Making a commitment to eating a rainbow of colors when it comes to fruits and vegetables is important not only for your palate but also for your gut. Your gut houses the majority of your microbiome, your community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms, and eating your fruits and veggies helps to maintain a healthy balance of these organisms.
Fruits and vegetables also offer vast health benefits from a variety of over 6000 flavonoids, a class of phytonutrients, that provide pigment to plants and are commonly noted for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. But as research is uncovering, many flavonoids possess other health benefits including anticancer properties. And it is here that we come full circle.
We need a healthy gut microbiome to convert flavonoids to their health-promoting metabolites. Apigenin is a type of flavonoid that has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Apigenin has been shown to possess anti-carcinogenic properties on a variety of cancers including pancreatic, colorectal and breast cancer and is also being examined for its effects when combined with chemotherapy agents.
Apigenin is found in a variety of foods and herbs such as:
But it is most prominently concentrated in parsley and celery, two of the most commonly used staples in our kitchen.
Celery is labeled as the go-to for making soups and broths and as the key to a successful calorie restriction plan as it is full of water (95% of it is water) and fiber, the perfect combination for the war against weight. Now you can add celery’s cancer-fighting properties to its list of healthy benefits. And Mother Nature has made it so convenient to consume and the perfect vehicle for dips and nut butter.
Parsley is the most widely used herb in kitchens. And for good reason:
- It comes in many varieties.
- It’s available all year round.
- It’s easy to grow.
- It freshens your breath.
- It has a very pleasant taste in a wide variety of dishes.
As well as the noted Apigenin flavonoid, parsley is high in Vitamin K and Vitamin C and is a good source of Vitamin A. Chemoprotective foods such as celery and parsley can be easily incorporated into our daily diet and they are just two examples of how nature provides us with powerful weapons in our cancer prevention and cancer-fighting arsenals.
Epigenetics And Cancer: You Are What You Eat
In early 2015 researchers at John Hopkins University released a study that stated that the cause of the majority of cancers could be attributed to “bad luck”. In essence, what this study purported was that most people who get cancer have simply drawn the short stick.
It was a deflating result to those of us who believe that we have a good degree of control over our health by the food we eat and the lifestyle we choose to live.
Enter Dr. Bruce Lipton. Dr. Lipton is a developmental biologist and the catalyst of the cutting edge science called epigenetics.
In simple terms, epigenetics is the study of how our environment affects our gene expression; how changes in gene expression can be initiated without changes to the underlying DNA sequence.
As studies progress in this field, the notion that we are at the mercy of our gene pool is refuted, putting back into our hands the responsibility that we do in fact have some degree of control over our own health. And it is this vantage point that I believe we should use when considering cancer prevention and perhaps treatment.
Although more research is needed to determine a direct causal link between diet and cancer, several studies have shown the positive association between the two. For example, a study by Yessenia Tantamango-Bartley et al. demonstrated that “Vegetarian diets seem to confer protection against cancer.”
Furthermore, as researchers continue to uncover the associations between diet and disease, it is becoming increasingly clear that the greatest benefits come from whole foods and not the nutritional components of food.
I recently watched a short video by Bruce Lipton in which he spoke of a research project headed by Vaucheret and Chapeau demonstrating that “small plant RNAs acquired orally through food intake directly influence gene expression in animals after migration through the plasma and delivery to specific organs.” Lipton continues by saying that “microRNA molecules in the food we eat are picked up by our digestive system and transferred to our own cells and regulates our own genetics…we alter our own genetic readout by the food we eat.” So in essence, what we eat can either turn on our health genes or turn on our disease genes.
The science behind this is complicated but the message is simple. Rather than attributing cancer to a bad outcome of Russian roulette, we need to move forward in understanding the implications of what we choose to eat and how we choose to live our lives in preventing and fighting cancer.