Fight Cancer—with Strawberries, Garlic, and Kale
Consumption of strawberries, garlic, and kale may reduce the formation of a group of potential cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines, according to a study in Cancer Letters (2002;182:1–10). This is encouraging news since it means people may be able to prevent some cancers by making relatively minor alterations to their diet.
Concerns have been raised by physicians that consuming certain food additives may play a role in the development of some types of cancer. Nitrites, which are used as preservatives in foods such as hot dogs, processed deli meats, and some pickled foods, can be converted into nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer of the stomach, esophagus, throat, and bladder. Because strawberries, garlic, and kale appear to inhibit the formation of nitrosamines, eating these foods may help to prevent these types of cancer.
In this new study, forty healthy people between 17 and 30 years old were fed a meal designed to produce high levels of nitrosamines in the body, and were also given either 300 grams of whole strawberries, 75 grams of garlic juice (just over 2 ounces), 200 grams of kale juice (about 7 ounces), or no supplementation (control group). Nitrosamine levels in the urine and saliva were then measured.
Strawberries, garlic, and kale each inhibited the formation of nitrosamine compounds, but the effect was much greater with garlic than with the other two compounds. Nitrosamine production in those consuming garlic, strawberries, and kale was reduced by 96%, 72%, and 44%, respectively, compared with that in the control group. It is important to point out that the garlic and kale extracts were provided as juices, instead of the whole vegetables. Since juices generally have higher concentrations of various nutrients than whole plants, it is likely that larger amounts of the whole food would have been needed to produce a similar effect.
The capacity of these foods to reduce the formation of nitrosamines may be due to their high content of vitamin C, which is known to inhibit nitrosamine formation. However, even if one is not eating foods such as hot dogs and lunch meats, eating strawberries, garlic, and kale may still be worthwhile. In addition to vitamin C, these foods are rich in other substances that may have anti-cancer activity, such as fiber, folic acid, carotenoids, and other vitamins. Including these foods in your diet may be an easy, inexpensive way to prevent several serious forms of cancer.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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