Health, they say, is wealth but poor health can jeopardize our sex lives. Cancer is one condition that has ruined many relationships and the war against it seem to be defying all odds. Interestingly, our local food products are good agents when it comes to the battle against cancer. Sometime ago, food researchers from the USA carried out studies on the local food produced in our country and it amazes one to know that many of the cancer fighting agents are actually entrenched in these local food produced in different parts of the country. According to these researchers, over 85 per cent of these locally produced foods are the best the world could have. Ironically, many of us are not aware of these and it is so bad that a substantial percentage of the population are suffering or dying of cancer. But studies have shown that this could be prevented if we consume these locally found food produced in this country. The National Cancer Institute in the USA estimates that roughly one-third of all cancer deaths in our country may be diet related. What you eat can hurt you, but it can also help you. Many of the common foods found in the local market contain cancer-fighting properties, from the antioxidants that neutralize the damage caused by free radicals to the powerful phytochemicals that scientists are just beginning to explore.
There isn‘t a single element in a particular food that does all the work: The best thing to do is eat a variety of foods. The following foods have the ability to help stave off cancer, and some can even help inhibit cancer cell growth or reduce tumor size. For instance, it will surprise you to know that the local avocado that goes for less than a hundred naira are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. They also supply even more potassium than bananas and are a strong source of beta-carotene. Scientists also believe that avocados may also be useful in treating viral hepatitis (a cause of liver cancer), as well as other sources of liver damage.
Cabbages have a chemical component called indole-3-carbinol that can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety. Broccoli, especially sprouts, also have the phytochemical sulforaphane, a product of glucoraphanin – believed to aid in preventing some types of cancer like colon and rectal cancer. Sulforaphane induces the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens. The enzymes have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in laboratory animals.
Carrots that are available all year round contain a lot of beta carotene, which may help reduce a wide range of cancer including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast cancers. Some researches indicated that beta carotene may actually cause cancer but this has not proven that eating carrots, unless in very large quantities – 2 to 3 kilos a day, can cause cancer. In fact, a substance called falcarinol found in carrots has been known to reduce the risk of cancer, according to researchers at Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS). Kirsten Brandt, head of the research department, explained that isolated cancer cells grow more slowly when exposed to falcarinol. However, it is important not to cook the carrots.
Chili peppers [the local ‘tatase’, ‘rodo’] contain a chemical, capsaicin, which may neutralize certain cancer-causing substances (nitrosamines) and may help prevent cancers, such as stomach cancer.
Garlic has immune-enhancing allium compounds (dialylsultides) that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances. These substances also help block carcinogens from entering cells and slow tumor development. Diallyl sulfide, a component of garlic oil, has also been shown to render carcinogens in the liver inactive. Studies have linked garlic — as well as onions, leeks, and chives — to lower risk of stomach and colon cancer. Dr. Lenore Arab, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the UNC-CH (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) schools of public health and medicine and colleagues analyzed a number of studies and reported their findings in the October 2000 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the report, people who consume raw or cooked garlic regularly face about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer as people who eat little or none. Their studies didn‘t show garlic supplements had the same effect. It is believed garlic may help prevent stomach cancer because it has anti-bacterial effects against a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, found in the stomach and known to promote cancer there.
Grapefruits, like oranges and other citrus fruits, contain monoterpenes, are also believed to be capable of preventing cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the body. Some studies show that grape fruit may inhibit the proliferation of breast-cancer cells in vitro. They also contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, and folic acid.
Grapes (red) contain bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that work as cancer preventives. Grapes are also a rich source of resveratrol, which inhibits the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth and suppress immune response. They also contain ellergic acid, a compound that blocks enzymes that are necessary for cancer cells – this appears to help slow the growth of tumors. Studies also show that consumption of green and yellow leafy vegetables has been associated with lower levels of stomach cancer. And these grow virtually everywhere or anywhere around us in our surroundings, sometimes even on our flower pot vase.
What about the local mushrooms? Do you know that there are a number of local mushrooms that appear to help the body fight cancer and build the immune system. These mushrooms contain polysaccharides, especially Lentinan, powerful compounds that help in building immunity. They are a source of Beta Glucan. They also have a protein called lectin which attacks cancerous cells and prevents them from multiplying. They also contain Thioproline. These mushrooms can stimulate the production of interferon in the body. Extracts from mushrooms have been successfully tested in recent years in Japan as an adjunct to chemotherapy.
Nuts on their own contain the antioxidants, quercetin and campferol that may suppress the growth of cancers. Local groundnut contains 80 micrograms of selenium which is important for those with prostate cancer. Cashew nuts too are a good source for treating premature ejaculation.
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