Most people think a diet high in fruits and vegetables will prevent them from getting cancer. However a recent review of the research indicates that there might be less of an association than previously suspected. Just because broccoli may not be the veggie version of Superman–does not mean you should skip your greens. As the professor who wrote the review indicated, it might be difficult to truly assess this relationship because of other factors that could play a role, such as smoking, alcohol use, environment, how long the person has eaten a diet high in fruits and vegetables and other dietary factors.
Why You Should Eat Your Fruits and Veggies:
- One study found smokers that ate a variety of vegetables decreased their risk of lung cancer. “Different fruits and vegetables contain different bioactive compounds known as phytochemicals. Various pigments in vegetables, such as the red (lycopene) in tomatoes, may confer health benefits that differ from the blue (anthocyanin) in purple cabbage.”
- Other research showed that a higher intake of cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cabbage) may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Research on aging shows the eldest amongst us eat their greens. On a Japanese island called Okinawa there is an unusually high number of centenarians. How do they keep diseases like cancer at bay, researchers think the key might be found in their diet that is full of green leafy vegetables.
- Researchers reviewed numerous studies on pomegranates for cancer prevention or treatment. “The results were overwhelmingly in favor of pomegranate, in the form of juice, extract or seed oil. The studies suggest pomegranate to potentially slow the initiation and development of cancer of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Applying pomegranate extract or seed oil to the skin might also help slow skin cancer.”
While increasing your fruit and veggie intake may not give you definitive protection against cancer, this does not give you permission to cross them off your grocery list. They are full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that benefit our health and a high intake has been associated with reduced blood pressure.
Make sure to include a variety of them in your diet and get at least five servings per day as recommended by the USDA. A serving of fruit is equal to ½ cup or a small piece of whole fruit. A vegetable serving is equal to ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy greens.
Fruits and vegetables may not be a magic bullet for cancer prevention but they are definitely a major player in a healthy diet. If you’re new to these food groups, read our article on how to incorporate them into your diet. And stay tuned for future research as the study of the association between fruits, vegetables and cancer is far from over.