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Foods to reduce Cancer risks

Published:Thursday | April 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Black-eyed peas

It is important to take care in meal planning to increase the intake of nutrients and antioxidants to boost the immune system to reduce the risk of cancer.

Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor

The incidence of cancer of any type is increasing. You probably know persons who are suffering from cancer and others who may have succumbed to this dreadful disease. Cancer is formed when there is damage to the genetic code of the cell - the DNA. As a result, the cells grow and reproduce out of control (Murray 2005).

It is important to take care in meal planning to increase the intake of nutrients and antioxidants to boost the immune system to reduce the risk of cancer. Simply put, the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer, recommends the following dietary guidelines:

1. Reduce the intake of dietary fat

2. Consume lavish amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains

3. Minimise the amounts of salt-cured, smoked or charcoal broiled foods you consume.

4. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation

Change eating habits

Putting the recommended guidelines in place may require changing some of your regular eating habits including cultural-specific meals that may be consumed in excessive amounts. Food combinations should provide a well-balanced nutrient intake with a decrease in food from animals and increase in the consumption of plant foods.

Dark greens and deep yellows

There are some foods that should be consumed liberally and regularly. These are dark green and deep yellow fruits and vegetables. The colours of dark green and deep yellow fruits and vegetables are enticing and contain rich sources of beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A. These vegetables are rich in iron, folacin, vitamins C, E, B6, magnesium, calcium and zinc. In its natural form, fruits and vegetables provide fibre for 'sweeping out' highly toxic fecal matter from the intestines. Fruits and vegetables are best eaten raw and triple portions should be served.

These fruits and vegetables can also be used in casseroles, salads, beverages, and soups. Popular vegetables that can add variety to the diet include broccoli, callaloo, carrots, pak choy, watercress, parsley, pumpkin, bell peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant, okras and mustard greens. Fruits include cantaloupe, guava, papaya, tangerine, mango, watermelon, banana, pineapple and grapes.


Legumes are another group of foods that should be eaten in liberal portions as they are rich in vitamin B6, protein, iron, thiamine, niacin, folacin, zinc and magnesium. Combined with grains, legumes provide an excellent source of protein. They are excellent for making stews, soups and adding to entrées. In the legume group, there are black-eyed peas, broad beans, gungo peas, chick peas (garbanzo), lentils, lima beans and red kidney peas.

Whole grains

It is recommended that whole grains be eaten in lavish amounts as they contain magnesium, zinc, folacin, vitamin E, thiamine, zinc and fibre. Wholegrains should be consumed instead of enriched/refined cereals which are far less nutritious. Grains for cooking include wholegrain barley, brown rice, bulgur and millet. Popcorn without butter, graham crackers, wholewheat noodles and wheat germ are other excellent grain sources.

Watch the fats!

Moderate consumption is recommended for low-fat dairy products that include skim milk, non-fat dried milk, and low-fat yoghurt. In addition to protein, these provide calcium, riboflavin and magnesium. Lean meat, fish and poultry are rich in protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and niacin. These foods should be consumed moderately because of their fat content.

Foods to be used sparingly include whole milk, high-fat cheeses, fatty parts on meats, butter and margarine, alcoholic beverages and high-fat foods like chips and deep-fried foods.

Black-eyed peas delight

1lb dried black-eyed peas

2 quarts water

1/2 cup green sweet pepper, chopped

1/2 cup onion chopped

1/2 cup scallion, chopped

1/2 cup celery chopped

3 slices pineapple, chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp Scotch bonnet pepper, very finely chopped


peas and soak overnight in cold water. Drain peas and place in large
pot, add water and cook until peas are tender. A pressure cooker can be
used to reduce time. Stir in additional ingredients and cook for a
minute. Serve over brown rice and fresh garden salad.

Serves 4