The ultimate in comfort food might be defined as a cuisine that protects and shields us from the dangers of developing cancer. While most medical experts agree that this exact diet does not yet exist, they do agree that diet and nutrition are powerful partners in defending our bodies from disease. The caveat is that the possible protection comes not from short-term binges, but long-term lifestyle choices.
Along with avoiding cigarettes and over-exposure to the sun, diet and exercise play starring roles in safeguarding the health of our bodies.
So what makes up a cancer-defending-health-promoting diet? It will come as no surprise that emphasizing plant-sourced food is the answer. Fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals, many of which are antioxidants, and these compounds have been shown to protect our bodies from spread of disease by working with our DNA in controlling, and often impeding, growth or spread of cancerous cells.
Some foods even offer protection from specific cancers. For example, fiber has been shown to deter colon cancer. Eating more whole grains, legumes and other high-fiber foods may support our bodies in defense of colorectal cancer development.
Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, contain free-radical fighting compounds that work to impede the growth of cancer cells and may even encourage their demise. So called “superfoods” are packed with cancer fighting antioxidants and flavinoids. Berries, grapes and dark leafy greens are delicious and easily available superfood sources.
The greatest protection from cancer and disease is linked to our long-term behaviors. Over time, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and sustaining a consistent diet that is two-thirds plant based offers the biggest benefit. Adopting these behaviors is what the American Institute for Cancer Research found may prevent up to one third of all cancers.
Every day we make individual, seemingly small choices, but the sum of those choices add up over the long haul. Next time we are loading up our dinner plate, we might want to make more room for that kale!
Megan P. Nash*
Megan P. Nash, MS, Clinical Counseling, is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and certified fitness instructor
* Megan P. Nash is a compensated spokesperson for Balance Bar®.