As we mentioned in our last blog post, we can choose to use this time of social isolation and uncertainty in a positive way, to strive to emerge stronger and healthier. As we focus more on our health and staying healthy, it could be a good time to learn more about nutrition, and how it affects our response to health threats.
The foods you eat affect various aspects of your health, such as your risk of developing chronic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. There’s a large body of research that supports the idea that cancer development is influenced heavily by your diet. In fact, many fruits and vegetables contain compounds that help fight cancer.
One study that examined the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption found that individuals who ate 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies daily had a 36% lower risk of dying from all causes. Even eating just 1-3 servings lowered the risk of all-cause mortality. Eating seven or more servings of fruits and veggies lowered the risk of dying by 42% and cancer risk by a whopping 25%.
That same study discovered that vegetables offered a larger protective effect than fruits did. While fruits have multiple health benefits, every additional serving of fresh vegetables reduced the risk of death by another 16%. And additional studies show that higher veggie intake is linked to lower risk of multiple types of cancer.
Although no one food can protect you from cancer on its own, certain vitamins, phytochemicals, and minerals found in veggies have demonstrated anti-cancer effects. As fresh veggies become more plentiful this spring and summer, here are a few veggie powerhouses you’ll want to serve up regularly to lower your risk of cancer.
Broccoli, considered a cancer-fighting superfood, packs in nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, carotenoids, dietary favor, flavonols, and glucosinolates. But it’s the plant compound sulforaphane that’s known for its anticancer properties. One study showed that it helped reduce the number and size of breast cancer cells by as much as 75%, while another study discovered that it helped kill prostate cancer cells and reduced the size of prostate tumors.  A higher intake of cruciferous veggies like broccoli is also linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. 
Fresh, raw broccoli makes a great snack on its own. However, if you’re going to cook it, make sure you briefly microwave, steam, sauté, or stir-fry instead of boiling or deep frying. This ensures your broccoli retains the most vitamin C, glucosinolates, and folate.
Tomatoes have been widely studied for their cancer-fighting properties, and it’s the lycopene in tomatoes that give them their beautiful red color and their anticancer benefits. Multiple studies have linked an increase in lycopene intake to a lower risk of prostate cancer specifically. Cooked tomatoes, particularly tomato sauce, was linked to a reduced prostate cancer risk, although other studies have shown that raw tomatoes fight cancer, too. Along with lycopene, other nutrients found in tomatoes include beta-carotene, vitamin C, phytoene, and vitamin A.
A quick preparation tip is to process tomatoes into cooked products like tomato sauce or cook them and serve them with a bit of olive oil. This helps you absorb more of the beta-carotene and lycopene they contain. Throw them on the grill and top with mozzarella cheese.
While your mom or grandma may have told you to eat carrots for your eyes, carrots pack in nutrients that are linked to a lower risk of some types of cancer, too. Carotenoids, phenolic acids, vitamin A, and polyacetylenes are a few of the powerful nutrients found in carrots. One analysis of five studies found that eating plenty of carrots may lower the risk of stomach cancer by as much as 26%. Higher intake of this veggie has also been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Carrots have even been associated with a lower likelihood of developing lung cancer, even in current smokers.
Carrots offer the perfect crunchy snack that’s easy to grab and go. Grated or chopped carrots make a great addition to your veggie salad or pasta salad. You can even toss them in stir-fries, soups, stews, and spaghetti sauce to make sure you’re getting in multiple servings of carrots each week. Another idea is to sauté them up with a bit of balsamic vinegar, a touch of brown sugar, and a little pepper and salt to taste for a healthy side dish that lets carrots be the main event.
Spinach is also rich in carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, which work to eliminate free radicals and play a role in protecting against cancer. This veggie is also packed with vitamin K, iron, potassium, vitamin C, flavonols, dietary fiber, lignans, folate, and manganese. Research shows that carotenoids found in spinach may protect against stomach, esophagus, and mouth cancers, and additional research suggests that spinach may lower the risk of colorectal, lung, ovarian, and endometrial cancers, too.
Raw or lightly cooked spinach gives you the most lutein, so try tossing fresh spinach in your favorite salad. You can even throw it in your eggs and allow it to wilt when they’re almost done. It’s even great alone sautéed in just a bit of olive oil with garlic. Chopped frozen or fresh spinach makes a wonderful addition to any type of soup or stir-fries. Although fresh spinach is usually plentiful in the late spring and early summer, frozen spinach offers a budget-friendly, nutritious option you can find all year long. Frozen veggies capture essential nutrients because they’re frozen when freshly picked.
Add more of these veggie powerhouses to your plate this spring, and don’t forget to include a wide selection of fruit and veggies in your diet to maximize nutrient intake so your body is well protected against cancer.
Protect your finances, too
As you’re focusing on a healthy diet that helps prevent cancer, make sure you’re protecting yourself from the financial risk that may come with cancer. While no one wants to hear the dreaded words, “you have cancer,” more people are surviving cancer than ever before. However, even though survival rates are high, a cancer diagnosis can hit your finances hard. Being insured against the unthinkable can give you peace of mind. Learn more about cancer insurance that will give you a lump sum benefit if you’re diagnosed with cancer today.
This blog post is intended for educative and entertainment purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice or a solicitation.
Cancer policies underwritten by Combined Insurance Company of America (Chicago, IL) in all states, except New York. In New York, Critical Illness policies underwritten by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Combined Insurance Company of America is not licensed and does not solicit business in New York. Cancer policies not available in all states. Exclusions and limitations apply. See policy for complete details.
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