You won’t find the cause or cure for cancer in your dinner but watching what you eat might play a part in prevention and treatment.
The debate surrounding the link between food and cancer is contentious, with hard-line scientists on one side and holistic diet devotees on the other.
The answer could be somewhere in the middle ground.
Eating natural foods
“Cancer is such a multifaceted disease that to say ‘if you don’t eat this, you won’t get cancer’ is wrong,” said Monica Molag, registered dietitian and instructor in the nutrition and food service management department at Langara College.
However, eating produce can have cancer-related health benefits.
“Fruits and vegetables and higher-fibre diets have a strong correlation to reduction of cancers overall,” said Molag. “Fruits and vegetables tend to come along with a lot of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which actually oxidize the cancer causing cells so that they are eliminated from the body.”
This is especially true with gastrointestinal tract cancers, where food comes directly in contact with the area, Molag said. Inversely, it’s also where carcinogens may be ingested, through things like charred meals or a specific mould found on unrefrigerated peanuts.
Angela Wright is the lead nutritionist at InspireHealth, a local non-profit offering integrative cancer care. She said recent studies have shown some existing cancer cells feed on refined sugars like glucose fructose and high-fructose corn syrup.
“When we eat sugars in something like a banana, it’s got the fibre to slow it down and come in nice and gradually,” said Wright. “But when we’re eating these hits of refined sugars that are coming in quickly, there are specific types of cancers that have more insulin receptor sites on the cells so they take more sugar into them at a time. It’s like they’re sucking up more fuel.”
Eating healthy to boost the immune system is key in potentially lowering your chances of cancer, says Wright.
“Because we’re making trillions of cells all the time, [a certain] percentage have a little bit of a defect,” she said. “It’s our immune system that comes along and clears out the cells that are defective.”
“If our immune system is depleted, those mutated cells are not kept in check, and then they can grow and become more of a problem and more of a mass.”
Reported by Vanessa Szpurko