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Five fall foods that fight cancer

October 25th, 2012

From Green Right Now Reports

Fall is a delicious time to eat seasonal foods, and not just the comfort carbs of Thanksgiving, but the many fruits and vegetables that are harvested at this time in the Northern hemisphere.

These foods can boost the health quotient of your autumn feast and provide snacks that keep the sugar monster at bay.

You can find some of these featured on the websites, Eat to Defeat Cancer and Food for Breast Cancer. There are many more sources where you can learn more about how fresh foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, provide just what you need to keep your cells in good repair. You could fill a cornucopia with these foods and a library with the books about them. But we can’t think of a better cause, your health and freedom from chronic illnesses.

For today, we’ve pared the group down to just five foods among you may want to pay special attention to this season.

Apples

It’s true about that apple a day, and the more you learn about this amazing fruit, the more you’ll believe that apples have magic powers, not to mention that with hundreds of varieties ranging from super-sweet to wake-up tart worldwide, there’s an apple satisfy almost anyone.

(Photo: GreenRightNow.com)

A major study, the Nurses Health Study, which followed 77,000 women, found that the women who ate an apple or a pear each day had significantly lower risk of lung cancer. Another study found that people reduced their lung cancer risk by eating apples and onions, both of which contain quercetin, according to the website, Eat to Defeat Cancer, which has cataloged the many cancer-protective benefits of dozens of foods.

Apples have even broader effects. A study in Italy found that the “apple a day” regimen reduced the risk of colorectal cancer, cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, breasts and ovaries.

Apples work their major by imparting flavonoids, which break down into a variety of healthful compounds. These work to reduce inflammation in the body, which scientists now know paves the way to many illnesses.

Tip: Drink apple cider too, it maintains many of the helpful qualities of the apples that created it. But be aware that the pectin and starches have been removed; the less processed or “cloudy” cider may have a stronger health profile, according to one study cited on Eat to Defeat Cancer.

Cranberries

(Photo: The Cranberry Marketing Committee USA)

We know that cranberries contain antioxidants that fight bladder infections. They do this by killing the E coli bacteria that accounts for most such infections.

Studies also show the antioxidants in cranberries also help lower blood cholesterol levels by inhibiting LDL oxidation, thus making this type of cholesterol less “sticky” and that’s great for heart health.

But how do they fight cancer? Scientists have found that the antioxidants in cranberries not only produce proteins that help inhibit the production of cancer cells, they also act to hasten the death of cancer cells.

Researchers have found that cranberries may be especially effective against prostate cancer, particularly a fast-growing hormone-driven type of prostate cancer, according to Eat to Defeat Cancer.
Research is continuing.

Tip: Make your own cranberry sauce by dropping a bag of washed berries into a 1/2 c. of water and 1/2 c. of orange juice plus 1/2 to 3/4 cup of organic cane sugar, brought just to a boil. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then simmer until the berries are “popped” and the sauce has thickened. This sauce will be fresher, and less sweet than processed cranberry sauce (despite the added sugar). And it won’t come in a can lined with BPA.

Find more recipes at the Cranberry Marketing Committee, including the requisite holiday cranberry muffins. (These have no eggs, and a quick substitution of soy milk for the buttermilk and grapeseed oil for the butter will make them vegan.)

Pumpkins

Don’t just carve one up for a jack o’ lantern, get some “pie” pumpkins when you visit the local patch and use them for cooking. These smaller pumpkins, less than soccer ball size to be safe, can be baked, just like any squash, or steamed until the flesh is soft and ready for pie or muffin making.

(Photo: GreenRightNow.com)

When we’re talking pumpkins, we’re talking squash, so what goes for pumpkins goes for their cousins like acorn, butternut and kombucha squash. These orange vegetables are all high in beta carotene, and have been shown to help protect against head and neck cancer, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Pumpkins were a major player in an “orange and (leafy) green” diet that’s been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Squash/pumpkins find their place any place on the menu, from appetizers to deserts, as hearty soups, crispy roasted herbed sides and love-it-or-hate-it pumpkin pie.

Tip: Let pumpkins can do double-duty at Halloween. Draw the little scary face on the pumpkin for a table decoration, then convert your faux jack o’ lantern to food after the holiday. The gods of thrift will thank you.

Pomegranates

These seedy, juicy red fruits have become well-known in health food stores, where pomegranate extracts and juices promise to bolster health.

They’re prized for helping keep blood pressure down, but like the cranberry, this fruit has been found in lab experiments with animals to have an inhibiting effect on cancer growth as well.

One study showing that the fruit and seeds may help prevent the lesions that can lead to colon cancer. (The protective effect reduced cancer incidence by around 20 percent).

(Photo: Simply Recipes.com)

Other research, summarized on Eat to Defeat Cancer, has shown that drinking 1 cup of pomegranate juice daily extended the time before recurrence of prostate cancer from a little over one year to more than four years.

Here’s a tip from my friendly neighborhood grocery clerk who knows more about tropical fruit than I do: Choose pomegranates that are turning yellow on the outside and slightly pliable, but not squishy. This means they’ve ripened. Those bright red ones that look so appealing? They’re not ripe. In fact, you may notice they’re rock hard and pale pink inside.

There are a few pomegranate soup, salad and compote recipes floating around. These can be cool for the holidays. But this is one fruit that begs to be eaten fresh.

Sweet Potatoes

We’re back to orange, sensing a trend here? Sweet potatoes contain lutein, which has been shown in animal studies to reduce cancer cell proliferation or angiogenesis; and beta-carotene, a hallmark of orange veggies, which can slow the formation of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors.

(Photo: Burpee.com.)

They’re also generally rich in vitamins A and C, and pretty much trample white potatoes when it comes to nutrition. Sweet potatoes also rise above on lists of “super foods,” beating out spinach, kale, broccoli and tomatoes, according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (it’s from the 1990s, but none of these foods have been genetically modified in the interim).

Tip: Go for the deepest colored varieties, deep red to purple, to get the most kick. The cancer-reducing polyphenols in sweet potatoes are greatest in these varieties, and less evident in sweet potatoes with whiter flesh.

  • Find out more by visiting Eat to Defeat Cancer, a project of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Angiogenesis Foundation, which is committed to understanding the underlying cellular processes that contribute to chronic diseases and cancer. Angiogenesis refers to the growth of new capillary blood vessels, which tumors can recruit to grow.

And remember, there’s no magic bullet. Scientists warn that all these studies are preliminary, but preliminarily…fill your plate with fruits and veggies.

 



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