Lately, I have been reading a lot about “plant based eating”. In particular, I am finding Julieanna Hever’s book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition absolutely fascinating! Well, all I can say is this: it’s a good thing her book was written specifically with idiots in mind, ‘cause when it comes to plant based eating, I was admittedly a complete idiot! Like many, my first response upon hearing that someone eats a plant based diet was, “But where are you going to get your protein?” Julieanna has a great response to that question: “The same place gorillas, elephants, water buffalo, and horses get theirs.” Oh, from plants. Duh!
My second misunderstanding was that eating plant based meant living on green leafy salads. In my humble opinion, salads are meant as appetizers or sides. God did not create them to be eaten as main courses. I would literally perish if I had to subsist on salads alone! Well, the good news is, there is much more to plant based eating than fruits and veggies. In fact, there are two other entire food groups to choose from: whole grains and legumes. Being a carb lover, this comes as a pleasant surprise to me.
Even though I have certainly been eating healthier since my cancer diagnosis, I will admit, meat continues to play a starring role in many of my meals. Therefore, I have decided to go one step further in improving my diet by taking the 21 Day Vegan Diet Challenge! If you are serious about improving your health, maybe you would like to sign up and take the challenge as well: http://support.pcrm.org/site/PageServer?pagename=21day_vegan_kickstart&JServSessionIda003=upegog3qg1.app234c
I am very fortunate to have my very own VEGAN COACH, Susan Gonzalez, co-author of 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving It to coach me through my challenge. Before I really commit to this, however, I have two questions for Susan:
- Can you share some information with us about the link between diet and cancer? And more importantly:
- Can I still drink wine on a plant based diet?
1. You want information about the link between diet and cancer?
We’re gunna need a bigger blog, Flo!
Plant-based, high fiber, balanced diets that contain whole foods, and that limit processed foods containing artificial additives, have been associated with lower cancer risks for most cancers…..not just those involving the digestive system.
Let’s start with the positive, that is, what SHOULD you be eating to keep cancer away. Everyone knows about the fruits and vegetables. To reduce your risk of most cancers, of course, eat more of them. The more color your food has, the more cancer fighting properties it probably has. Eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will keep a multitude of illnesses at bay when it is part of your overall healthy diet.
But the scientists continue to study the cancer-fighting power that comes from a select bunch of foods. We know that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, watercress to name a few) contain phytochemicals such as “carotenoids” and “glucosinolates” and “sulforaphanes”. When these food substances are digested they turn into indoles and isothiocyanates and others, which have been proven to slow or prevent the growth of cancer cells. They also have potent anti-inflammatory effects (Inflammation is the root of most chronic illnesses including cancer.)
Studies continue to show that there is a powerful anti-cancer potential for these phytochemicals (plant substances) in their digested form, which means you have to actually eat the vegetable in its whole form to get the benefits. (Which may be the reason why vitamin supplements have not been shown to be affective in cancer prevention.)
A very promising study looked at concentrated sulforaphanes (a substance very high in broccoli) in treating leukemia and found that when cancerous leukemia cells were exposed to concentrated levels of sulforaphanes, they die. You can check out the American Institute for Cancer Research’s site to see current and past studies on cruciferous foods and cancer.
Then there are antioxidants, which are substances found in food that slow the rate of cell death and damage. Vitamin A, C, and E are the best known antioxidants and are found in abundance in many colorful foods like citrus fruits and orange vegetables. Antioxidants prevent “free radicals” that do harm to you general health and can pave the way for cell mutation (cancer). The best way to get your antioxidants is from your diet, not from vitamin pills.
Now for the flip side. Every 5 years the American Cancer Society publishes a document called “The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention”. This study looks at information and research from around the world and includes the input from the world’s top cancer prevention scientists.
The latest study shows that limiting red meat and avoiding processed meats (like bacon and deli meats) reduces your risk of most cancers…not just digestive ones, and suggests adopting a diet that is “plant-based”. Plant-based means the majority of your diet and intake should come from plant foods and not animal products like dairy, meat and eggs. In the book “The China Study” a relationship was made between animal protein intake and increased cancer risk.
There’s a huge battle going on right now among the “foodies”. There’s the “eat meat” camp and the “don’t eat meat” camp. No matter which camp you read about on the internet, the fact remains that the non-biased, world-wide scientific agencies looking at diet and cancer risk all agree: Plant-based diets reduce risk of all cancers.
A long-term high sugar diet has also been shown to increase the risk of cancers by affecting the liver, making it “fatty” and unable to rid your body of toxins. Increased toxins= increased free radicals=increased cell death and destruction= increased cancer risk.
Fear not! Following a plant-based, whole foods diet is easier than you think! (You will find out just how easy as you follow Flo through her 21 day Vegan challenge.)
2. Now for the important question! Yes, Flo, you can drink wine on a plant-based diet, but remember, one six ounce serving is considered the limit. When your intake is controlled, red wine can be beneficial to your heart and circulation and contains cancer fighting resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties. Cheers!