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Guide to Preventing Lung Cancer   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

Lung Cancer Prevention: Top 10 Diet Tips

lung cancer diet

Lifestyle factors such as diet can influence a person's risk of getting lung cancer. In this section of's Guide to Lung Cancer Prevention, we outline a diet plan that may help prevent lung cancer.

Note: The information included in this Guide to Lung Cancer Prevention and elsewhere on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Lung cancer is a serious and potentially deadly disease, and you should always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health care professional for any questions you may have regarding lung cancer or any other condition or disease.

#1:  Increase Your Curcumin Intake

If you're a fan of Indian cuisine, here's a diet tip you will like: step up your curcumin intake. Curcumin is a phenolic compound that is responsible for the intense yellow color of turmeric, a popular Indian spice. Curcumin also has medicinal properties, which is why it has been used – in the form of turmeric – in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. In recent years, also western medicine has started to pay greater attention to this powerful phytochemical. Research has shown that curcumin possesses a variety of cancer-combating properties that make it highly effective against almost many types of cancer, including lung cancer. A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego, showed that curcumin can trigger certain cellular and molecular changes that can lead to the induction of apoptosis, a self-destruction mechanism, in human lung cancer cell lines.

#2:  Avoid Excess Protein

More than hundred years ago John Beard, a Scottish doctor, discovered that pancreatic enzymes, which aid in the digestion of protein, are also able to destroy cancer cells. High protein diets force pancreatic enzymes to focus on the digestion of protein rather than on the eradication of cancer. Therefore, you should avoid excessive amounts of protein if your goal is to minimize your risk of lung cancer (a certain amount of protein is necessary for a healthy body, though). Some experts suggest that the body needs a protein-free period of approximately 12 hours every day in order to combat cancer.

I3C in cruciferous vegetables can inhibit proliferation of lung cancer cells.

#3:  Eat Plenty of Foods That Deliver I3C

Crucifrous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts have long been touted for their anti-cancer properties. These properties are largely due to indole-3-carbinol (I3C), compounds found in cruciferous vegetables when the plants' cell walls are broken through chopping, crushing, or chewing. Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to boost the detoxification of many harmful substances, including carcinogenes, and to have antioxidant properties. In animal studies, I3C has also been shown to inhibit cell proliferation of lung cancer cells and to promote self-destruction (apoptosis) of such cells.

#4:  Limit Fat Intake, Especially From Animal Fat

Another good tip for lung cancer prevention is to limit the amount of animal fat in your diet, as a high dietary intake of animal fat has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. A study on the relationship between fat intake, cigarette consumption, and lung cancer mortality rates was conducted using data obtained from 29 countries. The researchers observed a significant positive relationship between lung cancer and both cigarette smoking and lung cancer and animal fat consumption. No significant correlation was found between lung cancer mortality and vegetable fat consumption.

#5:  Follow a Balanced Diet Rich in Antioxidant Vitamins

The ACE vitamins are potent antioxidants.

Vitamin A (and its precursor beta-carotene) as well as vitamins C and E are potent antioxidants which help neutralize cancer-causing free radicals and boost the immune system, and may thereby reduce the risk of lung cancer. In addition, vitamin C and vitamin E can inhibit the formation of nitrosamine, a potentially carcinogenic substance.

However, the impact of vitamin C on nitrosamine formation might be relevant only if there is no fat in the stomach: A group of researchers replicated the chemical conditions of the upper stomach and measured the impact of vitamin C on the production of nitrosamines, both when fat was present in the stomach and when it was absent. Without fat, vitamin C decreased the levels of nitrosamines, but when 10% fat was added, vitamin C actually boosted the formation of nitrosamines.

Furthermore, experts recommend that people get their vitamins through a balanced diet rather than from supplements in order to avoid overdosing. Indeed, research suggests that there might be a U-shaped association between the antioxidant properties of certain vitamins, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, and the dosing. In one study, subjects who had a medium dose of vitamin E for 10 years showed a decreased risk of lung cancer whereas those using a high dose for 10 years had an increased risk. One possible mechanism is that, although vitamin E is an antioxidant, it might also act as a pro-oxidant (a substance promoting free radical activity) in high doses. Similar findings have been reported for beta-carotene use.

