Do anti-cancer superfoods really work? From all of the scientific research that is rolling in, the answer is "YES!" They really do. While studies are ongoing, and in many cases experts still don't know exactly how these superfoods work, there's strong evidence that certain fruits and vegetables rich in plant-based nutrients can both prevent tumors from starting and halt their growth. Here are the top foods (certainly not all) to work into the family diet if you'd like to cut cancer risk or help those with cancer recover. 

The rich, dark colors of blueberries, Brazilian acai berries, raspberries and cranberries come from phytochemicals that protect against numerous types of cancer. Most recently, researchers at the University of Florida found that the active ingredient in acai berries destroyed cancer cells when tested in cell cultures. And blueberries and muscadine grapes contain compounds that recent research shows cause cancer cells in the liver to self-destruct. In studies particularly important to women, cranberries have recently been discovered to be an important weapon in the fight against deadly ovarian cancer. Studies reported at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society found that ovarian cancer cells that were becoming resistant to platinum chemotherapy – the standard of care for ovarian cancer – became six times more sensitive when exposed to a compound in cranberries.

One of the first plant-based chemicals to be studied for its anti-cancer properties, catechins -- the chemicals in green tea -- have been known for some time to prevent and reduce recurrence of breast and other cancers. With this particular chemical, experts even know why: a chemical known as EGCG inhibits breast tumor growth. Just two cups a day is enough to do the trick.

Numerous studies over the years (more than 30 different studies to date) have documented the anti-cancer properties of garlic. The strongest evidence so far has focused on digestive cancers, but garlic appears to protect against all types of cancer, including breast and prostate. According to the National Cancer Institute, an analysis of seven different large-scale population studies showed that the more raw and cooked garlic a person consumed, the lower his risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. One study found that middle-aged women who regularly consumed garlic had a 50 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer. Scientists have isolated two active ingredients in garlic, allicin and allyl sulfur, and demonstrated that they prevent and fight cancer in both animals and humans; you can take garlic in supplement form but the capsules must be enteric-coated to protect these active ingredients. Add crushed, fresh garlic to your meals whenever possible; some experts also recommend waiting 15 minutes between peeling and chopping the garlic to get the full effects of the active compounds

.British researchers made headlines last year with a study that showed that men with early signs of developing prostate cancer prevented tumor growth by eating broccoli four times a week. Other studies have shown anti-cancer benefits from eating cabbage, brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous vegetables. While I am not a huge fan of cabbage and brussel sprouts, I do love broccoli and cauliflower and eat these delicious veggies at least three times a week, raw and cooked.

Harvard researcher Edward Giovannucci reviewed 72 different studies published by the National Cancer Institute, and concluded that lycopene, the active chemical in tomatoes, lowered the risk of many different cancers, particularly prostate, breast, lung and colon cancer. 

The hype about red wine centers on an antioxidant called resveratrol that's present in grapes and grape juice, but is most concentrated in red wine. Numerous studies show that resveratrol possesses powerful anti-cancer activity.  The problem, however, is that higher alcohol intake has been linked to cancer as well, particularly breast and esophageal cancer. The solution? One glass of red wine a day, unless you're at risk for or have one of these types of cancer, or red wine gives you a very painful allergic headache!  Resveratrol supplements are, perhaps, a better choice.

The orange-yellow spice turmeric, best known for its role in Indian curries and other Asian dishes, fights cancer because of an active ingredient, curcumin, that's a powerful antioxidant. Watch out, though; according to the American Cancer Society, turmeric made certain anti-cancer drugs less effective when studied in animals and test tubes. Cancer patients shouldn't add a lot of turmeric to their diets or take curcumin supplements without talking to their doctors first.

The active ingredient in soy is genistein, which is a phytoestrogen that protects against hormone-dependent cancers. It's also a powerful inhibitor of several proteins that are implicated in the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. To get the anti-cancer benefits of soy, you need to consume about 25-75 grams per day of the whole food, such as raw fresh soybeans, known as edamame, dry roasted soybeans, or tofu. The research to date shows that supplements containing isoflavones don't work with the same action as soybeans themselves and in fact can be bad for you rather than good.

