Why I Choose a Plant-Based Diet to Reduce Cancer Risk

Ever since I started my cancer healing journey I followed a very clean plant-based diet. Why you may ask? To be honest it all started 6 months prior to my diagnosis. I radically changed my diet, seriously, I became a vegan from one day to the next without much explanation other than I felt led to do it. During that time I learned the ugly truth about the meat and dairy industry. I became obsessed to just stop eating any sort of meat or animal-derived food. The more I learned about the conventional meat industry, the more I rejected the idea of ever eating meat again. How these poor animals are treated in order for you and me to eat more burgers, chicken wings, and bacon was just devastating. It really took all desire away from me to ever want to take another bite at a burger again.

Please keep in mind that I was a meat-eater since I was born. It is a huge part of my culture to eat meat potatoes and rice. As I was growing up a lunch dish without meat felt like something was missing on your plate or you were really poor and had to stick to quinoa. This mentally still continues today but the demanding appetite for meat is not just limited to Peru or the United States but throughout the world. What I am about to share with you is not to condemn you for eating meat, instead, I want to empower you with knowledge so you can make the best choices for your own health and journey. Furthermore, I want to share with you why I chose to stop eating meat and followed a plant-based diet.

Industrialized meat hides disturbing secrets about your everyday supermarket beef. The dirty truth behind the cattle slaughter process is beyond horrific. You must know what happens to that piece of meat that it is nicely packaged in your local market. What it goes through before it sits nicely on those shelves. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) In the U.S., more than 29 million cows suffer and die in the meat and dairy industries every year. These factory animals are fed corn, wheat, and soy that are grown through intensive industrial farming that uses large amounts of pesticides, which can remain in their bodies and are passed on to the people who eat them, creating serious health hazards in humans. Unlike conventional meat, organic meat must come from livestock that has lived under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation.

Even if you buy organic, I prefer to stay away from it all. Studies show that Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in men and the second in women worldwide. More than half of the cases occur in more developed countries. The consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton) is high in developed countries and accumulated evidence until today demonstrated a convincing association between the intake of red meat and especially processed meat and CRC risk. Another study found that intake of animal fat, mainly from red meat and high-fat dairy foods, during premenopausal years is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Please keep in mind that factory meat is treated and fed quite differently from how it used to be 50-60 years ago where the animals were free to roam around and eat grass. Today’s market demands make it impossible to keep up with the old healthy traditions previous generations had the privilege to enjoy. It truly makes me sad as our kids are growing in a completely different era.

Processed meat manufactures add nitrates and nitrites, a food additive used to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavor and color of foods. These are usually added to beef, poultry, fish, deli meat, ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, etc. These compounds also give processed meats their pink color. Both nitrates and nitrites can form nitrosamines in the body, which can increase your risk of developing cancer. A study suggests that high consumption of processed meat may increase the risk of stomach cancer. Dietary nitrosamines might be responsible for the positive association.

As you can see, the meat and dairy industry follow tactics that highly compromise the value of meat’s potential health benefits. On the other hand, a plant-based diet not only preserves valuable nutrient-rich qualities, but it also helps you to prevent and even treat a cancer diagnosis. How you may ask? Let me explain!

Why Plant-Based?

Fruits and Vegetables have essential nutrients that you cannot get from other foods. The vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants in plants help keep your cells healthy and your body in balance so that your immune system can function at its best. There is much research that suggests that following a plant-based diet can boost your immunity, lower inflammation, help you fight free radicals and reduce cancer risk.

A healthy immune system, is vital in disease prevention, as it recognizes and attacks mutations in cells before these turn into cancer. Incorporating a plant-based diet into your lifestyle can support a strong immune system and help prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases. According to an article written by The Rogel Cancer Center, plant-based foods — including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber — have been shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancer. In fact, eating 6 oz of whole-grain foods each day may decrease your colorectal cancer risk by 21%. This is GREAT news if you ask me. This means that we have some degree of control in regards to cancer and we are not left at the mercy of chance/luck. We are empowered with knowledge and it is up to us to make lifestyle choices to prevent this dreaded cancer illness.

Another study shows that fruits, vegetables, plant-derived beverages such as green tea, wine, and cacao-based products are the main dietary sources of flavonoids. Flavonoids have been shown to possess a wide variety of anticancer effects: they modulate reactive oxygen species (ROS)-scavenging enzyme activities, participate in arresting the cell cycle, induce apoptosis, autophagy, and suppress cancer cell proliferation and invasiveness.

Also, inflammation in the body is an immune response to injury or infection, without it we would be vulnerable to toxins, bacteria, allergens, or deadly pathogens. Inflammation can make your cancer risk higher by causing cell damage. There are many elements that cause inflammation and your diet is one of them. For instance, a diet rich in high sugar consumption can lead to higher levels of inflammation in the body. Epidemiologic studies have shown that dietary sugar intake has a significant impact on the development of breast cancer. One proposed mechanism for how sugar impacts cancer development involves inflammation. Prolonged inflammation can damage your body’s cells and tissue and has been linked to cancer and other inflammatory diseases like arthritis. 

A plant-based diet not only helps you maintain good body weight but it also fuels your body with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients to arm your immune system to fight off disease. Some people believe they are following a plant-based diet by not eating meats and animal-derived products and only eating a diet high in carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. Regular pasta, white bread, and white rice may be plant products, but they are not made from whole grains. Choose 100% whole wheat pasta and bread, and eat brown rice. Deep-fried vegetables, highly processed foods like crackers and cookies and all sugary desserts are out. Stick to fresh, raw veggies and fruits, I personally love fresh green juices and I get creative with colorful rainbow salads to quench my hunger.

I sincerely hope you find this article helpful for you and your family. Remember that there’s a lot you can do to be proactive towards your health and prevent chronic illnesses such as cancer. As our greatest Greek physician once said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates.

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