Dr. Abrams explains which food benefits a woman fighting cancer.
I think the foods that are best used in anyone’s fight against cancer, but particularly a woman, are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Our diet should be, as much as possible, plant-based. However, I don’t think that people fighting cancer benefit from being vegetarian, vegan, or focusing on a raw foods diet because I believe that we do need some animal protein and fat and particularly fish.
So, among the vegetables, I think cruciferous vegetables really offer the best plant nutrients or phytonutrients. They contain something called indole-3-carbinol, which we believe is such a potent cancer risk reducer that we are actually now trying to look at it as a possible chemotherapy agent.
For women with breast cancer, cruciferous vegetables also contain something called DIM, which is an estrogen modifier, which seems to be an advantageous compound for fighting breast cancer.
Heavily pigmented fruits, berries, grapes are also very good. I might say that I also recommend that my patients try as much as possible to eat organic and that’s not only to eliminate sprays, pesticides, fertilizers, etcetera, but a plant that’s grown outdoors organically needs to fight. It needs to fight against other plants, against insects and birds, and against the sunshine, and the only way plants can fight is to produce chemicals. And those chemicals that the plant produces in its effort to survive are the chemicals the plant nutrients, the phytonutrients that we benefit from.
A tomato grown indoors in a hot house that’s coddled and doesn’t need to fight doesn’t produce the same amount of plant nutrients that an organic tomato does. Other vegetables that are important are the yellow/orange vegetables and the green, leafy vegetables. Foliage from which we get folate, also important for many women’s cancers.
Again, I think that the omega-3 fats that are present in deep, coldwater fish are very anti-inflammatory, and what we are learning and perceiving is that many of the diseases of aging, both of men and women, are related to ongoing inflammation.
So, a diet rich in omega-3s coming from deep coldwater fish like salmon, albacore tuna, black cod, herring, mackerel, and sardine is very good anti-inflammatory and I believe also helpful in patients with cancer. I do recommend, since I know my patients aren’t going to eat those fish every day,that they supplement with an omega-3 supplement.
The other things that I recommend that people with cancer concentrate on with regard to spicing are garlic, ginger, onions and turmeric. Turmeric particularly is getting a lot of attention lately as a spice, if you will, that has many different avenues of activity against malignant cells. So, particularly for people with gastrointestinal malignancies, perhaps pancreatic or other liver and biliary system malignancies, I do recommend turmeric, and in the presence of black pepper, the concentration of turmeric that we absorb is increased one thousand fold.
Now as far as beverages, green tea I think is really important. I personally drink four cups, large cups, not Asian teacups, but four large cups of green tea every morning because, again, similar to the compound in cruciferous vegetables, the indole-3-carbinol, the ECGC in green tea is something that we are investigating as a possible chemotherapy because it seems to be so potent at reducing the risk of many cancers.
About Dr. Abrams, M.D.:
Dr. Donald I. Abrams, M.D., a cancer specialist, is director of clinical programs at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion. Abrams provides integrative medicine consultations for cancer patients and has completed research in complementary and alternative therapies including mind-body treatments, botanical therapies, medical use of marijuana and traditional Chinese medicine herbal therapies.
Visit Dr. Abrams at UCSF Medical Center