If you are here on this website and reading this today, then I know you already have some idea that what you eat matters and impacts the state of your health. This is good news. However, most people do not yet know or realize just how much of an impact those food choices make. The foods we eat in every meal of every single day are either directly creating the conditions for diseases to occur or supporting our bodies to prevent and heal them.
Out of the slew of chronic diseases that we have today, which impact our physical and psychological health, perhaps none is more feared and dreaded than cancer. The reasons for this are many, and it is not only about the potential of it ending our lives prematurely. What most people fear about cancer is the wide-ranging physical, mental, and emotional suffering that comes with it and the conventional medical interventions of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery that are most often utilized in an effort to eradicate it.
Thus, we cannot avoid hearing the message that healthy eating is important for us. Even though this may seem like a new health message for some, it has been around for thousands of years, going right back to Hippocrates and beyond.
Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.
Hippocrates of Kos, Greek physician ~ 400 B.C.
The problem in most parts of the world, therefore, isn’t that there is a lack of awareness about healthy eating and its importance. The problem is that as a society we have not clearly defined what healthy eating means. Consult several different nutritionists or doctors, and you are likely to get several different definitions and variations of what constitutes healthy eating. The second problem is that even if we take the general idea of what healthy eating is, meaning avoiding refined and processed foods that are high sugars and fats and focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, too many people still do not apply healthy eating adequately in their lives. The high prevalence of and dependence on fast food and convenience food is a reflection of our most common choices. Sure, we may go through health spurts around the start of a new year or after being inspired by some new convincing resource, but more often than not, these efforts are temporary and have people going right back to their old habits. Unless and until we establish a clear definition of what healthy eating means and make a lifelong commitment to stick by it, we are bound to bounce around different diets, foods, and supplements, in a never-ending search for the solution to our health and weight problems.
The purpose of this article, therefore, is to share with you information about how your diet can directly reduce your risk of any cancer and improve your chances of healing and recovering from it.
The Cancer Diet is An Optimally Healthy Diet
The good news is that, despite the noise of conflicting and contradicting dietary advice, we do have a nutritional solution to our health and weight challenges. It is so simple that many people overlook its tremendous power, while others blatantly do not want to abide by it. Do you know what this ultimate and optimal dietary solution is? It is eating foods that are best suited to our human body. If biology class was not your strong suit and you do have a good understanding of the fact that your entire human anatomy and physiology is best suited for whole plant foods, today we have the science to prove it. Whole plant foods are the only foods that can prevent and protect us from diseases, especially chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes type 2. Also, whole plant foods are the only foods that are capable of offering healing and effective treatment if any acute or chronic diseases set in.
We cannot achieve this or say the same about any refined and ultra-processed plant foods or any animal foods. We will never hear that dairy or meat or eggs help to prevent cancer or help to treat it. On the contrary, these latter food groups are associated with the highest risk of acute and chronic diseases, like cancer, as well as weight problems. Animal foods, specifically, have the strongest associations with increasing the risk of cancer and impeding its healing. The dairy-cancer connection is one of the strongest in this regard, where dairy has been found to turn on cancer genes, in addition to other harm and imbalance that dairy causes in our bodies. A similar story applies to refined and ultra-processed plant foods that are high in sugar and oils. It cannot be over-emphasized that diets based on animal foods or any ultra-processed foods directly feed cancer and increase its risk. This happens predominantly due to their carcinogenic potential. Such foods readily damage our cells, tissues, and organs; they contain and generate free radicals; they cause high levels of oxidation and inflammation; they obstruct the body’s powerful detoxification and cleansing systems that work to rid it of toxins.
So which whole plant foods should you eat to prevent and heal cancer?
Technically, you should eat any of the whole plant foods you have access to and enjoy. However, fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and legumes are the most potent plant food groups for healing and prevention of cancer and other diseases. Likewise, whole, unprocessed grains and nuts and seeds are also valuable additions to our diet and provide their own relevant health and nutrition benefits. And even though mushrooms are not plants, but fungi, they too are amongst the most valuable when it comes to supporting the immune system and warding off or healing cancer. There is no need to overthink your choices or pick them apart, either from a reductionist mindset. While there are certain whole plant foods, as mentioned, that will provide higher anti-cancer benefits, ultimately they all have some anti-cancer benefits. It is not about which particular whole plant food you should eat, but about making sure that you eat a variety of whole plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in large amounts daily.
