Many medical experts now agree that, besides keeping you healthy, diet plays a major part in cancer prevention.
But, let’s get real for just a second here. There is no “magical” food (or drink) that would guarantee cancer prevention (let alone cure it). The truth of the matter is that we are still trying to completely understand the various factors and mechanisms involved in how the disease develops. The various combinations of factors such as environment, lifestyle, family history, genetics, chemical exposure and the like all work to determine your overall risk.
But with so many “fad diets” out there and the hopeful claims of numerous supplement companies, it’s easy to be confused by the prospect of “eating healthy”. Moreover, these “healthy diets” and supplements can often come with a hefty price tag!
Fortunately, eating healthy, does not necessarily mean breaking the bank. While there are many choices out there, keep in mind that most cancer-prevention foods have two things in common:
And finally, keep in mind that caloric restriction has been shown to play an important role in longevity and in cancer prevention. This does not mean daily starvation, but even a day or two a week skipping a mean, or just eating far less, can make a difference to your health (and waistline!)
Yes, as it turns out the old adage, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away,” is true. In addition to containing about three grams of fiber, apples have vitamin C, B vitamins, trace minerals, as well as antioxidants. They are also generally inexpensive, and are also easily available in your local grocery store. Now, as tempting as it is to bake them into pies, apples are best consumed fresh. Just remember to wash them properly before eating them, and you’ll find that apples make a surprisingly filling snack, or delicious addition to most salads.
Next on this list are bananas. In addition to containing vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B6 and C, potassium, magnesium, and manganese, bananas are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Bananas also contain a kind of fiber called pectin, which research suggests helps prevent colon cancer. But, keep in mind that greener bananas will have more of that healthy resistant-starch to feed your gut which can help moderate blood sugar levels. In fact, consuming green, unripe bananas have been shown to increase sensitivity to insulin in Type 2 diabetics. Ripe, and overly ripe, bananas are much, much higher in sugar and lower in healthy fiber–so these are not an ideal choice for cancer-preventative use.
Another food item to add to your list of “cheap but healthy foods” are carrots. These root crops are rich in vitamin A, as well as fiber and carotenoids. Carrots also contain antioxidants and nutrients such as beta-carotene that have been shown to help lower your risk of colorectal and lung cancer. Moreover, a 2011 study found that carrot juice extract actually kills leukemia cells, and inhibits their development.
Edamame are young soybeans that have been harvested before they have ripened. They are available shelled, or in pods. And no worries about the cost, a 16-ounce bag of frozen edamame will set you back less than $2. Edamame beans are chock full of protein, calcium, vitamins C and K, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, and folate. Edamame also contains an isoflavone called genistein, which has antioxidant properties to help inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
All right, you probably think of garlic as more of a “seasoning” than an actual food item. But did you know that roasted garlic can make for a delicious (and healthy) snack? Garlic is also generally inexpensive, coming in at about $4 per pound. Garlic contains a number of anti-carcinogenic substances such as inulin, flavonoids, and saponins. The allicin found in garlic has actually been shown to kill cancer cells in test-tube studies. In fact, research suggests that increased garlic consumption lowers risk of stomach, prostate and colorectal cancers.
Lentils are one of the under appreciated champions of the health food world. Humble lentils are a great way to load up on B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Lentils also contain protein, niacin, manganese, folate, fiber, and iron. They are also pretty cheap and are super easy to prepare. Lentils also contain phytic acid and polyphenols which have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties. In fact, a study published in the November 2017 edition of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences stated that the phytic acid and polyphenols found in lentils seem to prevent the proliferation of colorectal cancer.
Oatmeal is another nutrient dense “superfood” that you should include in your daily diet (if you haven’t already). Not only is it generally inexpensive, but oatmeal is loaded with manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, chromium, zinc, and antioxidants! Oatmeal is also rich in fiber, and is actually pretty “flavor-flexible” and you can add spices, like cinnamon–which is also great for regulating blood sugar levels. One important note, it is best to stay away from conventional processed oats as these can be contaminated with pesticides and also with gluten. Organic and gluten-free oatmeal is your safer bet and it is relatively easy to find and inexpensive.
Quinoa is a relative “newcomer” to many of us when it comes to our list of superfoods. But its cultivation goes way back to the ancient Inca civilization. The Incas recognized quinoa’s inherent nutritional value so much that they even called it the “mother of all grains.” Quinoa is loaded with nutrients such as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate and zinc as well a great source of fiber and it is even a complete protein! Moreover, according to a study published in the September 22, 2017 issue of Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, quinoa extracts possess significant antioxidant properties. Combine all of this with its low cost per pound and you’ve got a healthy food option that helps prevent cancer at potentially bargain prices depending on where you source it.
Next on the list are tomatoes. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, tomatoes are the second most eaten plant-based food in the United States. So, chances are, you are probably already eating this already in one form or another (Good for you!). Aside from tomatoes being a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, as well as potassium, tomatoes are also contain lycopene. What’s interesting is according to a September 2017 Medical News Today article, recent research has revealed some promising links between the beta-carotene and lycopene in tomatoes and its role in preventing tumor growth associated with prostate cancer. Moreover, consuming the beta-carotene in tomatoes may play a role in lowering your risk of colon and colorectal cancer. Note: some individuals are sensitive to the lectins in tomatoes (and other plants from the nightshade family) and this sensitivity can be mitigated by skinning the tomatoes and removing the seeds.
Of course, this list would not be complete without yogurt. Aside from containing quite a few of the nutrients your body needs, yogurt is also rich in calcium, B vitamins and trace minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Moreover, a 2017 Medical News Today article points out that eating yogurt may actually reduce the risk of breast cancer. What’s great is you can already get yogurt for under $2.00 per pound. So, there really doesn’t seem to be anything other than an upside to adding this delicious dairy treat to your everyday menu! For lactose-intolerant individuals, or vegans, coconut milk yogurt is also a healthy alternative. BUT PLEASE, avoid those sugary yogurts as all of that added sugar makes yogurt more of a candy and less of a health food. Add fresh berries and some stevia for sweetening and plain yogurt is super yummy!
Eating healthy does not mean spending your last dime to do so.
Fast foods, processed foods and prepared meals are not only expensive but in the long-run add up to huge medical bills, poor health and unhappy living. So, “eating cheap” does not mean resigning yourself to fast food restaurants, or the processed food aisle of your supermarket. With a bit of planning, and creative thinking, you can add healthy food choices to your diet and still stay well-within your budget.
So, what are you waiting for? Head on down to your local grocery and make your next meal cheap and healthy!