Cancer Awareness

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Foods that help fight cancer

The foods we eat contribute directly to our overall health. From toddlers just getting used to solid foods to adults planning their diets, the foods we eat heavily influence how healthy or unhealthy we become.

Some foods can even reduce our risk for certain diseases, including cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, numerous studies have demonstrated that individual minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals have certain anticancer properties that can protect men, women and children from this potentially deadly disease. The following are a handful of foods the AICR says can fight cancer and help men and women improve their overall health.

* Apples: Apples are a great source of vitamin C, with one apple providing at least 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of this valuable vitamin. Apples also are a great source of fiber, which can help men and women maintain a healthy weight. That's important, as excess body fat increases a person's risk for seven different types of cancer. A major portion of apples' dietary fiber is pectin, a polysaccharide that bacteria in the stomach uses to produce compounds that protect colon cells.

* Cherries: Cherries are another great source of fiber and vitamin C, and sweet and tart cherries also contain potassium. Cherries get their dark color from anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Studies have shown that anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and even stimulate their self-destruction while having no negative effects on healthy cells. Anthocyanins also have been shown to reduce signs of inflammation in adults who consumed two to three servings of cherries or cherry juice per day.

* Grapefruit: One-half of a medium-sized pink, red or white grapefruit provides at least 50 percent of an adults' daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Though research into the potential anticancer properties of grapefruit with regard to humans is ongoing, studies of animals and cells have shown that grapefruit powder as well as limonin and naringenin, two phytochemicals found in grapefruit, decrease the growth and increase the self-destruction of breast, colon, lung, mouth, skin, and stomach cancers.

* Walnuts: Nuts are often cited when discussing foods with anticancer properties, but the AICR notes that walnuts, in particular, are the most heavily researched. Despite that research, the AICR remains hesitant to draw any conclusions with regard to walnuts and their potential link to lowering cancer risk. However, several studies of mice found that consuming walnuts decreased the growth of breast and colon tumors among mice who ate walnuts as opposed to those who did not, while other studies in mice indicated that walnuts reduced the growth of prostate cancer. Studies into the impact of the Mediterranean diet, which includes walnuts, have shown that such a diet can help people lose fat and lower their blood pressure and triglycerides. But the AICR still notes the need for more research into walnuts before they can be considered foods that fight cancer.

Many factors, such as family history, that increase our risk for developing cancer are beyond our control. But the foods we choose to eat can play a significant role in reducing our risk of developing various cancers. More information about the link between diet and cancer is available at www.aicr.org.