#6:  Eliminate Foods Contaminated with Aflatoxin

Carcinogenic substances can occur in foods when certain types of fungus grow on food producing toxins during processing, storage, or transport. These toxins include the remarkably potent aflatoxins which have been shown to cause cancer due to their ability to damage DNA. Peanuts appear to be particularly susceptible to contamination with aflatoxins, but also many other types of foods, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, and spices are vulnerable to the fungus producing aflatoxins. These poisons are resistant to cooking and freezing, but care in selecting your foods can greatly reduce your risk of exposure to these toxins:

  • Select fresh seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains (or at least avoid nuts and grains from last year's harvest)
  • Look for signs of proper storage and avoid foods from countries that have substandard storage requirements
  • Discard nuts that taste stale or look suspicious
  • Eat green vegetables that are rich in chlorophyll to further reduce the risk of harmful impacts of aflatoxins; chlorophyll has been shown to reduce aflatoxins levels

Beta-glucans, present in mushrooms, have been shown to fight lung cancer.

#7:  Eat Plenty of Foods That Provide Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides (carbohydrate structures), present in many foods that are rich in soluble fiber. According to some studies, these polysaccharides can help fight certain types of cancer — including lung cancer — by passing immune cells into the cancerous area and by destroying cancer cells. Also several animal tests have found beta-glucans to possess strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. Beta-glucans are abundant in some cereal grains, baker's yeast, and mushrooms.

#8:  Avoid Meat Products That Contain Nitrates

Nitrates are naturally occurring substances that are present in the air, soil, surface water, ground water and plants. Food manufacturers also use nitrates in many meat products such as sausages, jerkies, bacon, and lunch meat to give meat a deep red color. When you eat foods that contain nitrates, you body may convert the nitrates into nitrites, which in turn can form nitrosamines. Scientific evidence indicates that nitrosamines may cause cancer in humans. Luckily, antioxidant compounds — such as vitamin C and E — appear to be capable of preventing nitrosamine formation. As vegetables are typically rich antioxidants, nitrosamine formation should not be a concern when you eat vegetables containing nitrates. This is supported by population studies which have found no link between a high consumption of nitrate-containing vegetables and cancer, but which show that people who eat plenty of nitrate-containing meat products have an elevated risk of developing cancer.

#9:  Eat Foods That Deliver Ellagic Acid

Raspberries are a great source of ellagic acid.

Ellagic acid may well be your best weapon in the battle against lung cancer. Mounting evidence shows that ellagic eliminates cancer causing substances by activating certain detoxifying enzymes in the body. Ellagic acid also seems to be able to prevent carcinogens from attaching to cellular DNA. Furthermore, ellagic acid has been shown to stimulate the immune system, to trigger apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancerous cells, and to scavenge potentially lung cancer causing free radicals. Ellagitannin — which is converted into ellagic acid by the body — is found in a number of red fruits and berries, raspberries being the best dietary source of this extraordinary lung cancer combating phytochemical. Also some nuts, such as walnuts and pecans, contain ellagic acid.

#10:  Ensure a Sufficient Selenium Intake

Several population studies suggest that the risk of death from lung cancer is lower among people with a higher intake of the trace mineral selenium. Death rates from lung cancer are significantly lower in areas of the world where selenium is abundant in the soil than in areas where the soil has been depleted of selenium. Selenium is believed to reduce cancer risk in two ways: First, selenium is a constituent of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme with that helps protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Second, selenium may inhibit tumor growth by boosting the immune system and by preventing the development of blood vessels to the tumor. It is recommended that you get your selenium through diet rather than through supplements – high-dose selenium supplements can be hamrful as the margin between safe and toxic doses of selenium is very narrow.

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