Many people wonder if and how a whole food plant-based diet can reverse cancer.
Here is the answer: According to a report published in 2018, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research analyzed data from 51 million people to develop a global blueprint for cancer prevention. These studies showed that following a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent approximately 40% of all cancer cases. Following an enhanced plant-based diet increases those odds by over 20% more.
Can a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Reverse Cancer
Here’s how a plant-based diet can help fight cancer — and what a cancer prevention plant-based diet may look like.
Plant-Based Cancer Prevention
Did you know that vegetarians actually have lower rates of cancer? What is it about their diet that makes the evidence so clear?
It’s true that whole plant-based food, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, are packed with cancer fighting ingredients. Plants produce phytochemicals (literally “plant chemicals”). These phytochemicals function to protect plants against invasion, disease, and infection. They do the same for us. They protect healthy cells from oxidative damage and they have great anti-inflammatory effects.
Studies show that women who ate the most fiber-rich diets were 25% less likely to develop breast cancer later in life. Other research shows that fiber can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 10% for every 10 grams of fiber consumed daily. According to the Dietary Guidelines of Americans, you should aim for 14 grams for each 1000 calories you consume. For most people that would be a goal of about 25 grams of fiber per day.
Additionally, vegetarians and plant-based eaters naturally consume fewer calories with their high fiber food intake, which reduces the risk of being overweight. It is important to note that obesity has been directly correlated to higher rates of certain types of cancer.
1. Take in the Rainbow
Your diet is more likely to have an abundance of cancer-fighting compounds if it is naturally colorful. The bright colors in fruit and vegetables, such as beta-carotene in sweet potatoes or lycopene in tomatoes, reduces the risk of cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and stomach cancer, whereas carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes are more likely to lower the risk of breast cancer.
2. Take Up Drinking Green Tea
As you may have heard green tea has antioxidant properties. Breast cancer is one of many types of cancer that it helps combat. Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3 gallate, which may inhibit the actions of urokinase (an enzyme crucial for cancer growth). One cup of green tea contains about 150 mg of this cancer-fighting chemical.
3. Enjoy Soy – Don’t Listen to the Naysayers
Soybeans are nutritious, despite what you may have heard. There is a lot of confusion about whether or not soy is safe.
Some of this confusion is because people tend to not differentiate between estrogen and phytoestrogen. In adolescence, the natural hormone estrogen is released in the human body to play a role in normal development. As we age, and the hormone is no longer needed, it tends to taper off. This natural process is disrupted when we eat animal sources of estrogen which can result in the development of cancer, specifically breast and prostate cancer.
Plant sourced phytoestrogen, on the other hand, actually has the opposite effect. It competes with the animal sourced estrogen at the estrogen receptors by blocking it, thereby reducing the risk of the disease.
Another source of confusion developed back when the original studies were conducted on rodents many years ago. Using those tests they wrongly concluded that soy caused cancer in humans. Many years later, tests were redone on humans that showed soy had the opposite effect. These studies demonstrated that women who ate soy lived longer, had lower cancer rates, and had greater survivorship by 30-40 percent.
Soy is also good for cardiac health. It has been shown to lower blood pressure as it appears to help buffer or curb the damaging effects of salt on blood vessels.
4. Incorporate Omega-3-rich Food
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds contain about 100 times more lignans than other plant-based food. Lignans are phytoestrogens that help prevent the release of endogenous estrogen. Flaxseeds are also excellent for reducing and preventing heart disease.
5. Don’t Eat Deli Meat
Each 50-gram daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two bacon slices or one sausage link, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21%. The World Health Organization has clearly classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.” A 120-gram daily serving of red meat, equivalent to a small steak, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 28%.
6. Dramatically Reduce or Eliminate Animal Products
Animal protein contains insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is crucial for cell growth during development. In adulthood, it naturally tapers off. With the consumption of animal hormones or protein, cancer naturally develops. Studies showed that reduced intake of animal protein improved resistance to tumors in humans. A study in 2011 verified this study by showing that a person’s IGF-1 levels dropped by nearly 20% after they stopped consuming animal products.
7. Give Up Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are loaded with salt and a variety of dangerous chemicals, including many cancer causing agents. Additionally, meat that is grilled releases carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and a compound called PhIP. There is a clear association between PhIP and multiple cancers.
8. Have more Fibrous Food
Fiber-rich food reduces the risk of breast cancer by 62%. Consuming at least 20g of fiber daily reduces breast cancer risk by 15%. Most people consume fewer than 15g a day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams for each 1,000 calories. For most people, that is about 28 grams of fiber per day.
9. Avoid Alcohol
Replace your cocktail with a mocktail. One drink per day or more has been clearly linked to an increased risk for colorectal and breast cancer.
Learn everything you need to know about a whole food plant-based diet. Our book includes over a hundred delicious plant-based recipes and substitution ideas to get you started. You will be able to to replace all of the unhealthy ingredients in your diet so that you too can reverse disease.