Cancer is a ‘disease of old age’, say experts, who have predicted that half of us will suffer from some form of the illness in our lifetimes.
The stat is a shocking one, up from the ‘one in three’ number we’ve been told for years. But it’s not just a terrifying rise in cancer rates, it’s also to do with our increasing life expectancy. And we’ve never been so likely to survive the diagnosis.
In 1960, life expectancy was around 60 years, but now we’re likely to live into our eighties – so that’s an extra 20 years where things can go wrong.
But though we all have to age, it’s not all out of our control. Experts reckon four in 10 cancer cases are preventable with lifestyle changes – diet, exercise and taking precautions such as wearing sun cream.
Key preventative measures include not smoking, staying active, eating lots of fibre, fruit and vegetables, keeping your weight down and avoiding too much alcohol, salt and red or processed meat.
But there are also some foods that have been found to have protective, cancer-fighting properties that can lower your risk of certain preventable cancers. So it’s definitely worth adding them to your diet.
Here are some key cancer-fighting foods to get on your shopping list:
Broccoli: Love it or hate it, there’s no denying these little trees are packed with goodness. A great source of fibre, which helps keep your digestive tract healthy to reduce the risk of colon and bowel cancer, broccoli also contains phytochemicals, which are thought to have anti-cancer properties.
Nuts: Nuts and nut butters contain fibre, protein, vitamins (particularly E) and good fats so they’re a great complete snack. Walnuts in particular have been found in studies to reduce mortality rates for those who eat them regularly. This is thought to be because they contain high levels of alpha-linoleic acid and phytochemicals.
Other highly nutritious nuts include Brazil, almond, pecan and pine nuts. Whole food nut butters are also great to add to your diet.
Orange foods: Vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. This has been linked to a reduction in cases of lung, colon, and stomach cancer, and one study has linked regular consumption to a 50 per cent reduction in breast cancer risk.
Berries: These contain those cancer-busting phytochemicals once more, are highly antioxidant and have a lower fructose (natural fruit sugar) content than other fruits so are a great choice.
Linseeds (Flax): Ground linseeds (also know as flax) are packed with omega-3s and keep you regular (that all important fibre aspect) so add a sprinkling to yoghurt or salads.
Turmeric & Ginger: Some spices have been used for centuries for their healing properties, and two of the most powerful are tumeric and ginger. Tumeric is an anti-inflammatory that’s part of the ginger family. It contains a chemical called curcumin, that has been shown in experiments to kill or prevent cancer cells.
Ginger has also been found to target cancer cells. It’s a natural painkiller and antibiotic, as well as reducing harmful inflammation in the body.
Green Tea: Japanese green tea is the highest in antioxidant and detoxifying elements of any teas and activates enzymes in the liver that help fight cancer.
Wild Salmon: This oily fish is important for the diet to help with brain health and because it contains astaxanthin (which gives it its pink colour), it’s also a powerful antioxidant.
Not The Only Answer
It’s important to remember though, that ‘any single food on its own is unlikely to have a major impact on cancer risk’ (Cancer Research UK), so it’s all about incorporating these into an already healthy diet.
David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, writig on Prevention.com suggests eating one or ‘preferably two’ of these ‘superfoods’ with each (healthy) meal.