Category Archives: cancer prevention

Eating for Cancer Prevention: Beans (Part 2 of 5)

NCI_Digestive_torso_largeSeeing as how beans are known as the “musical fruit”, it should come as no surprise that beans have a strong link to the colon, and specifically to colorectal cancer. For those of you in the decades between middle school biology and the all-too-real anatomy lesson of a required colonoscopy, your colon is another name for your large intestine.

Your small intestine absorbs nutrients from the food you eat. The large intestine sucks the water out of what’s left, leaving behind stool or poop. It’s a good system, but when things go wrong, they go very wrong: colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. There is hope, however: research suggests that roughly 30% of colon cancers could be prevented by a change in diet and lifestyle.

beansBack to the beans.

I’m not talking about fresh green beans, although they are delicious and I encourage you to eat them whenever possible. I’m talking about the Legume Family: lentils, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, split peas, and so on.

The Legume Family are police officers; it’s a proud tradition dating back to Creation. These Bean Cops enforce the law, direct traffic, and even manufacture Kevlar bulletproof vests.

bean cop dnaLaw enforcement: The first Bean Cop tool of the trade is folate. Cells need folate (ie folic acid) to make and repair DNA when they divide. Folate helps the cells to follow DNA laws and divide perfectly. When folate is lacking, mistakes are made. This is why pregnant women are asked to take extra folic acid; their baby begins life as a dividing cell and the fewer mistakes, the better.

bean cop trafficTraffic: Bean Cops have access to large amounts of fiber and that fiber keeps traffic flowing in the gut. Researchers aren’t sure why increased fiber lowers the risk of colon cancer, but they suspect is has something to do with fiber’s ability to move waste and carcinogens out of the body quickly. Think back to the last time you left a concert, a festival, or a sporting event: traffic crawls and bottlenecks until that blessed whistle blowing, hand waving man in uniform arrives. How could moving waste along not be a good thing, right?

bean cop kevlarKevlar: Resistant starch is starch that resists being digested and Bean Cops are full of it. Resistant starch makes it all the way through the digestive track to the colon untouched. Once in the colon, resistant starch becomes food for the friendly bacteria that turn it into food for colon cells. This resistant-starch-fueled-bacteria-byproduct makes the colon cells stronger; it acts like a Kevlar vest to protect the colon and prevent leakage. Imagine what’s in your colon. Now imagine that leaking out of your colon and into your body cavity, even on a microscopic level. That’s why resistant starch Kevlar is so important.

In countries where the Legume Family is consumed several times each week, the morbidity rate for colon cancer is lower than in, say, the U.S. of A., where legume consumption is low. That means that if you do get colon cancer, Bean Cops can help you not die from it. (Protect and Serve is their motto, after all.) In one study, lab rats with chemical-induced colon cancer were fed beans. These rats developed 50% fewer tumors than the rats who didn’t eat beans!

I’m not suggesting that you trade in your Thanksgiving turkey for a bunch of beans, but if you’re supposed to bring a side dish to a gathering this week and you’re not sure what to prepare, try Three Bean Cop Salad.

 “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.” Ezekiel 4:9a

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Cancer Prevention Foods (Part 1)

This series on foods that help fight cancer is a repeat, but three women I know have been diagnosed with cancer in the past month, so now seems like a good time for a refresher. Do I think adding a little more garlic and beans to my diet will protect me from all harm? No, of course not. But these foods have been shown to improve health and that sounds good to me. I like my tatas; I want to keep them healthy.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45. That felt like a distant milestone until I turned 35. Add to my family history the recent breast cancer diagnosis of a friend – who is my age and stage of life – and it’s a bit of a wake up call. If it can happen to them, it can happen to me. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do now to prevent cancer later (or kill it now, now is good too).

downloadFirst, I took stock of everything I knew about food and cancer prevention; it was summed up with the phrase “Eat berries”. Berries have lots of antioxidants that clean out the free radicals, right? Whatever those are and however that works.

I checked out four different health websites for recommended anti-cancer foods and when I compared the list, five foods stood out: garlic, dried beans, cruciferous vegetables, tea, and curcumin. Since this is a blog post, not a book, I’ll just tell you about my favorite one today. Anyone want to guess? Anyone want to smell my breath and then guess?

garlicGarlic!

Besides making everything it touches delicious, garlic has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. It was also used as a weapon of war; they’d just breathe on the enemy and the enemy would run. (It’s the taste of garlic we love, but not the aftertaste.)

So why is garlic a cancer fighting food?

Garlic contains sulfur. (Insert volcano reference here.) I know that sounds bad, but the sulfur combines with other stuff in the garlic to form compounds, and these sulfur compounds really clean house. Garlic’s biggest connection to cancer is its ability to slow or prevent the growth of tumors. For example, one compound makes all cells more vulnerable to the stresses of cell division; tumor cells divide more quickly than normal cells, so they have more stressors and die, whereas normal cells can handle it and live. (See why I called it a weapon?)

Garlic also has antibacterial and antifungal properties; while it fights infection, the rest of your immune system is free to work on other problems, like cancer. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties as well and inflammation is like PMS on a cellular level; it makes every little problem in your body worse.

How does this apply to the kitchen? Two ways:

  1. garlic choppedWhen you peel, chop, mince, or crush garlic, let it sit for a few minutes before you cook it. Those beautiful sulfur compounds need time to form. If you squeeze your garlic press over a hot pan like I’ve done until now, you get the flavor, but not the compounds.
  2. Eat garlic raw whenever possible. I knew a woman once who sliced cloves into pill sized pieces and swallowed them whole. She said she hardly ever got colds. If you aren’t ready for that level of halitosic commitment, try raw garlic in pesto, guacamole, gazpacho, or mixed with butter and spread on toast.

Pesto has to be my favorite. You can find the recipe here: Fresh Pesto.

I also found a recipe for a raw garlic based tea. How did it taste? Not horrible. I know that’s not a rave review for flavor, but it’s raw garlic tea: “not horrible” is as good as it gets, and I’m a garlic lover. Garlic Tea. I’ve drunk it twice and will do so again: my body wanted more, so it must be doing something good.

I am very happy to say that my mom has been cancer free for 18 years now. She loves garlic too. No, I’m not saying that garlic cured her. I’m just saying that this happy ending smells like garlic!

 

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” Numbers 11:4-6

 

Tatas courtesy of freeinterentpictures.com.