Healthy Living: Recommended nutrition for cancer prevention
A guide to dietary suggestions that may prevent cancer in your body. Explains methods to enhance and protect your health.
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Cancer is a disease that afflicts countless people each year. It is no respector of persons and singles out anyone from the mayor to the homeless woman down the street, and there seem to be as many types of cancer as there are people. The prevailing attitude on the street regarding cancer is "It's a terrible thing but it won't happen to me". With any luck and divine intervention that may be true, but are we doing everything humanly possible to insure our health? Granted, there are no guarantees no matter how careful we are with our health, but there are steps we can take to increase our potential for longevity and to remain cancer free.

We all know the major do's and don'ts, such as DO use sunscreen and DON'T smoke, but there is an area in each of our lives that has a major impact on maintaining health and preventing cancer and that is nutrition.

Although the etiology of cancer is extremely complex, for the sake of space we will sum it up here as cells malfunctioning. The millions of cells in our bodies require certain vitamins, nutrients and minerals to keep our bodies functioning properly. By following the guidelines below, we are taking a huge step in assuring our health.

First, let's take a look at fats. Studies have linked high fat diets with gall-bladder, uterine, cervical and breast cancer. Overweight women are especially noted for having a difficult time with fighting breast cancer. How and why does this happen? The amount of fat in the body affects the levels of sex hormones. In the adrenal glands, these hormones are converted to estrogen so it stands to reason that the greater the amount of fat in the body, the higher the levels of estrogen will be. Estrogen is a hormone that causes cells in the breasts to divide.

So should we give up fats altogether? We can't. We need fats to surive, but what we need to do is be careful of the types of fats we eat. The fats we need to stay away from are trans-fatty acids. These are "unnatural" fats, an example of which is margarine. These trans-fatty acids wreak havoc on the heart and arteries, as well as promote atherosclerosis and increaased bad cholesterol levels. So what should we avoid besides margarine? Vegetabe shortening and vegetable oils, deep fried foods that contain them. We should read labels on the food products we buy to be sure they don't contain any polyunsaturated vegetable oils or partially hydrogenated oils. Animal fats, if not avoided, should be decreased in our diets.

Where do we find the good fats? Fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, macadamias, and olive oils are just a few sources. These all contain the fats we should be looking for which are monounsaturated fats and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Another recommended source is almonds. Some advise eating raw almonds daily, as they contain anti-cancer properties wrapped up in a substance called laetrile.

Even though there is much to be said regarding the consumption of fats and cancer prevention, it is only one topic in the recommended nutritional guidelines.

As any healthy eating plan will tell you, fresh fruits and vegetables are extremely important. It is interesting to note that in Japan, where their traditional way of eating has proven to be quite successful in the area of cancer prevention, they eat fruits and vegetables when they are in season, and only those that are native to their area.

Many harmful and carcinogenic pesticide residues remain in the skins of fruits and vegetables, but washing and peeling removes most of them. It is preferable to purchase organically grown vegetables and fruits if possible. If you question the quality of them at all, it is important to remember, especially in regards to cancer prevention, that all vegetables should be washed and peeled before eating them, whether raw or cooked.

Vegetables that contain carotenoids are most highly recommended. Carotenoids contain phytochemicals that are being studied for their cancer preventive properties. It is these phytochemicals that cause the red in tomatoes and orange in pumpkins or sweet potatoes. There is even a new area of cancer treatment being researched that involve working with derivatives of Vitamin A, which is found in high concentrations in these vegetables, as well as dark, leafy greens.

Other important minerals that play a role in cancer prevention are selenium and calcium. Selenium can be found in protein rich plant foods, but it depends directly on the amount of selenium in the soil in which they were grown. Brazil nuts can be a good source, but it would be wise to supplement selenium in doses of 100-200 micrograms daily, with Vitamin E.

Research has shown calcium to have the ability to prevent precancerous cells from developing into cancer. Although we know calcium is available in dairy products, we should also limit our consumption of dairy. Our best sources of calcium are sardines, leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables and sesame seeds. If you feel you don't eat enough of these foods it is very important that you take a supplement.

These two minerals are very important in the prevention of cancer, but they are only two of many. If you feel you lack in any vitamin or mineral requirements, a comprehensive supplement is a good idea.

Other nutritional guidelines for cancer prevention are very simple. Avoid carcinogenic foods such as peanuts, processed, refined foods, junk foods, raw bean sprouts, grilled or burnt meats and cured meats. Drink lots of water and green tea. Green tea contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which has been shown in studies to be very active in fighting against many types of cancer. EGCG is also found in apples, however in a lesser amount.

Nutrition is defined as "the act or process of nourishing or being nourished". Bodies need to be nourished to sustain life, and the type of nourishment we give it determines the quality of life we live.