesothelioma. A vegetable-rich diet is one way thought to improve health and to potentially prevent and help treat certain cancers.
There have been many studies that look at the impact of plant-based diets on cancer, some with results that show lower incidence of cancer when individuals are consuming a higher quantity of antioxidant-rich, plant-based foods. Some cancer survivors have even claimed that a diet with organic vegetables played a role in combating a poor prognosis and overcoming cancer when combined with other treatment options. However, there has been conflicting evidence and a lack of testing and conclusive proof leaves the debate of whether or not vegetables can fight cancer open.
- Brussel sprouts
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Red bell peppers
In addition to vegetables rich in antioxidants, there is also attention to anti-angiogenic vegetables. Anti-angiogenic agents help stop, slow or even potentially shrink the growth of new blood vessels, which could then help prevent tumours from growing their own blood vessels and spreading, while also possibly shrinking growth. Popular products falling into this category include purple potatoes, carrots and leeks.
Herbs are another key component of many recipes, including those that are thought to be preventative. There are some herbs that have been seen to fall into the anti-angiogenic category, as listed below. The list is not definitive and more research needs to be done in regards to how these herbs actually impact the development, growth and treatment of cancer.
Other Cancer-Fighting Components
Aside from fruits, vegetables and herbs, there are some other ingredients and beverages that have emerged as potential influencers to cancer prevention.
Milk and Cancer
Evidence and research has been conflicting when looking at the potential correlation between dairy fat consumption and cancer. Some studies have implied that the calcium, Vitamin D and lactic acid bacteria found in milk and other dairy products could help prevent colorectal cancer. However, others have seen in increase in the likelihood of developing breast cancer with a higher dietary fat intake. Overall, studies have shown a positive correlation with some cancers, and a negative correlation with others, leaving the relationship between milk and cancer undecided.
Red Wine and Cancer
Evidence has shown that resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, could potentially act as a chemopreventive agent. The substance affected the pathways of tumor initiation and growth in a variety of ways, including:
- Helps prevent the bioactivation of procarcinogens
- Inhibits the growth or metastasis of carcinomas
- Stimulates apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, which is key to cancer therapy
- Exerts antioxidant activities
If someone is diagnosed with cancer, finding potential ways to stop or reduce growth is vital to treatment and recovery. Researching intake of products such as milk or wine could contribute to additional findings on how diet could affect the prevention, growth or treatment of cancer.
Are Cancer-Fighting Recipes Worth Trying?
There is a plethora of cancer-fighting cookbooks, recipes and websites available to patients, many of which rely on many of these fruits, vegetables and herbs as key ingredients. More testing, research and evidence is needed to identify a definitive correlation between the foods we eat and the chances of developing or overcoming cancer. Proven cancer treatment techniques are often the primary focus after a diagnosis, but alternative treatment options, clinical trials and experimental studies continue to offer more promise.