Preventing cancer with a cell-healthy diet

Unfortunately, there is no one hundred percent protection against malignant tumors – however, a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing cancer. But which components of our food are harmful and which can prevent cancer? Learn more about this in the Live Smarter blog.

Table of Contents

  1. Alcohol? No thanks.
  2. Make plant food your friend
  3. More fiber please!
  4. Properly store and prepare food
  5. Reduce excess weight
  6. Knowledge to go

An adult human being consists of up to 100 trillion cells. Without us noticing it, they repair and renew themselves permanently by themselves. This happens through division, where the genetic material is duplicated and transferred to daughter cells. Mistakes can happen, of course, but repair enzymes watch over DNA defects and mend them. In addition, the immune system tracks down and eliminates damaged cells. Or affected cells destroy themselves.

But sometimes the body’s own protective mechanisms fail, or external influences actually fuel DNA damage – and a malignant tumor develops. Experts estimate that around 40 percent of all cancers in Germany could be prevented if people avoided the known triggers, such as negative environmental influences, infections with carcinogenic viruses and an unhealthy lifestyle. The latter also includes the diet – what to pay attention to so that you can prevent cancer, you can learn here.

Alcohol? No thanks.

Most people won’t like to hear it, but alcohol doesn’t taste good to our cells at all: It is absorbed mainly through the mucous membranes of the small intestine and reaches every cell in the body through the blood – this explains why alcohol can in principle damage all organs. It also promotes cancer, this is primarily true of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and esophagus, since they come into direct contact with it. In addition, alcohol potentiates the negative effects of smoking, as it makes the mucous membranes more permeable to the toxic substances from tobacco smoke. Cancer has an easy game.

The effects on the liver are probably better known: Too much makes the organ fatty, leads to inflammation, hardening of the liver (cirrhosis) and ultimately to liver cancer. The risk of contracting cancer can largely be attributed to the effects of acetaldehyde. This intermediate is formed when the liver detoxifies alcohol – but it is very reactive and attacks DNA. The same goes for free radicals, which are also produced when alcohol is broken down. Last but not least, alcohol interferes with estrogen levels, contributing to the growth of hormone-dependent tumors, such as breast cancer.

This is why the European Code to Combat Cancer recommends: "Reduce your alcohol consumption. Abstaining from alcohol altogether is even better for reducing your cancer risk (1) ." Who does not want to deny himself the consumption completely, drinks moderately. For women this would be a maximum of 10 grams of alcohol and for men 20 grams per day. A quantity of 10 grams of alcohol is equivalent to a glass of beer (250 milliliters), a glass of wine (100 milliliters) or a long drink (200 milliliters with 4 centiliters of vodka). However, this information should in no way be taken as a call to drink every day. You should not touch alcohol at least two to three days a week.

Make plant foods your friend

Experts attribute about one in five cancers to chronic inflammation – because when inflammation swells in the body, it increases the release of free radicals that attack genetic material. Fortunately, our cells are not helpless in the face of this, because so-called antioxidants can neutralize these aggressive molecules and thus put a stop to what is happening.

These power substances include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and secondary plant substances such as beta-carotene. A lot of vitamin C is not only found in citrus fruits, but also in broccoli, fennel, peppers or black currants. However, the radical scavenger does not tolerate high heat. Therefore, steam the vegetables only briefly or nibble them raw.

Great sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, seeds, nuts and seeds. Ap-ro-pos nuts: Brazil nuts in particular are rich in selenium. The trace element is also found in vegetables, fish, seafood and milk, while the orange plant pigment beta-carotene is found in apricots, carrots and pumpkin. In the same way, lamb’s lettuce, kale and spinach are excellent suppliers – even if they are deep green. In them, the high chlorophyll content overlays the bright orange of beta-carotene.

More fiber, please!

With whole grain products, legumes, vegetables and mushrooms, you can easily reach the recommended amount of 30 grams of fiber per day. They are known to make us full for a long time, keep blood sugar levels in balance and prevent obesity. In addition, the vegetable fibers and swelling agents are good for the intestinal mucosa cells: Once they reach the large intestine, bacteria break them down into short-chain fatty acids. these metabolites in turn use the intestinal mucosal cells as a source of energy.

