By Michelle Schoffro Cook for Care2.com
The best way to beat cancer naturally is to adopt a lifestyle to prevent it. Healthy, nutrient-rich food is an essential part of any anti-cancer plan. Here are my picks for the top 5 vitamins that help protect against cancer. Stay posted next week for the Top 5 Minerals that Help Protect Against Cancer.
1. Beta carotene
This precursor of Vitamin A is found in most orange and green vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and other leafy green vegetables. An amazing nutrient, it has been shown in research to protect the lungs against toxins that are linked to lung cancer.
Another study found that ex-smokers who ate green and yellow vegetables high in beta carotene daily decreased their risk of stomach and lung cancer.
2. Vitamin B6
This B-Vitamin is essential to maintain a healthy immune system and helps protect the respiratory tract from pollution and infection. In studies it has helped protect against cervical cancer. Vitamin B-6 is primarily found in carrots, apples, organ meats, bananas, leafy green vegetables, and sweet potatoes.
Cheryl Forberg, R.D., is a James Beard Award-winning chef, the nutritionist for NBC’s The Biggest Loser and a New York Times best-selling author. Her Pumpkin Polenta recipe is reprinted from Positively Ageless: A 28-Day Plan for a Younger, Slimmer, Sexier You (Rodale, 2008). Follow her on at www.facebook.com/cherylforbergrd or twitter at cherylforbergrd
To maintain a healthy balance in your diet, make sure you eat something orange every day. From the burnt orange richness of carrots, yams and pumpkin to the ocher shades of apricots and nectarines, these colorful foods are packed with nutrients and compounds that our bodies need to function properly and stave off disease.
Orange foods take their hue from beta-carotene, a plant substance converted by the human body into Vitamin A, essential for normal growth and development, immune system function, and skin and vision health. Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant shown to help fight cancer and heart-disease. Most people don’t get enough beta-carotene in their diet so it’s important to add orange to the menu daily.
New Mexico is known for cuisine that reflects the combination of the Native American, Mexican, Spanish, and American cultural traditions. A few of the most common foods found in this style of diet are blue corn, enchiladas, sopapillas, and red and green chilies. Green chilies are harvested when they are green and turn to a red color as they ripen. Green chilies are typically known for their somewhat mild, bitter taste and sinus cleansing heat, but the nutritional benefits are often overlooked.
Green chilies are extremely rich in vitamins A and C (the dried version higher in vitamin A while the raw or fresh version is higher in vitamin C). In fact, a single green chili contains six times more vitamin C than an average sized orange. Green chilies are also a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, vitamin B and E, and iron and potassium which allows them to help block the body’s absorption of cholesterol and help promotes normal body functioning.
While the more popular antioxidant beta-carotene gets all the hoopla, alpha-carotene deserves some praise for its health benefits as well. That’s because a new study has found that alpha-carotene can lower your risk of premature death.
Beta-Carotene vs. Alpha-Carotene
Both nutrients are in the carotenoids “family,” which gets its name from carrots due to the orange coloring it helps produce in the vegetable. Once you have consumed these antioxidants, both of them are converted into vitamin A by the body. However, experts believe the process happens more efficiently with beta-carotene than with alpha-carotene.
With that said, in the wake of this new study, experts believe that alpha-carotene may play a more important role in defending the DNA in your cells from attack.
Vitamin A not only helps with vision but it is an antioxidant, which means that this substance can prevent damage to our bodies’ cells and also help with repairing damage. Additionally, vitamin A helps with maintaining our skin tissue and it is necessary for our cell growth. It also helps fight off infection, which in addition to the benefits listed above, makes vitamin A essential for our bodies.