Six foods that could lower your risk of cancer

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By Dr. Dana Al Hamwi, DHA approved Clinical Dietician, India Gate, KRBL Ltd.

February 4 is observed as World Cancer Day globally to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Middle East countries, including the UAE, are showing a “disturbing rise” in the number of cancer patients and long-term projections show that cancer cases are expected to double by 2030, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While there are many leading causes of cancer, one of the key reasons is also lifestyle related including diet. Specific diet choices and foods with increased nutritional properties along with an active lifestyle can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. 

India Gate’s clinical dietician (DHA approved), Dr. Dana Al Hamwi shares six food items that can help you stay healthy and lower your risk of cancer.

Flax seeds 

Flax Seeds are one of the richest sources of Lignan which is a Phytoestrogen, a plant specific nutrient similar to the hormone estrogen. This similarity can cause the production of less active forms of estrogen in postmenopausal women, which aids in reducing the risk of cancer. 

The risk is lowered because of the way the phytoestrogens affect our cells. They help start a process known as apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. When a cell detects faults that could become cancerous, it will induce apoptosis to avoid copying the fault that could become cancerous. Phytoestrogens specifically found in lignan promote this process. 

The benefits are only present if taken as part of your diet, not as a supplement. You can take up to 3 tablespoons per day, and incorporate it into your favourite meals. 

Add it to yoghurt, kefir, or smoothies. It gives every food a richer and nutty flavour so it can also be used in salads or added to baked goods. 

Chia seeds 

Chia seeds are another source of lignan, meaning they can inhibit cancer cell growth the same way as flax seeds do. 

Chia seeds also have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that you can find in plant foods, and have been proven to inhibit the growth of not just breast cancer, but also cervical cancer.  

You can use chia seeds as an alternative source for lignan, but ideally, you want to use both chia and flax seeds, as each has its mix of beneficial nutrients. 

Chia seeds are also a great addition to smoothies, desserts, cereals, breads and breakfast bars.  

Sprouted brown rice 

Sprouted or germinated brown rice is similar to regular brown rice but has a sweeter flavour; it’s not as chewy, but it has more nutrients. 

It has quadruple the amount of fibre and vitamin E than in regular rice, and triple the amount of vitamins B1, B6, and magnesium. Moreover, it contains more phytic acid than other types of rice, an acid that inhibits cancer cell development, and it seems to be the only whole-grain food that has demonstrated risk reduction in studies. 

Sprouted brown rice is versatile and can be added as a side or main dish, and even added to soups and salads. 

Quinoa

This ancient grain is a great protein source, being the only complete protein of all the plant-based options (this means it has all eight essential amino acids). It has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties thanks to the nutrients it holds. 

It’s full of polyphenols and saponins such as oleanolic acid that inhibit cancer growth but also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties too. Another ingredient found in quinoa are flavanols – specifically epigallocatechin, catechin, and epicatechin – which have antioxidant and antimutagenic properties. 

Dark-green leafy vegetables

Be it kale, salad greens, spinach, bok choy, or broccoli, they are full of fibre, meaning they will keep you full for longer, and have lots of magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. Their anti-cancer properties come from carotenoids – powerful antioxidants that suppress cancer cell growth.

Make it a habit to regularly include dark leafy greens into your lunch, be it as a salad or side dish. Just be aware that the more you cook dark-green leafy vegetables, the more nutrients they lose. 

Spices 

Many spices have known anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immune-boosting properties. Spices most mentioned for their anti-cancer properties include:

  • Turmeric and it’s compound curcumin
  • Garlic and its natural organosulfur compounds
  • Black pepper with piperine alkaloid
  • Chili pepper with capsaicin 
  • Ginger with bioactive phenolics
  • Black cumin with thymoquinone
  • Saffron with crocin and crocetin

The above mentioned compounds help induce apoptosis, which we already explained, while others will aid in cancer treatment by making cancer cells more susceptible to chemo and radiotherapy.  

Include spices into most of your dishes. Not only will your meals taste much better, they will also help you maintain health! 

Top foods to avoid

 At the top of the list are red meat and processed meats, because common meat-derived mutations increase the risk of many types of cancer. Other foods to avoid include: 

  • Sugars
  • Processed foods
  • Fats
  • Alcohol 
Healthy habits are the most important 

Ultimately prevention is key to reducing the risk of breast cancer, and this involves creating a habit out of eating healthy foods regularly. Regular screenings, awareness of family history, and being aware of what is normal for your body, combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle all help reduce risk and improve the outcome if you do develop cancer. 

About India Gate and KRBL Group

India Gate, a benchmark in quality food standards, is a KRBL Group flagship brand. As a global food brand, India Gate continues to earn respect and patronage among consumers the world over.

Apart from the newly introduced Quinoa, India Gate also specializes in brown rice and is known in the region for its highest selling India Gate Classic Basmati Rice.  

KRBL’s journey started over 120 years ago as a company that engaged in grain marketing and agro processing. It was later incorporated in 1993 with the objective of processing paddy and with its vast experience and expertise, the miller is now synonymous with basmati rice – favorably positioning Indian basmati on the global food map.

As the world’s largest basmati miller and exporter, KRBL is currently present across all the basmati eating regions such as Asia, Middle East, Europe, USA, Canada, and Africa. KRBL is known for its seed development and farmer engagement program and the trust it has earned by implementing the fastest- scalable lab-to-market Public-Private Partnership project with the synonymous 1121 grain.  

KRBL has won many accolades throughout the years with its most recent award being the awarded the coveted APEDA Award Golden Trophy for the largest exporter of Basmati rice.  Additionally, it has received in 2016 Guinness World Records for the heaviest bag of rice. In 2015, it received the prestigious NAAS India Silver Jubilee Award for Basmati rice trade development.