GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — June is a big month for cancer survivorship. Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center is celebrating Cancer Survivor’s day on June 11th. 

Registered Dietitian Amy Bragagnini joined health reporter Val Lego to talk about Mercy's public even that showcases healthy food that help to reduce cancer risk, as well as some nutrition tips for cancer survivors.

Amy says she frequently have patients ask me about which foods are best at “fighting” cancer, often telling them no one food is going stop cancer from occurring. However, she says you can eat in a way that will help reduce overall risk. When you see a list of "cancer-fighting foods," they are often plant foods loaded with phytochemicals, also called phytonutrients. Phytochemicals are compounds found in plants that can help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Phytochemicals are found in a variety of foods including: tomatoes, berries, broccoli, walnuts, grapes and other vegetables, fruits and nuts.

A good way to add variety to your cancer-fighting food list is to make sure you include a rainbow of colors. You can get the most protection by eating foods from all colors of the spectrum.

RED: Red foods such as red peppers, tomatoes and watermelons contain the phytochemical lycopene, which can help boost heart health, nourishes your body with antioxidants and may help cut prostate cancer risk significantly. Additionally, anthocyanins in berries, beets and apples will help your body in controlling blood pressure, fighting free radicals and improving your memory.

ORANGE: The color orange in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash comes from a phytochemical family called carotenoids. These nutrients can be converted to vitamin A and help improve the health of the eyes and skin. Additionally, carotene is a powerful antioxidant to support your immune system and protect against lung and breast cancer. Roast a batch of this butternut squash for a complementary side or salad topping to reap the benefits of orange phytochemicals.

YELLOW: Yellow foods such as lemons, yellow peppers, mangoes and yellow squash deliver a high dose of flavanoids. These phytochemicals boost collagen for strong bones and radiant skin. They can also help reduce inflammation in the body. Scientists have found that certain flavonoids have antihistamine, antimicrobial, memory-and even mood-enhancing properties. Try making some mango and/or pepper salsa, or squash chips for a healthy serving of yellow goodness.

GREEN: Light green foods such as avocado, spinach, romaine, honeydew melon, peas and green peppers contain lutein and zeaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant duo that can help reduce the risk of cataracts, prevents macular degeneration and preserves overall eye health. Eating light green foods may also help protect against artery blockages. Dark green such as kale, broccoli and kiwi get their darker hue from high concentrations of a phytochemical called chlorophyll. This nutrient helps the liver and kidneys breakdown disease-causing compounds. Indoles also eliminate excess hormones and carcinogens to protect against breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

BLUE/PURPLE: Plums, blueberries, blackberries and eggplants have high concentrations of anthocyanins, which serve our hearts by inhibiting clot formation and reducing the risk of heart disease. Blueberries can help reduce risk of colorectal, mouth, pharynx, larynx and lung cancer. Berries make great snacks on their own or can be used as toppings for salads, desserts and smoothies – a tasty addition to any meal.

Courtesy: Amy Bragagnini, RD


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