Can Fruits and Vegetables Help Prevent Oral Cancer?
Simple changes to your daily diet could save your life
Your mom knew that eating fruits and vegetables was important, but new science shows that many fruits and vegetables actually contain compounds that fight oral cancer, which kills 7,000 Americans every year. Oral cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to eliminate by nonsurgical means—which means that oral cancer survivors are often left with serious disfigurements that can be expensive or even impossible to correct.
Many oral cancers are caused by free radicals—loose, unstable molecules that trigger destructive chain reactions that lead to mutation in healthy cells. Certain fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which bind to free radicals before they have a chance to damage cells, and can even stop chain reactions that are already in process, slowing damage and inhibiting the proliferation of mutated cells.
In particular, fruits and vegetables with dark skin or flesh are a good indicator of cancer-fighting properties; because their color is determined by phytonutrients—plant-specific antioxidant compounds that contribute to their color. Here are some examples of the foods that help, and how they work to inhibit oral cancer and prevent an expensive trip to your dentist.
Avocados are rich in vitamin E and vitamin C, micronutrients with powerful antioxidant properties, as well as folate (which contributes to liver health) and dietary fiber (which can reduce the risk of digestive cancers). They are also a good source of unsaturated (healthy) fats. As a filling, healthy food, avocados can also help you avoid foods that contain empty calories and carcinogenic artificial colors and flavors.
2. Black Raspberries
The anthocyanin antioxidants contained in black raspberries are such a powerful anti-tumor agent that a gel based on freeze-dried black raspberries is now being used to prevent pre-cancerous lesions from becoming malignant; but the medicinal form isn’t nearly as tasty, so incorporating black raspberries into your diet is a great way to reduce your risk of oral cancer. Raspberries are also rich in vitamin C (50% of the recommended daily allowance per serving), which is also a powerful antioxidant and cancer-fighter.
Blueberries are also rich in anthocyanins and antioxidants, and studies in rats indicate that the compounds found in blueberries contribute to apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancerous cells—meaning they may actually kill oral cancer cells as well as reducing the risk of malignant bodies forming. While they are not as rich in vitamin C as black raspberries, they contain a surprising amount of dietary fiber (14% of recommended daily allowance) which fights cancers of the digestive system.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and contains small amounts of selenium—an element with powerful antioxidant properties. It also contains a compound which the body metabolizes into sulforaphane, a compound which appears to shield the body from all sorts of carcinogens, including cigarette smoke, ultraviolet radiation, and pesticides. Cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts also provide similar benefits, so eat whichever you find tastiest. A warning: make sure to eat your broccoli either steamed or raw—boiling denatures the phytonutrients that provide the health benefits, rendering them ineffective.
5. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and tangerines, are among the most abundant sources of vitamin C; and studies in American men have shown that the consumption of citrus fruit dramatically decreases the occurrence of pre-cancerous lesions of the mouth, and the development of malignant oral tumors, even among individuals who participated in high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and chewing tobacco. While stopping high-risk behaviors is a much more effective way to reduce cancer risk, the study demonstrates the power of fruits and vegetables on inhibiting oral cancer.
About The Author
Carolyn is a former Dental Hygienist for a cosmetic dentist turned stay-at-home-mom. Carolyn is committed to raising a family in an organic, pesticide free home, and so when she can't buy organic, you will often find Carolyn rooting in her large garden for the ingredients to make her own soaps, cleaning supplies and nutritious, organic meals and remedies.