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Can a Nutritious Diet Help Prevent Cancer?

Following a nutritious diet has proven benefits: lowering your cholesterol, preventing heart disease and diabetes, and minimizing excess weight gain. However, it has not yet been proven whether a nutritious diet can prevent diseases like cancer because scientists are still trying to understand the role of antioxidants and free radicals. Basically, antioxidants shield cells from free radicals that damage cells, possibly leading to cancer. Numerous studies have shown that consuming foods high in antioxidants can cause damage to free radicals, thus decreasing cancer risk. Recently, however, some studies have shown inconclusive evidence, but research is still ongoing, and future results may be more concrete. In the meantime, consuming a diet high in antioxidants is not harmful to your body and may be proven in the future to be beneficial.

Getting Antioxidants Through Colorful Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidants are primarily found in fruit and vegetables, and various colors are said to represent different benefits. Frequently, fruit or vegetables with the same color provide the same cancer-fighting nutrient. As a result, it is best to eat a variety of colors because one antioxidant may not fight all cancers. In addition, the various colors will also provide you with a variety of vitamins and minerals.

iStock_000015224885XSmall.jpgRed Fruits and Vegetables: Lycopene

Red-colored fruit and vegetables contain lycopene, which may help prevent cancer, but is also good for your heart and memory. Foods that are red include watermelons, tomatoes, strawberries, red grapes, cherries, red apples, cranberries, pink grapefruit, pomegranates, raspberries, beets, red peppers, radishes, and red onions. Kidney and pinto beans are also considered red and provide the same benefits.

Orange and Fruits and Vegetables: Beta-Carotene, Carotenoids, and Vitamin C

Beta-carotene is another antioxidant that is found in orange-colored foods like carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, papayas, persimmons, pumpkin, apricot, and mangoes.

Yellow fruits and vegetables also contain carotenoids and include foods such as nectarines, oranges, pineapples, lemons, yellow squash, corn, yellow peppers, and butternut squash. Orange and yellow foods also have vitamin C that helps your immune system.

Green Fruits and Vegetables: Lutein and Indoles

Green foods contain lutein (good for eyes) and indoles that, in addition to possibly reducing your risk for cancer, also promote strong bones and teeth. Examples include broccoli, spinach, avocado, Brussels sprouts, green apples, green grapes, green olives, honeydew, kiwi, limes, green pears, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, green onions, okra, peas, green beans, asparagus, artichokes, arugula and zucchini. Some beans such as green lentils and edamame are also good sources. In addition, the green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, and spinach have beta-carotene.

Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables: Anti-Aging Antioxidants

Anti-aging antioxidants, anthocyanins and phenolics are frequently found in blue/purple foods. In addition, these antioxidants may help with memory function. Examples include blackberries, blueberries, black olives, plums, raisins, purple grapes, eggplant, and purple cabbage. Black beans would also fall into this category.

A Diet Rich in Vitamins

In addition, consuming foods high in Vitamins A, C, and E may also be beneficial to your health. Foods high in Vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, milk, and egg yolk. Examples of foods high in Vitamin C include most fruit and vegetables; vitamin E is found mainly in nuts and oils.

Overall, incorporating your diet to include a colorful variety of fruit and vegetables has multiple benefits. In addition to possibly preventing cancer, a nutritious diet is also good for your heart, vision, immune system, and living a healthy life.

Rhea Li is a Registered Dietitian who received her Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Texas. She has a special interest in working with children and has received her certification in pediatric weight management. Currently, she is working on a research study to determine the importance of nutrition in pediatric cancer patients. In the past, she has worked with pregnant women and their children. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, exercising, traveling and of course, eating. To contact Rhea, please visit dazzlingdietitian.blogspot.com or her Twitter account, Rhea_Li.



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