Foods That Protect

Let’s take a look at the defending characteristics of drinking green tea, snacking on dark chocolate and enjoying plenty of cruciferous vegetables.

Does green tea have any effect against cancer? I drink two cups a day. Am I doing myself any good?

The lowly green tea leaf doesn’t look like much, but each leaf contains special molecules called catechins, which seem to be able to zone in on assorted steps that cells take on the way towards turning cancerous. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is one of the more prevalent catechins in green tea. EGCG may block certain mechanisms used by cancer cells to reproduce and invade surrounding tissue: It is able to prevent the formation of a new network of blood vessels by angiogenesis. This means that blood vessels that might otherwise feed a tumor may be unable to grow.

The best green teas to drink for this purpose are Japanese teas, which contain more catechins than Chinese varieties. According to the National Cancer Institute, some studies suggest that assorted polyphenols in green tea may also help in the fight against cancer, although we do not yet know how this happens. Drink two to five cups of plain green tea per day.

My mother keeps telling me Brussels sprouts are good for me because they may protect against cancer. I don’t’ like them because they smell! Do I have to eat them?

Brussels sprouts belong to a family that sports many other strong-smelling vegetables. Called crucifers, these vegetables – including broccoli, kale, cauliflower, curly kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage – possess a strong odor and pungent flavor. That strong smell you react to is an indication of how beneficial the Brussels sprout is to your health. The vegetables in this family are high in glucosinolate, a phytochemical with the ability to protect against toxic substances that can change cellular DNA, making those cells more susceptible to developing tumors. Glucosinolates speed up the elimination process so that toxic substances don’t’ linger in the body, which lessens the time they need to negatively affect cells. Eating two cups of these strong-smelling vegetables at least three times a week is recommended. But you don’t only have to eat sprouts: Try broccoli or kale, too.

I have heard that chocolate is really good for me because it’s supposed to protect against cancer. My favorite is a Kit Kat bar. How many can I eat?

You are partly correct: Chocolate is a nutritious and delicious food, but your choice of chocolate is weak. It’s better to reach for 70 percent cocoa or more when selecting a dark chocolate, and restrict yourself to two squares per day. The reason dark chocolate is so beneficial to your health is because it contains cocoa. Loaded with the polyphenol procyanidins, cocoa may protect against heart disease as well as cancer. The most recent studies show that when lab animals are given dark chocolate, tumor growth slows down. The research on cocoa and its effect in cancer protection, however, is in the early stages, but so far the results are promising. So at present, it can’t hurt to eat chocolate, as long as you are careful to choose good quality high-cocoa chocolate and enjoy it in moderations. Kit Kats just won’t cut it.

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