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The power of fruits and vegetables in preventing cancer

April 29, 2015

Here’s a great idea…

Dr. Walter Willett, a leading nutrition expert from the Harvard School of Public Health, says, “No single food will make or break good health. But the kinds of food you choose day in and day out have a major impact.”

While no single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself, strong evidence does show that a diet filled with a variety of plant foods helps lower risk for many cancers.

In other words…

Researchers have looked at many individual minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals and shown cancer-fighting effects. But the strongest protection is from a combination of all of the compounds working together in the overall diet.

You can start lowering your cancer risk at your very next meal. Plan your family’s diet around plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. These foods provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need, as well as several phytochemicals – naturally occurring compounds in plants that have potentially health promoting effects. They also tend to be low in calorie density. That means they are low in calories, but because they’re full of fiber and water, they help to keep us feeling fuller for a longer time.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

Spring is the perfect time to get started eating more plant foods because they are just coming into season in Arkansas. Take the whole family to the farmers market to help pick out their favorite fruits and vegetables. Here are some Arkansas-grown foods you can find as local farmers markets open this spring:

Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard are excellent sources of fiber, folate and a wide range of carotenoids. Foods containing carotenoids seem to protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx. Enjoy them raw in salads or lightly cooked to preserve flavor and nutrients.

Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are good sources of vitamin C and fiber. Foods high in vitamin C may protect against cancer of the esophagus, while foods containing dietary fiber likely decrease colorectal cancer risk.

All berries are rich in ellagic acid which in laboratory studies have shown the ability to prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast. Ellagic acid seems to act as an antioxidant to deactivate specific cancer-causing agents and it helps slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Enjoy berries with breakfast, in a salad at lunch, for an afternoon snack, or for dessert with dinner.

Eating more fruits and vegetables will provide many health benefits to you and your family. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a lower risk of several chronic diseases including cancer.

To find out more…

about Arkansans foods, check out the Arkansas Foods page at: http://www.uaex.edu/health-living/food-nutrition/eating-well/arkansas-foods.aspx.

For more information on foods that fight cancer, see:  http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/.

For general information on healthy eating and recipes go to: http://www.uaex.edu/health-living/food-nutrition/default.aspx.

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