EAT A DIET RICH IN A VARIETY OF VEGETABLES, FRUITS AND WHOLE GRAINS.
Put some colour on your plate
Statistics show that more than half of all Canadians eat fewer than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This is unfortunate as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and many phytochemical compounds that have cancer-fighting properties. Plants are greatly complex, living organisms that produce an array of very reactive phytochemical molecules which can affect a number of processes involved in cancer development.
What are phytochemical compounds?
Phytochemical compounds are the molecules that enable plants to defend themselves against infections and damage. Plants cannot run away from their attackers and as a result have developed highly sophisticated protection. The phytochemical compounds produced by plants have antibacterial, antifungal and insecticidal functions that reduce the harm caused by attackers. The protective role of these various phytochemical compounds is not limited to their effects on plant health; these molecules also play a frontline role in our defense systems against cancer.
The main phytochemical compounds in food can be easily identified by the food’s colour or odour. For example, most brightly coloured fruits are major sources of polyphenols. Other classes of phytochemical compounds are characterized by smell. For example, the smell of sulfur associated with crushed garlic or cooked cabbage is due to sulfur compounds in these foods, whereas the odor of citrus fruits is related to certain terpenes.
These molecules are not just antioxidants. In addition to their antioxidant properties (which help absorb free radicals), they contain other properties whose biological effects target many processes involved in cancer development. A diet based on consistent intake of foods containing high levels of these compounds is definitely a great weapon to help prevent cancer.
“Plant-based foods are a fundamental component of any diet that aims to fight cancer, but several scientific studies suggest that the types of fruits and vegetables chosen could play a role as important as the quantity consumed, because certain foods are special sources of cancer-fighting molecules.” Richard Béliveau, Ph.D. Scientific Director, Chair in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, UQAM
Here’s a list of fruit and vegetable families that are particularly rich in phytochemical compounds that are great allies for cancer prevention:
Since all fruits and vegetables provide different benefits, the key is to eat a variety. As a bonus, they will certainly add a lot of colour and texture to your meals!
Love whole grains
The Canadian Food Guide recommends that at least half of our cereal products be whole grains. They are an excellent source of vitamin B, minerals and fibre. Fibre is a natural, non-digestible component of all edible plants, including grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruits. It absorbs liquid and adds bulk to your stool so that your food waste passes through your intestines quickly, absorbing carcinogens and other toxins as it travels. It is key for digestive health!
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, a diet high in fibre reduces the risk of cancer. Whole grains are also a rich source of various bioactive compounds, including vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, lignans and phenolic compounds. Many of the compounds, which are largely found in the bran and germ of the grain, have potential anti-carcinogenic properties. Whole grains may also help protect against some types of cancer by binding carcinogens and regulating glycemic response.