With the StandUp2Cancer telethon today, the "C" word is on everyone's mind and if you're like me, in many hearts too (I lost a dear friend to brain cancer earlier this year). So after you've gone online to make your donation, fix yourself a cancer fighting meal or snack- while it certainly isn't a silver bullet for many of the cancers that plague our friends, families and communities, still the power of your plate can significantly tip the odds in your favor of keeping you free of many of the leading cancers. Based on the latest science, here are some of the top things you can do to dramatically slash your risk.
Aim for an Organic Diet
In May the President's Cancer Panel issued a report that specified choosing organic food produced without any chemical pesticides or fertilizers as one of the leading ways to cut your risk of many cancers.
If you're watching your greenbacks at the grocery store (as most of us are these days), start where it counts most: choose organic animal products, including meat and dairy. Then move onto the Dirty Dozen the Environmental Working Group's list of most contaminated produce. You can also find several organic brands carried at Wal-Mart and other budget friendly stores, and many supermarkets now carry affordable organic lines of their own – simply ask your manager. As Michael Pollan recently wrote Pay More, Eat Less. It can do wonders for the quality of your diet (and your waistline too).
Go Au Natural with Your Meat
Choosing organic does more than just help you feel good about the conditions Daisy was in before she ended up on your dinner table – it helps keep you from ingesting antibiotics, hormones, and even (indirectly) toxic runoff from large livestock operations-3 specific items cited in the report as possibly raising cancer risk. Remember, animals are what they eat, so you want yours eating as cleanly and healthfully as possibly.
Buy USDA Certified organic beef, pork, poultry and dairy products.
Pack Your Plate with Cancer Fighting Plant Foods
Plant foods are not only eco-friendly and weight-loss superstars, but these foods pack a dizzying array of phytochemicals that do things like mop up free radicals, encourage apoptosis (cell death of unhealthy cells), and slow or stop tumor growth.
Packing 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans at meals and snacks. And load up on color! Dark greens like kale, chard and spinach, brilliant oranges in butternut squash and sweet potato, and gorgeous American beauties like cranberries, cherries, blueberries and pomegranate (no need to ravage remote rainforest in the name of cancer fighting fruits) contain a host of dark pigments that pack vast armies of cancer fighting potential. Visit the American Institute for Cancer Research for helpful tips as well as complete summaries of the latest science concerning diet and cancer.
Drink Filtered Water and Green Tea
Drinking filtered tap water is not only much cheaper than bottled water by a factor of thousands, but it will minimize your risk of consuming endocrine disrupting chemicals and numerous other known or suspected carcinogens, and was another key suggestion of the President's Cancer Panel.
Why single out green tea? It's packed with a class of flavonoids called catechins (green tea has about three times as many as black tea), which has shown strong promise for its anti-cancer potential. Regular use of green tea has been associated with lower risk for bladder, colon, stomach, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, and lab studies have found green tea slows or prevents cancer development in colon, liver, prostate and breast cells.
Invest in a good filter such as PUR or reverse osmosis for your tap. Enjoy a few cups of freshly brewed green tea daily.
Got other tips or ideas? I'd love to hear them.