Mackie Shilstone / East Jefferson General Hospital Fitness & Nutrition Expert

Throughout the month of November, each Monday on Eyewitness News at 5, I'll be giving you my 'Five at 5,' with things to add to your diet for better health, or combating some common health issues. This week, we're talking about five foods or food ingredients that can fight cancer.

Keep in mind that the kitchen and the garden are now centers of healing.

These naturally-occurring compounds are advantageous in several aspects of chemoprevention because they are present in common foods and they usually have very low or no toxicity in contract to most chemotherapy drugs

The September 2011 Issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry gives some insight. The research article, 'Implications of Cancer Stem Cell Theory for Cancer Chemoprevention by Natural Dietary Compounds,' states that 'since large numbers of epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between consumption of fruits and vegetables and the reduced risk of various cancers, naturally occurring dietary compounds have received increasing attention for their efficacy in cancer chemoprevention.' This article was compiled at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

Research has started to look at the existence of 'cancer stem cells (CSC) or tumor-initiating cells in several human cancers. According to the article, most currently available therapeutic approaches, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, lack the ability to effectively kill these CSC's.

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Here are my top 5 natural dietary compounds and their potential impact on fighting cancer:

  1. Curcumin - a dietary polyphenol found in an Indian spice, Tumeric. Tumeric is used in the preparation of yellow mustard and curry. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. It appears to effect the progression of gastric, colon, and intestinal cancers. It is also a member of the ginger family, and ginger is soothing to the stomach.
  2. Sulforaphane - an extensive number of studies support the chemoprevention property of a high consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts. Sulforaphane has demonstrated in animal studies in preventing chemically-induced cancers, including breast cancer, and inhibiting growth of 'established tumors,' and in sulforaphane-treated breast cancer cells.
  3. Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) - Green tea, containing EGCG, is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world. Research points to the effect of green tea on cancer prevention. EGCG is considered the most abundant 'catechin' in green tea and a 'potent chemopreventive agent.' Benefit comes in 3-5 cups of green tea per day.
  4. Lycopene Found in tomatoes, this is one of the most extensively-studied carotenoids. It possesses potent anti-oxidant activity and can inhibit the progression in various cancer cells, including prostate cancer in men.
  5. Peperine - a dietary polyphenol isolated in black pepper and long peppers has been reported to reduce cancer incidence in chemical rodent models of lung cancer. In studies it has also been show to increase the absorption of beta carotene and selenium, which is important in cancer-fighting.
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