Fighting Cancer from the Inside Out

The Food As Medicine movement references the science of nutrition and the pleasure of nourishment in almost equal measure when it comes to healing – and prevention. As an advocate of this forward-thinking mindset, culinary nutritionist, Rebecca Katz, MS, author of The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and other works, shares some of her top recommendations for foods that work on your behalf to ward off and slow down cancer and help restore your body’s natural resilience – deliciously.

Foods Fighting Cancer from the Inside Out

Basil and Mint: Digestion aid, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, NF-kB regulator. Radiation destroys cancer cells but can also be harmful to healthy cells. Two flavonoids (chemicals that are part of a plant’s metabolism) in basil, orientin and vicenin, protect human cells from radiation damage, as well as oxygen damage (too much oxygen in the cells, also known as free radicals, can be harmful). Basil’s oils also have anti-inflammatory effects similar to those found in asparagus.

Broccoli and Kale: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial. Sulforaphane, a well-studied phytochemical in broccoli, appears to slow the growth of leukemia and melanoma. Another metabolite, glucosinolate, can inhibit breast cancer growth. When broccoli and tomatoes are eaten together, their cancer-fighting capabilities are more powerful because their active compounds work on different anticancer pathways.

Cabbage: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial. Cabbage, along with cruciferous kin such as cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, and turnips, is extremely high in anticancer phytochemicals. One such property, indole-3-carbinol (called I3C for short), nearly doubles how quickly the liver can break down estrogen so it doesn’t remain in the body. Cooking cabbage for the right amount of time (in other words, not too long) is important to retain a compound called sinigrin, which reacts with an enzyme to release molecules that detoxify carcinogens and inhibit the division and growth of tumor cells.

Ginger: Nausea reducer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, NF-kB regulator. Even your grandmother knew that ginger was good for nausea and an upset stomach; that effect is increased when it’s consumed with some protein, which can be especially helpful for chemotherapy-induced nausea. Ginger’s active component, spicy gingerol, controlled the growth of human bowel cancer cells in animal models.

Turmeric SoupTurmeric: Appetite stimulant, digestion aid, anti-inflammatory, NF-kB regulator. When turmeric is consumed with a crucerifous vegetable, the curcumin in turmeric lowered the growth of prostate tumors as well as the tumors’ ability to spread to other parts of the body. Curcumin is also an anti-inflammatory. Traditional eastern Indian medicine, also known as Ayurveda, has long used turmeric for digestive disorders.

Reprinted with permission from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery. Copyright © 2009 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA 

Photo credit: Leo Gong

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