According to researchers in Ireland, who released studies in the past two years showing that eating watercress everyday can prevent the DNA damage that leads to cancer. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – but conducted in Ulster where people are more comfortable eating watercress -- found that antioxidants in the nutrient-rich greens prevented free radicals from damaging healthy cells. Spinach, which we're all more familiar with, is also a cancer-fighter; research conducted by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas showed spinach to protect against bladder cancer. The chemical that gives spinach its dark green color, chlorophyllin, proved to reduce the risk of liver cancer in research by the National Academy of Sciences. Who cares about muscles? Well, I do, but here's a much more important reason to eat your greens.

When undergoing chemotherapy treatments, I supplemented my diet with these super foods as well as some Chinese herbs and some other nutritional supplements that I won't mention in this blog, but I promise I will talk about in upcoming discussions.

It's important to remember that an anti-cancer diet or nutritional supplements should not be used in place of doctor-recommended treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. The experts in this field strongly recommend that those who've already been diagnosed with cancer use anti-cancer nutrients to bolster traditional medical cancer treatment, not to replace it.  

Break time...off to eat a snack of delicious grapes!  Blessings and Health to all of you!

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PictureTreya Wilber was my inspirational muse
When I was going through my chemotherapy treatments, I received a sweet but powerful book from one of my best and sweetest girlfriends, Nancy McCallum. It’s entitled Grace and Grit, Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber by Ken Wilber, her husband.  Contained within this book are many of the writings of Treya who became my muse, guiding me with her love, courage, and impeccable self-honesty. Because Treya's tumor was identical to mine, early stage and the most aggressive, and she died  five years after her initial diagnosis, I weighed whether I should be reading her story. More fear I did not need! But Treya validated  and inspired me as she raised my spiritual bar. And because her thoughts, feelings, and spirituality also seemed identical to my own, she became my sister in cancer. 

Treya’s presence lived with me daily, urging me and inviting me into a deeper self-compassion and shift of perspective. My goal wasn't just physical healing but inner change, inner choice, inner shifts in my being. When she began to question the reasons for her breast cancer, just as I had been doing, Ken responded to her,  "I don’t know what caused the cancer, and I don’t think anybody does. The people that go around saying that cancer is caused primarily by repressed emotions or low self-esteem or spiritual anemia don’t know what they’re talking about. There is no credible evidence whatsoever for those notions; they’re basically put forward by people who are trying to sell you something anyway.

Since nobody knows what caused your cancer, I don’t know what you should change in order to help cure it. So why don’t you try this? Why don’t you use cancer as a metaphor and a spur to change all those things in your life that you wanted to change anyway? In other words, repressing certain emotions may or may not have helped cause the cancer, but since you want to stop repressing those emotions anyway, then use the cancer as a reason, as an excuse, to do so.  I know advice is cheap here, but why not take the cancer as an opportunity to change all those things on your list that can be changed?" [Treya had also made a list of “reasons” for her cancer.]

I am not so sure I believed, or still believe, Ken's thoughts on the credibility of the Cancer Personality, but his response to his beloved Treya made sense in so many ways.  I certainly had my "What Caused My Cancer" list, but rather than focusing on them as the reasons for my cancer, I chose to use them as beacon lights to healing.

That being said, there are many who do believe that there is a Cancer Personality.  We will discuss them in upcoming conversations.  A hui ho!...Bye for now!

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

~ AA Serenity Prayer

This is the first of many of what I hope to be empowering conversations with my readers. Who are my readers?  
  • Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Women who have been diagnosed with a gynecological cancer.
  • Family & friends who need support with a loved one
I do believe from my own experience with breast and ovarian cancer that when a woman is first diagnosed with cancer, it forces her to focus, to prioritize, and learn what's important. And the need for vital support from her family, friends, and community goes up exponentially! That's what I'm here for...to provide extra support, to alleviate some fear, fill you with daily doses of inspiration and hope, and to provide you with educational resources and tools that will enhance your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.  I would also like to hear from you and find out what other issues you would like to discuss. Keep the Cancer Conversation going! Let's turn a cancer diagnosis into victory and healing!  

This shall be the new light, the new sun, which rises when the worn-out one shall set, and shall give light to them who are in shadow and darkness because of the old sun, which did not enlighten them.

~ Dante Alighieri