In the food realm, they are the good guys, protecting the body against dreaded free radicals and giving cancer cells the boot.
These "super foods," as they are known, are powerful allies for any body, particularly one that's fighting cancer, because they boost strength and immunity and help rid the body of toxins. Or so say three naturopathic physicians at Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center.
Mark Gignac, Heidi Lucas and Paul Reilly work side-by-side with oncologists at the Capitol Hill clinic, the only cancer center in the Northwest to integrate medical oncology and complementary cancer therapies under one roof.
Here are their super heroes:
Vegetables are high in fiber and rich in antioxidants or the substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Free-radical damage can lead to cancer.
Most vegetables also have a low Glycemic Index (GI), meaning they result in a gradual rise in blood sugar in the body as opposed to the spike produced by high-GI foods like bagels and French fries. Low glycemic-index foods have been shown to help prevent certain diseases, including type-2 diabetes, and promote weight loss.
The best vegetables are colorful, such as beets, spinach, carrots and tomatoes, or "cruciferous," belonging to a family that includes cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.
Onions and garlic contain special bioflavonoids, or plant pigments, that can actually revert a cancer cell back into a healthy cell. The cancer-fighting compounds allicin and S-allyl cysteine, and the mineral selenium, an antioxidant, also are found in onions and garlic.
High-quality proteins - including eggs, salmon, turkey, lean beef and chicken - help the immune system fight cancer. In fact, immune cells are made of protein, fueled by protein and signaled to attack by protein. Vegetarian sources of protein include soy, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, barley, millet, buckwheat and rye, are full of fiber, which friendly bacteria in the colon break down into to a nutrient called butyrate that acts as a powerful poison to cancer cells.
Colorful berries - raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, dark cherries, blueberries and blackberries - contain a strong anti-cancer agent, ellagic acid, which causes cancer cells to self-destruct.
Green tea is a treasure trove of cancer-fighting agents that have been shown to prevent and even reverse some forms of cancer.
Clean water ... OK, so it's not really a food, but it helps to cleanse and dilute impurities in the body (two-thirds of which is water), stabilize pH, and provide a healthy flow of nutrients into the cells.
Healthy fats and oils - Every cell in the body wears a coat of fat. Fat is needed to maintain proper cell function and is the preferred fuel of muscle tissue. Some fats contain a special compound that helps fight cancer. Choose healthy fats and oils, including fish oil, olive oil, flax oil and even real butter (organic).
At Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, founded 1997, medical oncology is supported by scientifically based therapies, including nutrition, naturopathy, mind-body medicine, acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In addition to the naturopaths, the clinical staff includes two doctors board-certified in oncology and internal medicine, a nurse practitioner, a social worker and mind/body therapist, and two acupuncturists.
For further information, call 1-800-774-3144 or visit the Web site at seattlecancerwellness.com