In addition, dietary fiber makes stool softer and more voluminous, promoting intestinal motility and thus speeding passage through the digestive tract. They bind toxins like a sponge – and the intestinal mucosa cells do not come into contact with them for so long. In this way, dietary fiber can help prevent colorectal cancer. Meanwhile, malignant tumors of the colon and rectum are the second most common cancer for men and women alike.

On the other hand, frequent consumption of red meat promotes colorectal cancer: pink meats such as lamb, beef and pork are rich in heme iron – too much of it can damage the genetic material and promote cell division (2) . For this reason, it is advisable not to eat more than 300 grams of red meat per week. The healthier alternatives are poultry and fish.

Storing and preparing food properly

Sometimes an unpleasant surprise lurks in the bread box or jam jar: toast or spread is covered in a green fur. In this case, the candidate belongs in the trash. It’s not enough to just scrape or cut away the mold, because the fungi often permeate the entire food – and some species even form carcinogenic aflatoxins. The toxins also prefer to infect foods from warm, humid countries, such as peanuts, grains, spices, corn, pistachios and dried fruits.

To reduce the risk of mold toxins, it is advisable to always store endangered items in a dry and cool place. Also, don’t sprinkle canned spices directly over steaming pots; put them in a spoon beforehand so they don’t get soggy. Also, don’t eat nuts that show discoloration or give off an unpleasant odor. This also applies to all other foods that smell musty.

Baking, frying, deep-frying and grilling sometimes produce carcinogens such as acrylamide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs). Acrylamide appears when starchy foods such as bread, chips or French fries are browned too much. PAHs develop when fat, meat juices or marinade drip into the embers and burn during grilling. And the darker fish, steak and sausages get when they sizzle, the more HLW they produce. For this reason, cook foods gently and at low temperatures. Also, dab marinade well beforehand and use a grill tray to avoid PAHs.

Reduce excess weight

Many of us want to prevent cancer by quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol and eating a healthy diet. When most people think of being overweight, they think first and foremost of the increased risk of a heart attack – but carrying around too much weight also increases the risk of developing cancer.

One culprit is visceral fat, which coats the internal organs in the abdomen. It forms inflammation-promoting messenger substances as well as growth-promoting hormones, which are suspected of increasing the risk of degeneration. On the other hand, the pancreas of overweight people secretes large amounts of insulin. The hormone not only regulates blood sugar levels, but also drives up levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). This growth factor is important for cell division, but likewise allows tumor cells to thrive better.

Therefore, do something good for yourself and watch your body weight. To lose weight in a healthy way, a combination of dietary changes, behavior modification and regular exercise is recommended. On the contrary, the yo-yo effect only makes people who want to lose weight even fatter.

Knowledge to take home

Cells can degenerate if there is damage to their genetic material. Such defects can occur randomly during cell division, but they are also fueled by various substances, including alcoholic beverages, aflatoxins, acrylamide, heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and cigarette smoke. Failure of the body’s own protective mechanisms can result in a malignant tumor.

However, you can prevent cancer by avoiding known triggers. Thus, experts recommend using alcohol in moderation or, preferably, abstaining from it altogether. Under no circumstances should you eat moldy food, because carcinogenic aflatoxins may be lurking there. Foods from warm, humid countries, such as peanuts, spices and grains, are particularly at risk. To avoid acrylamide, it is advisable not to roast starchy foods too darkly. The same goes for meat and fish. This is about the HAA. Exposure to PAHs can be minimized if you use grill trays.

In addition, a healthy diet for the cells can prevent cancer. That succeeds with antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. These power substances include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and beta-carotene, many of which are found in fruits, vegetables and oilseeds. Fiber from whole grains, legumes, vegetables as well as mushrooms are doubly effective for anti-cancer nutrition: Like a sponge, they clean the intestines from the inside and prevent obesity. The latter in turn increases the risk of developing cancer. The metabolically active abdominal fat is particularly to blame for this.

Smart partners – TK and EAT SMARTER
Together with TK, we are very interested in educating you about important health and nutrition issues. You can read more about the collaboration and TC here.

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