None of us like to hear the word "cancer." It seems to strike fear in most of us. But research continues to reveal that our diet and way of life plays a major role in preventing some cancers.
From bright-red strawberries to cool green kiwis to deep purple cabbage, colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with potential disease fighters. When it comes to fighting cancer, vegetables and fruits are the most vital part of a plant-based diet.
There is convincing evidence that diets high in vegetables and fruits protect against cancers of the colon, stomach and rectum.
Why are fruits and vegetables so powerfully protective? The answer lies within the foods themselves. In addition to vitamins and minerals, vegetables and fruits contain thousands of natural substances called phytochemicals. Researchers are hard at work trying to discover the role of phytochemicals in cancer prevention. It now appears these substances work together in complex ways.
For this reason, most researchers believe that foods are more effective at preventing cancer than dietary supplements. Study after study indicates the best way to ensure you're getting a safe and effective mix of phytochemicals is to stick with a mostly plant-based diet high in vegetables and fruits.
To eat more fruits and vegetables: Try a quick, nutritious breakfast smoothie. Toss into your blender, fresh or frozen fruit, a bit of yogurt, milk or tofu, ice and blend. Pour some juice into the mix, and you've had two servings of fruit before you're even out the door.
Have a salad at lunch. A midday salad consisting of one or more dark, leafy greens and a host of vegetables is both satisfying and nutritious. When making your salad, opt for toppers such as beans, nuts and fruit slices instead of cheese, bacon or croutons. Use low-fat or fat-free dressings.
Take a nutritious break. Have fresh or dried fruits or carrot sticks on hand so you'll be ready when hunger hits -- whether you're at home or at work. Giving yourself a moment to recharge with something fresh, natural and delicious will do wonders.
Try fruit for dessert. We know you love dessert, and we're not recommending you completely abandon your cravings. But once in a while it's nice to send your sweet tooth something the rest of your body can use. In the summer, try a few slices of sweet, juicy melon or a medley of fresh berries. In the winter, an apple-cranberry crisp is a great cap-off to a healthy meal.
Make friends at farmers markets. One way to experience the bounty and beauty of fruits and vegetables is to visit a farmers market or produce stand. There, you can try a wide variety of fresh and colorful items. Best of all, you can talk with the people who grow the food you buy. They'll have ideas for how to prepare everything they sell, and may even share a story or two.