Phytochemicals are substances you may have heard of that are found especially in fruits and vegetables. No hard evidence has been found proving that any isolated phytochemical prevents cancer. However, it makes sense that one or a combination of many of these, as found in fruits and vegetables, are responsible for helping fight this terrible disease. Based on evidence, it seems phytochemicals fight cancer by helping our body’s own defense mechanisms clean out the bad guys (cancer-causing toxins called carcinogens), or chemically neutralizing or blocking them from reaching the cell in the first place. They may also help our body’s own cells prevent other cells that may be on their way to becoming cancerous from progressing through further dangerous stages.

The major phytochemicals include isothiocyanates (ITCs) in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage or kale), polyphenols (in tea, coffee and berries), resveratrol (in red wines) and beta carotene in vegetables like carrots.

Phytochemical ITCs help us fight cancer through many mechanisms, including inhibition of enzymes that turn on with exposure to carcinogens, induction of carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes, the increase of cancerous cell auto destruction (called apoptosis), the halt of cell progression into more dangerous stages, and finally through inhibition of the proliferation of cancer cells already developed in the body.

Phytochemical Facts

To illustrate some phytochemical facts about this development, cancer cells progress through different stages:

  • Initiation – When a normal cell is primed to start its path to becoming a cancer cell due to the effect of carcinogens on the normal cell’s DNA. Some phytochemicals that have been shown to block this process include:
  • ellagic acid: found in berries like strawberries or raspberries, and nuts like walnuts and pecans
  • indole-3-carbinol: found in the cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cabbage)
  • sulphoraphane: may be effective in tongue, prostate and bladder cancer prevention—found again in broccoli and cabbage
  • Promotion – When a primed cell undergoes changes to become a pre-cancerous cell. Curcumin, found in curry, turmeric and mustard, has been shown to prevent this. In addition, apples containing chlorogenic acid may prevent tumor promotion as well. Other substances include beta carotene (found in yellow or orange vegetables), reservatrol found in red wine, and capsaicin found in peppers (which may be particularly effective in lung and prostate cancer). Promotion may be a reversible process, and we may have a chance to beat it with diet, because it may take several years for a tumor’s promotion to a cancer—that may provide us the time we need to change our eating habits.
  • Progression – After several “hits” in the promotion phase, a cell crosses the irreversible threshold to become a cancer cell. This is much more difficult to control and may require medical intervention. However, there may be some phytochemicals that could still help our own defenses before this even becomes clinically evident, including flavonoids. Some flavonoids include quercitin, found in onions and citrus fruits. They also include catechins found in cocoa, dark chocolate and green tea, and anthocyanins found in blueberries, grapes, raspberries or cranberries. Again, curcumin may also help to slow down progression.
  • Concerning phytoestrogens or “plant” estrogens, such as soy, those with cancer should be aware of the potential of tumor growth. Phytoetrogens are currently regarded as controversial. Please talk to your physician about these or any foods or supplements you may wish to take. Even certain foods may interfere with medications, so it’s important to include her or him in your diet plans.
    Though not explicitly proven, there is no doubt that convincing data will soon show that phytochemicals in our diet will definitely prevent cancer and heart disease. New tide-turning data has recently surfaced proving how we definitely can beat these diseases. Phytochemical enthusiasts absolutely need to learn about The Aquavore Diet, written by cancer specialist Dr. William Dunn. This book lays down the law on the best, proven way to avoid cancer! It was written for people who want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, while giving you the best odds to beat these diseases and maintain the healthiest body you can.
    Learn more about phytochemicals and a diet that may fight cancer by reading The Aquavore Diet today!

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