The reason that whole plant foods provide us with such exceptional advantages, which are credited to them alone, is that they have a unique composition of nutrients that work to nourish, support, and heal the body. They do not damage, destroy, or weaken it like the other foods. All whole plant foods, but especially the first groups mentioned, are powerful cancer fighters thanks to their high-nutrient density that includes an abundance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. These nutritional compounds all work to maintain the healthy function of cells, tissues, and organs. In summary, they promote the new growth of healthy cells and the repair of damaged cells, inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancerous cells, and support the removal of debris and toxins through cleansing and detoxification mechanisms. To top it all off, as impressive as the health and nutrition potential of each whole plant food is, we have not even begun to scratch the surface of the synergistic health benefits when we combine them together.
The Cancer Diet Starves Cancer
In 2010, I watched a Ted Talk that was given by a physician, scientist, and author, William W. Li. In the presentation entitled Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?, Dr. Li explains how this can be done with anti-angiogenic foods. The process of angiogenesis is the growth of new blood vessels in our bodies. These are necessary to grow and feed cancer cells. In a healthy body, the process of new cell, tissue, and blood vessel growth is strictly regulated and balanced with the death and removal of these as needed. When cancer sets in, cells and tissues, like blood vessels, grow uncontrollably and do not get destroyed as required. The scientific research that Dr. Li presents has discovered that certain foods have an anti-angiogenic effect that works to starve cancer cells, preventing their survival and further replication. As you can imagine, this is hugely beneficial to preventing, treating, and healing cancer.
And guess what? The foods found to have the most anti-angiogenic activity are most notably common whole plant foods that are at the forefront of optimally healthy diets, as described in the section above. The reason that whole, unprocessed plant foods are superior in this regard is that only plant foods contain phytonutrients. These are potent plant compounds that work directly to prevent and heal cell and tissue damage, which can lead to diseases. Common phytonutrient groups include carotenoids, ellagic acid, resveratrol, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and glucosinolates.
Here is a summary list of anti-angiogenic foods for your practical use and reference:
- Fruits, especially berries, like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries; citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and pineapples; as well as cherries, apples, pomegranates, watermelon, papayas, persimmons, red grapes, currants, and cranberries.
- Vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, mustard greens, radishes, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, and kale thanks to their glucosinolates phytonutrients, as well as tomatoes, artichokes, bell peppers, carrots, leeks, spinach, arugula, lettuce, beets, and pumpkin.
- Herbs and spices, especially garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Legumes, especially soy thanks to its genistein phytonutrient content.
- Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and pecans thanks to their content of ellagitannin phytonutrients, and flax seeds thanks to its content of enterolignans.
- Other plant food and drinks include green tea, thanks to its content of catechins, and pure cacao thanks to its content of proanthocyanidins phytonutrients.
Even though so many whole plant foods were featured as anti-angiogenic, do note that the above list is by no means exhaustive. Many other whole plant foods exhibit anti-angiogenic activity too. It is likely that they all do; they just have not all been studied or highlighted yet. This is just another reason why our focus and efforts should always be going to eating a whole food, plant-based diet period, without stressing or fussing over which specific one to pick.
Keep in mind, too, that certain animal foods, namely fish, also have some anti-angiogenic action thanks to their inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids. However, these are not recommended because seafood is one of the riskiest food groups to consume today due to chemical, bacterial, and radiological pollution, and any benefits they may provide do not outweigh the risks. They are also an unsustainable food source, given our environmental and climate challenges. There are many healthier and better ways to consume omega-3 fatty acids and get all the cancer protection and healing that we can via whole plant foods without subjecting ourselves to any of the health risks associated with fish.
If you are interested in learning more, I invite you to watch the video presentation by Dr. William W. Li below:
As you heard in the presentation above, and as Dr. Li explains in his book Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself, the right dietary approach doesn’t just work to prevent or heal cancer, but other chronic diseases as well.
The Cancer Diet is Not Found in Superfoods or Supplements
Therefore, when it comes to our diet, there is a common theme that can be trusted to be the most healing and protective; this being whole plant foods. However, the media loves controversy and drama, and just telling people to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet would be too dull. The more shock and awe it can generate, the more likely that its content will be viewed. But the media is not alone to blame for the dietary hype, fads, and misleading claims that are rampant in our modern society. Food companies, supplements companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical institutions, health organizations, and all of their marketing campaigns, along with numerous individual experts aiming to make a name for themselves, all have a role to play in the nutritional roulette that has become our reality.
