Lung cancer is the second most common malignant disease at the moment, with over 200,000 new cases every year in the U.S. It is estimated that the lifetime chance of developing lung cancer is 1 in 14 for men and 1 in 17 for women. As cancer is a complex disease with multiple contributing factors, including tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure, but also inherited gene mutation, there is no clear way of preventing it. However, medical studies have found reliable evidence that certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing lung cancer significantly or even help with your prognosis.
There is no doubt that nutrition plays a key role in lung cancer prevention. A considerable portion of medical research is focused on the correlation between diet and cancer risk. While certain foods, such as hydrogenated oils and processed meat, have proved to increase the chances of developing cancer, there are some which have a beneficial effect on cancer risk. It is perhaps not surprising that a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer to a great extent along with other healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise and being a non-smoker.
Yellow, orange and red fruits are essential in a cancer-preventing diet, as they contain a large number of phytonutrients. These chemical compounds produced by plants have positive effects on health and are also linked to a lower risk of disease. Although there are over 25,000 phytonutrients in plant-based foods, carotenoids, lycopene, anthocyanine and flavonoids are four of the most important ones when it comes to preventing cancer. Hereinafter, we will discuss how yellow, orange and red fruits can reduce the risk of lung cancer when included in your daily diet.
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Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, as well as lycopene, are present in all yellow fruits, acting as antioxidants. These phytonutrients protect cells from free radicals, which the blood of smokers is abundant in due to the chemicals found in cigarettes. Free radicals are toxic substances which destroy the membranes of cells and the DNA. Consequently, consuming yellow fruits regularly is highly beneficial in the prevention of lung cancer, particularly in the case of smokers. Nevertheless, eliminating tobacco will decrease your chances of becoming ill considerably more.
Moreover, your body will convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is also important for the optimal functioning of your body. It is crucial to take your beta-carotene from natural sources and not from supplements, as a very high concentration of vitamin A can actually increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Some of the positive effects of yellow fruits are:
- a stronger immune system
- lower blood pressure
- reduced level of free radicals in the blood
- lower LDL cholesterol
Yellow fruits high in carotenoids include:
- star fruit
- yellow grapefruit
Orange fruits are also rich in beta-carotene and lycopene. Additionally, they contain high concentrations of flavonoids, another group of phytonutrients which is essential in fighting lung cancer. Flavonoids represent the largest group of phytonutrients, with over 6,000 different types. Similarly to carotenoids, flavonoids act as antioxidants. Consuming orange fruits rich in flavonoids can prevent the onset of lung cancer by boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation within the body and eliminating free radicals.
Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants which has been associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer. It can be found in high concentrations in most orange fruits, as well as in tomatoes, and including it in your diet also decreases the chances of developing colon, esophageal, stomach and prostate cancer.
Folic acid, which promotes the growth of new cells and maintains the health of preexistent one, is also present in a wide variety of orange fruits, such as papaya and oranges. Vitamin C is found in orange fruits in high amounts as well. It is crucial for a strong immune system and vitamin C also prevents cell damage. Some of the most beneficial orange fruits you should include in a cancer-preventing diet are:
Anthocyanins occur in red fruits, as well as in blue fruits, and are some of the most effective phytonutrients in preventing cancer. There are numerous medical studies supporting the beneficial role of anthocyanins – the flavonoid which gives color to red and blue fruits – in decreasing the risk of cancer. Because this phytonutrient is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, it survives for a longer period of time in the gastrointestinal tract. For this reason, consuming red fruits also contributes to the prevention of stomach and colon cancer. Some of the anti-cancer properties of anthocyanins are:
- promotes cancer cell death – if malignant cells start developing inside the body, anthocyanins will trigger apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, which will promptly eliminate cancer before it spreads
- reduces inflammation – anthocyanins inhibit two inflammatory proteins associated with cancer, nuclear factor-kappa B and cyclooxygenase-2, thereby preventing the onset of cancer
- anti-toxic effects – as powerful antioxidants, anthocyanins have a series of outstanding benefits on cells, such as increasing their oxygen-radical absorbing capacity and reducing cellular proliferation, which occurs in tumors
Although not a fruit, purple corn has been found to be the most powerful source of anthocyanins, being able to reduce cancer cell growth by up to 50%. However, the same study revealed that bilberries and chokeberries are nearly as effective in fighting cancer as purple corn. Red fruits are also rich in folic acid and vitamin C.
The following red fruits are highly beneficial in a cancer-preventing diet:
- red grapes