Phytonutrients: Nature’s Weapon Against Cancer

I am kind of a geek.  Close friends know this.  They know I spend several hours each day diving deep into research (both old and new) and learning about the power of plant foods for good health.  During these morning deep dives, I am focused mostly on what nature has to offer to help our bodies heal, improve our health and prevent chronic symptoms from developing in the first place.

Earlier this week, my geeky side found myself listening to a fabulous presentation that Dr. Kristi Funk, author of the best-selling book Breasts: The Owner’s Manual, gave at a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) event. She explained the cancer fighting power of eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts – a definite A-lister in the phytochemical world. So, I dove into how they, and other phytonutrients, help prevent breast cancer.  

So, what are phytonutrients?  

Phytonutrients, also called phytochemicals or antioxidants, are compounds produced by plants that provide health benefits to the body, especially in the fight against all cancers.

The chart below is a list of some of the phytonutrients that are powerful for preventing breast cancer, what foods you can find them in and why it should matter to you to bring them into your diet daily. 

PhytonutrientsFound in these foodsThis is why you should care
Isothiocyanates, insoles carotenoids, flavonoidsAll cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens (kale, spinach, bok choy, collard greens, watercress, arugula), brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, rutabaga and turnipsReduce breast cancer.
Decrease inflammation. Neutralize carcinogens.
Slow cancer cell growth. Stimulate cancer cell suicide.
Limit free radical damage. Preserve memory.
Lower heart disease.
Carotenoids: alpha-carotene, lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthinEverything orange: carrots (Gayle drank 2 quarts of carrot juice every day for 8 months), winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin, spaghetti), sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, and mangoReduce breast cancer. Neutralize carcinogens. Slow cancer cell growth. Stimulate cancer cell suicide. 
Limit free radical damage.
Carotenoids: beta-carotene, lycopeneTomatoesReduce breast cancer.
Slow cancer cell growth. Stimulate cancer cell suicide.
Limit free radical damage.
Allium Compounds (Allicin, Allyl sulfides), flavonoidsGarlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives, scallionsReduce breast cancer. Neutralize carcinogens.
Slow cancer cell growth. Lower heart disease.
Isoflavones (diadzein, genistein, glycinen), phenolic acids, protein kinase inhibitors, sphingolipidsSoy: tempeh, miso, natto, soybeans, edamame, soy milk, tofuReduce breast cancer.
Slow cancer cell growth. Reduce hot flashes.
Lessen breast pain.
LigninsGround flaxseedReduce breast cancer. Decrease inflammation.
Slow cancer cell growth.
Source: Breasts: The Owner’s Manual, written by Dr. Kristi Funk.

Also on the A-list of phytonutrients that you should include in your diet are those found in mushrooms, apples, green tea, coffee, citrus fruits, beans and walnuts.  All of the phytonutrients found in these foods have the powerful ability to reduce breast cancer risk. 

Let’s circle back around to broccoli, specifically broccoli sprouts.  According to Dr. Kristi Funk, as powerful as broccoli is at reducing your risk of breast cancer (and it is powerful), broccoli sprouts have 100 times the strength as broccoli.  100 times! 

In addition to being 100 times more powerful, Dr. Funk stated in her presentation that research is showing that broccoli sprouts target and kill cancer stem cells (CSC).  Targeting CSCs is important whether you are trying to prevent cancer or trying to heal from a cancer diagnosis.  CSCs, also known as cancer-initiating cells (CIC), are responsible for the sustained and uncontrolled growth of malignant tumors and are proposed to play significant roles in metastasis and recurrence.  By bringing broccoli sprouts into your daily diet, you can radically reduce your risk of a breast cancer recurrence. 

Closing

Since it is now believed that nearly half of all people in the world will face cancer at some point in their lives, finding foods that can target cancer could be a game changer. 

Cancer is a frightening word, but it doesn’t have to be.  The right information and the right foods can be important, not only in preventing cancer, but also for helping those who already have cancer heal. 

If you are interested in incorporating more healing plant-based foods into your diet, but not sure where or how to start, I can help you.

Every day I help clients understand life-saving research on food as medicine and how to make the transition to eating more plants easier for them and their families.  Having nutrition counseling they can trust saves them months and months of trial and error, helping them feel better faster.

My ultimate goal is to empower you to take control of your own health by providing trustworthy natural health information and advocating for your right to make informed health choices that are best for you. 

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Yetta Blair, CFNC, CHCC

Yetta is a certified functional nutrition practitioner, holistic cancer coach and speaker. She studied whole-food, plant-based nutrition with T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. She is a food driven analyst and works with clients to help them use nutrition principles to solve the root causes of their health symptoms. She knows that functional nutrition is the answer to our current healthcare crisis, both for individuals and for society at large, and wants to inform as many people as she can of the power of food to heal. Her promise to clients - if you eat better, you will feel better.