Though inflammation is part of the body’s immune response, it’s extremely damaging when it becomes chronic. Choosing the right foods is critical to optimizing your health and lowering the risk of cancer cells spreading. Inflammatory foods—foods that trigger or worsen inflammation—cause an increase in cellular pH, and create perfect host environments for cancer cells to proliferate. An anti-inflammatory diet will not only leave you feeling your best, but its staples include common foods you’ll likely already have at home.
Reach for these 5 anti-cancer superfoods the next time you’re hungry:
This deliciously creamy fruit offers up a lot of health benefits. They’re rich in antioxidants and high in healthy fat called oleic acid, which has been linked to inflammation reduction. The dark green flesh closest to the skin is loaded with cancer-fighting carotenoids, naturally occurring pigment molecules. But wait, it gets better—nothing from the fruit goes to waste. The avocado pit is full of nutrients and contains 70% of the fruit’s antioxidants including flavonols, which provide anti-cancer, -viral, and -inflammatory effects. If you aren’t sure how to eat them, check out this smoothie recipe for inspiration.
Owing its strong anti-inflammatory properties to the active ingredient gingerol, ginger provides so many benefits to cancer patients looking to boost their immune. Gingerol occurs more abundantly when ginger is fresh rather than dried. That being said, though ginger comes in several forms (fresh, powdered, candied), fresh ginger offers the most cancer-fighting benefits. Gingerol exerts anti-inflammatory effects through regulating the proteins responsible for cell survival, and has been proven to inhibit cancer cell growth.
Ginger can be slipped into so many dishes—add freshly grated ginger to a salad or simply pop a few slices into boiling water before adding it to a tea. Added bonus: ginger and ginger products have been known to soothe upset stomachs, and can provide comfort during cancer treatment. Check out this recipe the next time you make a salad.
It’s no surprise this Asian spice made it on the list. Also in the ginger family, turmeric reaps so many health benefits thanks to a polyphenol called curcumin, the substance that gives it a vibrant yellow hue. Curcumin kicks in on a molecular level by blocking disease-causing molecules related to inflammation. It’s a popular natural anti-inflammatory that has been as effective as some potent anti-inflammatory drugs like hydrocortisone, but without all the side effects. If you’re not sure how to incorporate turmeric into your diet, try this easy recipe for anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric tea.
Tomatoes have repeatedly shown positive anti-cancer benefits. This juicy red fruit is best known for its antioxidant content and rich concentration of lycopene, the bright carotene pigment that gives red fruit its characteristic colour. While lycopene is found in many fruits and veggies, the highest possible dietary source is found in tomatoes. Lycopene helps protect cells from damage, and is the mastermind behind the fruit’s anti-inflammatory properties. One thing to note is that though tomatoes are great consumed raw, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when broken down with heat. Cooking tomatoes change its raw state into a more digestible form, and actually increases lycopene content—a sure sign the pasta gods are at work. Check out this recipe for a cooked version of classic tomato salsa.
Like the other cruciferous veggies, broccoli provides a ton of anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, but it’s the only one with a substantial amount of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane, a potent compound produced when its predecessor glucoraphanin undergoes transformation, increases the body’s good enzymes and blocks out cancer-causing chemicals. The best part is that there’s no consumption limit—the more broccoli, the better, stem and all! You can toss those mini trees onto everything. You can find a great recipe for broccoli pizza here. If you want to take your love for broccoli to the next level, try broccoli sprouts which contain higher concentrations of glucoraphanin than its mature counterpart.
What not to eat
To fight and prevent inflammation, there are several foods you’ll need to avoid. Let’s start with the biggest culprit—sugar. An abundance of the sweet stuff suppresses white blood cells, making us, especially those who consume high amounts, more susceptible to infectious disease. In addition to a weakened immune system, cancer cells utilize more glucose than any other cell meaning sugar consumption is linked to cancer progression. Dairy is another huge contributor to inflammation. Dairy products are loaded with antibiotics and hormones, and are well worth avoiding during your fight. Need a substitute? Reach instead for the vegan options like almond milk, it’s delicious and comes loaded with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer goodness.
Rhode, Jennifer et al. “Ginger Inhibits Cell Growth and Modulates Angiogenic Factors in Ovarian Cancer Cells.” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 7 (2007): 44. PMC. Web. 19 Dec. 2015.
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