Phyto-Nutrient Content of Vegetables and the Cancer Connection

October 21, 2013

Phyto-Nutrient Content of Vegetables and the Cancer Connection 

 Reference:  Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson 

 All right.  So you learned last week that we have spent 5000 years of human history molding plants to fit our taste buds and our economic interests, and didn’t know how to measure for phytonutrients.  As a result, many of our plant-based foods have had much of their original nutritional ingredients bred out of them.  Not by intent, but the inevitable process of removing bitter flavors for sweet and adding size for productivity, dilutes out the phytonutrient concentration per plant.  The net results are that our plant foods have very low nutritional density.  The question arises, what is the benefit for cancer patients to eat “wild” plant based foods.  

Here is a short list. 

 1.     Artichokes. Can’t get enough. 30 times the antioxidants of carrots. Just about the most nutritious of vegetables. Steam them and you triple the antioxidant over boiling. (takes an hour – but worth it). Eat more. 

 2.     Lettuce.  Hmm.  Iceberg is virtually vacant of nutrition, even though it is the most abundant vegetable in the American diet, equaling in weight all the other vegetables we eat.  Spinach has about 5 times as many phytonutrients as lettuce, but dandelions have 8 times that.  The anthocyanins in spinach are meant to be super stars for cancer prevention – wait till someone studies dandelions. (Don’t boil spinach: 10 minutes and 80% of the good stuff is in the water) 

 3.     Arugula.  “Rocket salad” is not a spinach, it’s a cabbage and it is loaded with glucosinolates.  Another power packed cancer fighter. 

 4.     Olive oil versus soybean oil. To absorb your cancer fighting chemicals, olive oil beats soy by 7 to 1.  Commercial salad dressing is all soy.  Make your own 

 5.     Asparagus.  Superstar vegetable.  BUT...has to be eaten within a day of picking.  Buying if from California loses as much as 50% of phytonutrients a day. 

 6.     Garlic.  Superstar cancer fighter: breast, pancreas, prostate, lung and kidney with 100% of cells killed.  BUT – you have to let the good stuff develop.  When you chop it, you mix two chemicals that take 10 minutes to develop.  You then make allicin.  The garlic story is still developing. But frying it right away, or nuking it loses all its allicin.  Conclusion: chop, press, squeeze and then let it sit 10 minutes.  Then sauté away.  (Hard neck varieties are better) 

 7.     Onions.  One test tube study showed that strongly flavored onions kill 90% of colon cancer cells while sweet ones only get 10%.  Western yellow is about 10 times as potent as Vidalias.  Better yet, go for shallots. They are 6 times as potent as the best onion.  (Shallots have not been genetically modified at all – you can find them in the wild still in SE Asia.)  Or BEST: use scallions – at 140 times the phytonutrients of sweet white onions.  Men using scallions once a week have 50% less prostate cancer. 

 8.     Corn.  Forget the yellow sweet stuff.  Blue corn, however… has cyaniding-3-glucoside which test tube studies show has great cancer effects.  Again, not genetically modified.  The sweet corn….a zero. 

 9.     Purple potatoes.  The Sioux used to eat “apios” which is loaded with genistein. The Inca had several hundred varieties.  Their purple potatoes had 28 - 166 times the phytonutrient quantity of our common white potatoes.   A purple variety called Mountain Rose has been shown to inhibit breast cancer cells. 

 10. Carrots.  Purple in color originally, the healthy cancer-fighting phenols are down from 40 to 2 in orange carrots.  They are still a good deal for you, but you double your intake if you cook the carrot whole, then slice it.  And forget the shaped baby carrots.  And cooked gives you more nutrients than raw.  Oil on the carrot aids absorption. (aka, organic butter).  See if you can find purple.  They are rare, but some farmers are starting to grow them. 

 11. Beets.  Have boron for bones and elevate the production of testosterone.  Guess what that does for men and women!  Beets are superstars:  9 times more antioxidant than tomato, 50 times a carrot.  Betains in beets, in one experiment, blocked 85-100% of cancer cells of prostate, stomach, brain, and pancreas.  Athletes will shave 41 seconds off a 5K run time drinking beet juice.  2012 Olympics had many runners drinking beet juice instead of Gatorade.  And the greens are maybe even better…add them to your salad. 

 12.  Sweet potatoes.  At least twice as good as white ones.  Great fiber too. 

 13. Tomatoes.  Forget the big ones.  Go for dark red, cherry or currant tomatoes.  About the same lycopene content per tomato – so eat 10 little guys.  Then, grow your own and eat them off the vine.  Cooking them doubles the lycopene. 

 14. Brussels/Broccoli/Kale.  They are superstars, but lose their good stuff within days of harvest.  By 10 days, 80% is gone.  Eating broccoli raw gets you 20 times the sulforaphane (anti cancer drug) than cooked.  If you cook – steam it only.  Brussels sprouts kill more cancer cells than any other vege. (in a test tube)  Eat them right away, steam them instead of boiling.  Gorge! 

 15. Cabbage.  Purple is better by 3-6 times.  And it’s great!  And white is good too. 

 16. Cauliflower.  Purples and greens are 4-6 times better than white, and white is wonderful.  Don’t boil. Steam it. 

17. Kale.  Superstar of superstars.  You can’t eat enough. At least 6 different kinds of cancers succumb to it (in test tubes)  Briefly steam it, don’t boil.  Add to your salad.  Raw is best. 

18. Beans.  Dried pinto beans are great.  12 times the antioxidants of carrots.  Kidney beans double that.  Black beans may be best.  But American green peas are a bust.  Chickpeas (garbanzos) are also mediocre.  Yellow and red lentils, dynamite.  Make your soup from them.  Dal is a hit!  Black and pinto beans beat blueberries for antioxidant quantity. 

 www.  What will work for me.  Do you get the gist.? The closer these vegetables are to their WILD biological grandparent, the more nutritious they are – by factors of 10 to 100.  Not just double or triple.  The huge margins of improvement have shown some very dramatic test tube results.  I’m impressed.  I’m changing almost all my vegetable habits.  This explains those “anecdotal” stories of folks with cancers that fade away with vegetable diets – and why organic, local, and fresh are compelling necessities.  Eat fresh, organic, local, AND WILD.   Your cancer will not thank you.  Read the book!  

 Pop Quiz

1.  Most vegetables that taste sweet and look beautiful are genetically identical to their biological forebears.  T or F                Answer:  False. Almost universally so remote as to be almost different plants 

 2.  The missing ingredient that has been lost by the natural process of growing bigger, sweetie, and more abundant foods is the protein content.   T or F                     Answer:  False. Protein may be even better than before in some circumstances - it's the phytonutrients that are trace elements that have been lost.  They have a huge impact on your immune system, which in turn gets stimulated to fight other diseases in your body - such as cancer. 

 3.  Arrugula is in the lettuce family.  T or F                       Answer:  False.  It's a cabbage relative.    4.   Garlic needs to be chopped and allowed to sit for 10 minutes to develop its powerpacked cancer-fighting ability.                       Answer:  Perfect 

 5.   Yellow corn is another superstar cancer fighter.  T or F                       Answer:  False.  It's a dud. But blue corn is great. 

 6.  Purple potatoes from Peru are great cancer fighters.   T or F                      Answer:  Likely true 7.   The science of all this anti-cancer stuff is well proven.                      Answer:  False.  We hardly have any science at all. Test tube stuff is very impressive and there are patients who seem to improve dramatically in anecdotal circumstances, and we have epidemiological studies that show dramatically different rates of cancer in folks who eat more of certain kinds of foods.  But we don't have cause and effect proof yet.

Column written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD at Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI