Cancer Fighting Foods to Fuel Your Fight
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
Diet is one aspect of cancer treatment that is within your control. Feeling overwhelmed by the sea of information presented to you on your screen, reading about the so-called “miracle cure” diet where you only consume sea bass and red onions or a pill containing such high doses of vitamins people “swear” is equal to a round of treatment? Take a breath, and release: I am here to tell you that there is no single food that can cure cancer wholeheartedly, but there are numerous foods that have been researched to help manage side-effects of cancer and may help fight the spread of the disease. I am here to discuss a few popular cancer fighting foods to fuel your fight, how you can integrate these foods into your everyday life, the research behind these theories, and easy ways to help increase consumption of these foods. And guess what, team? This applies whether you’re on a cancer journey or whether you’re wanting to eat more healthfully for any other reason!
Using Food in Addition to Cancer Treatment
There are so many foods that have been researched on how they can impact cancer treatment. Using food in addition to cancer treatment is a key aspect of integrative oncology and a way that you can manage treatment regimens yourself so you are left feeling the best you possibly can. What are some of these foods? How do they work? What is the research behind them? Let’s dive into the vast world of using food as medicine and highlight some popular “anti-cancer” foods.
Ginger is a root that is native to Asia and is commonly used as a food to help season and spice dishes up and is known for its medicinal properties. Ginger is extremely popular in Chinese medicine and Westerners use it primarily to help relieve gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and indigestion or heartburn. These GI symptoms are prevalent as a side effect for many cancer treatment options.
Ginger contains phytonutrients named shogaol and gingerol, which can help stimulate the release of gastric secretions including saliva, bile, and gastric acid. An increase of gastric secretions can help to reduce gas in your belly and can calm an upset stomach.
Ginger is a delicious and safe food so there’s most likely no harm in including it in your diet. Ginger can be used in a variety of ways, including adding it as a seasoning to your favorite vegetable stir fry, as a juice, tea, or lemonade, or as a seasoning for salmon and chicken. The best way to use ginger is to cut a tiny portion off, peel the brown skin, and mince it finely. I keep mine in my freezer because it stays good much longer. Ginger has an intense spicy and woody flavor, so start cooking with only using a small amount to not overwhelm your taste buds.
If you need some ideas on how to include ginger in your diet, try my banana ginger oats or my pomegranate ginger mocktail!
Blueberries are one of the most delicious, flavorful, and healthy fruits on the market. They are a staple in the American diet, and are often available all year round to enjoy in your favorite recipes. They are versatile fruits and can be used as a snack, in smoothies, topping yogurt, and more. Some of my favorite ways to use blueberries are in my Easiest Blueberry Coconut Bake and my Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie.
Blueberries are nutrient powerhouses. They contain natural compounds named anthocyanins which create their famous blue coloring. Besides adding color, anthocyanins are extremely powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage. Currently, the research behind blueberries in cancer treatment has been shown to be promising. The antioxidant anthocyanin has shown positive impacts on many different cancer types including breast, colon, liver, prostate, and oral cancer. Using a combination of human clinical trials and mice, anthocyanin has shown to help slow and prevent the spread and growth of tumors by inhibiting many cell reproduction pathways within cancerous cells. Blueberries can also help to decrease inflammation due to compounds named flavonoids, which is beneficial for overall health.
Adding blueberries to your diet is an easy way to help add a major punch of nutrients and antioxidants while potentially helping to manage cancer and assist treatment. It’s so fun to see how antixidant-packed foods can increase your health. I talk about this a lot in my book “Anti-inflammatory Diet Meal Prep” so please make sure to check that out as a resource!
Garlic & Onions
Garlic and onions are a classic base of any delicious, flavorful dish. But did you know that they contain powerful nutrients as well? These vegetables not only add amazing flavor, but possibly could help support cancer treatment.
Garlic and onions contain sulfur-containing compounds named alliin. This is what helps give garlic and onions their famous flavor. Alliin has strong anti-microbial properties, which help prevent bacterial infections or sickness, hypolipidemic (decreasing the amount of fat present in your bloodstream) properties to help control cholesterol levels, and can stimulate a stronger immune system by creating more T-cells and directly being toxic to tumor cells. Overall, garlic and onions have many beneficial effects on health. The research behind the functionality of alliin is mixed - some studies report effectiveness on tumor growth suppression for gastric and colon cancers, but human trials are lacking. There is no direct evidence that states that alliin can treat cancer, but the abundant health benefits make it worth trying and consuming.
Garlic and onions can be used in so many different ways. Add garlic to any of your favorite recipes including marinades for meat, to season vegetables, or add to your favorite sauce. Onions are just as versatile, and are delicious to add to sandwiches, salads, pastas, and more. Need some recipe inspiration? Here are some of the ways I like to incorporate garlic and onions into dishes: Simple Garlic Lemon Noodles and Easy Vegetarian Fried Rice are two delicious recipes packed with nutrients.
Cancer Fighting Foods to Fuel Your Fight
Using food in addition to cancer treatment is an easy way to not only improve and maintain a healthy eating pattern, but could also help you kick cancer to the curb for good. The overall research behind the effectiveness of these foods and cancer management is limited, but promising. Using ginger, blueberries, and garlic & onions are foods that are common, not noted as “miracle cures”, and are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Cancer treatment can be scary and overwhelming at times and specialists like me are absolutely standing by to help you. If you could use some support, please be sure to contact me right away. You’ll be amazed at the power of having a dietitian on your team. The good news is that you have a whole team to support you during your treatment time. Always continue and follow your treatment regime, and try some new cancer fighting foods to fuel your fight to feel the best you possibly can.