The Mediterranean diet – low in red meat and dairy food but high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil, is considered to contain the best selection of foods to help prevent cancer. It is certainly the diet recommended by nutritionists for those of us who have had breast cancer.
Out of this diet, olive oil has just emerged as a serious attacker of breast cancer tumours. According to scientists in Spain, it “thwarts the gene that drives the growth of breast cancer tumours, it switches off proteins that the cancer cells rely on in order to grow and multiply and it protects the DNA from damage that can lead to cancer.”
When I read this I began to look at the other foods which analysts tell us we should eat to give us a stronger resistance to cancer, or to help boost our immune systems, particularly whilst undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Apparently, cherries contain an alcohol which has been proven to fight breast cancer; broccoli, cauliflour and brussel sprouts transfer unhealthy oestrogens into healthy ones; tomatoes contain lypocene, which has anti-cancer properties; green tea is packed full of anti-oxidants, which prevent cancer cells from growing – as do flaxseeds, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.
Joining olive oil at the top of the list is garlic – which, when added to breast cancer cells in a test tube, has been seen to actively destroy them; turmeric – which is not only an anti-oxidant, but its ingredient, curcumin, is known to kill cancerous cells when they are in the microscopic stage; and scientists are currently looking at the possibility that eating salmon – with its omega 3 fatty acids – may improve the patient’s response to chemotherapy.
All this seems good but one report perplexed me. The suggestion that “a cup of yoghurt a day will keep breast cancer at bay”. This flies in the face of all nutritional advice, which suggests we steer clear of dairy food and find our daily dose of calcium from, amongst other foods, dark green vegetables - like curly kale and bok choy; oily fish – like sardines, mackerel and salmon; or other foods such as almonds and corn tortillas. As I have written before, soya yoghurt is not an alternative – at least, not while the jury is still out on the “soya – good or bad” question.
It is suggested that you take ten teaspoons of good quality, extra virgin olive oil a day and – after long term use – you will achieve the results discovered by the Spanish scientists. I suspect that cooking with the oil will probably not give the same good effects.
While drizzling it on your salad, don’t forget the other ingredient of the Mediterranean salad which is recommended by nutritionists – a glass of red wine!