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is it possible to prevent and reverse disease?

One in three cancer cases are a result of lifestyle choices. A plant-based diet is a powerful way to reduce the risk. 

You keep hearing about the benefits of a plant-based diet, but what are some of the major ones? Well, the biggest thing is its health benefits. A plant-based diet has the power to prevent and reverse disease... that's  right, it can even "cure" certain ailments!

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in America today. According to NCBI a staggering 30-35% of cancer-related deaths were due to diet. That is a staggering 214,000 people a year that die from cancer due to the food and drinks they put in their body.

You know the great thing? A plant-based diet is a powerful way to reduce cancer risk. And for the people who have already been diagnosed with cancer, it is an important way to improve survival. The cool thing about plant-based food is that they are full of natural color. The more naturally colorful your diet is, the more likely it is to have an abundance of cancer-fighting compounds.

The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright colors—like beta-carotene in sweet potatoes or lycopene in tomatoes—help you fight cancer (PCRM). I go on and on about the different beneficial aspects of a plant-based diet, but I will just give you a few to give you an idea.

Plant-based foods contain fiber, which help your body get rid of excess hormones that could lead to breast and prostate cancer. It also helps prevent colorectal cancer by quickly helping your body remove waste from the digestive system. Now, on to two of the big culprits, meat and dairy. Avoiding or limiting dairy can not only lower the risk or prostate, breast, ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease, but for my lactose intolerant people out there, it could reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Instead of dairy, great sources of calcium are foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, etc.

Although red meats are a lot worse than chicken and fish, cooking any meat at a high temperature (grilled, fried, broiled) produces carcinogens, which are harmful for our bodies. Red meat in particular, like bacon, steak, and hot dogs, contains harmful substances that lead to colorectal cancer. A World Health Organization report found that eating processed meats daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent…that is alarming. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research said, “basing our diets around plant foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans), which contain fiber and other nutrients, can reduce our risk of cancer.” 

There has been countless research done on the power of following a plant-based diet, and a profound amount of those research studies dove deep into the health benefits including preventing and reversing several diseases like diabetes and heart disease. For those that unfortunately already have cancer, a plant- based diet can prevent and slow cancer growth, which could mean several years added to one’s life expectancy! It reduces gastrointestinal and women-specific cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer due to the cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients found in natural plants.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, diet change could prevent as many as ONE-THIRD of all cancer cases in the U.S. With this in mind, why do we wait until we get a diagnosis to try and prevent the disease? According to Neal Barnard, MD “unfortunately that message tends to get buried. We wait until a cancer diagnosis and then try some heroic means of combating it, through chemotherapy, through radiation. It is so much better to prevent it from ever occurring, and the answer to that is food.” Prevention is better than cure, don’t you agree? 

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of processed meats, refined grains, and sugars, which slowly but surely harm us. In the above chart that applies the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer, the benefit and harm of different substances we see every day is laid out in terms of if they increase or decrease the risk of cancer, and by how much. For example, 2 glasses of milk a day increases the risk of prostate cancer by 60%! For those that think taking calcium supplements is beneficial, a 400 mg calcium supplement increases the risk of prostate cancer by 51% which is almost as bad as drinking regular milk. 120 grams of red meat a day, which is about the size of the palm of your hand, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 28%, and that is actually less harmful than 2-3 glasses of alcohol a day, which increase the risk by 21%. What is the most harmful thing in terms of cancer risk? Want to take a guess? It is the Western Diet overall, which increases the risk of gastric cancer by 200%. That is insane.

On the flip side natural soy food, tomato products, carotenoid vegetables, high intake of fruits, and cruciferous vegetables DECREASE the risk of breast cancer by 30, 27, 19, 11, and 18% respectively. Living an overall healthy life can decrease the risk of all cancers by 30%. If that is not motivating enough, I don’t know what is.

Read more about 'Are you at risk for heart disease?'

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