Superfoods, supplements, and unnatural diets are promoted and made to seem like a panacea for our health problems. I’ve personally lost count of how many “cancer cures” and “cancer foods” I have come across in my roughly 15 years of nutritional research to date. Each one is promising to be the “thing” that you need to prevent or cure cancer. Unfortunately, such bold and flashy claims get a lot of people easily hooked. This comes as no surprise. We are less likely to make high-quality choices the more stressed out and overwhelmed we are, which is amplified today by the challenges of a highly digitized and material world. Thus, we get caught up in the hype, fads, and misleading claims that steer us away from timeless and sensible solutions.
Somewhere along the way, though, you must see that all of this is for show and has little substance. Our health never was and never will be dictated by some miracle food, controversial diet, or proprietary product. The best health results are created by the consistent right actions. You cannot continue with poor eating and lifestyle habits and think that some particular food or product is going to provide you with the health and weight that you desire. Health does not work this way; health is created with the sum of our actions.
It is perhaps the saddest that so many questionable and downright useless or harmful claims are aimed at people with cancer. However, this can apply to any disease or health condition. Again, when we are at our lowest, we are the most vulnerable. For this reason, great sensitivity and responsibility are required when administering any advice to people with cancer. Any solutions given should be safe, sustainable, grounded in wisdom, and in alignment with the workings of the human body. They should not cause further harm to the body or get in the way of effective healing. Also, they should not interfere with the body’s natural ability to heal itself; instead, they should support it.
For these reasons, if you or a loved one is affected by cancer, be ultra mindful of the choices you make or advice you give. Most of the superfoods out there that are promoted to cancer patients are nothing more than whole plant foods that have either had some of their compounds isolated and bottled or have been processed to make them into a profitable product. Yes, blueberries and goji berries and broccoli and sprouts and moringa are valuable foods to heal and prevent cancer. Still, the same can be said about pretty much any fresh fruit, vegetable, herb, or spice, and many other whole plant foods, as mentioned above. Nature has provided us with the ultimate pharmacy, and every time someone latches onto discovering the properties of a new plant remedy, they make it seem like this is the latest and greatest must-have. Thus, I reiterate, all plants in their natural forms, whether they are the leaves, the roots, the fruits, the flowers, or other parts, have numerous valuable healing and protective properties for us.
You can feel free to add any so-called superfoods or safe supplements that you trust to your diet if they are composed of whole plant foods or their parts, but please don’t think that they alone will provide the magic bullet. Instead, add them to a diet that is already healing and protective. Otherwise, you are taking some steps forward while taking some steps backward and preventing yourself from making real progress. Choosing a particular supplement or adding in a specific superfood while not overhauling the entire foundation of our diet and lifestyle makes us prone to false-positive ideas about our efforts and sabotages our healing journey. In the end, if you use conscious discernment while listening to any media stories or advice from others, you will note that the common theme to the most valuable preventative and healing approach is a plant-based one.
As you have probably concluded by now, the world of plant foods is filled with countless benefits that work directly to provide us with the most powerful healing, protection, prevention, and support for our health. Whichever fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices we choose to eat, we cannot go wrong by eating a varied, natural plant-based diet. Out of the immense variety of whole plant foods, simply choose the ones that agree with your body and health needs at any given time. Perhaps you will eat them raw, or perhaps you will eat them gently cooked. Maybe you will eat them as part of a salad or as part of a smoothie or even a smoothie bowl. Perhaps you will turn them into a sweet treat or a vegetable juice. These are all secondary factors to experiment with that will provide you with much flexibility and enjoyment. The primary point is to eat a diet of the most healing and protective foods.
Don’t wait to change your diet until a disease sets in either. Take action starting today to improve the healing and preventative properties of your diet. In the end, it really is this simple. If you want excellent health on a physical, mental, and emotional level, if you’re going to get the most out of this life experience, if you desire vitality and top longevity, if you want to heal or prevent any disease, then base each meal and snack on whole, natural, plant foods. There are so many different fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds that you will never be bored. Get creative, make time in your life to make genuinely healthy eating a priority, and gain invaluable health benefits with every bite by making a plant-based diet a way of life.