When actress Lisa Ray was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a relatively rare cancer of the bone marrow, all she said was, “I’ll beat cancer”. Carrying this spirit of defeating a disease often labelled ‘incurable’, we try to find out diet methods, especially in the selection of spices that can avert the multiplying of malignant cells in the body that gradually mature into insurmountable cancer cells.
Senior consultant surgical oncologist Dr. B. Niranjan Naik and senior clinical nutritionist, Fortis La Femme, Shipra Saklani Mishra, inform us about the goodness of Indian spices with cancer-fighting properties and the necessity of their inclusion to our eating habits.
Fennel: Armed with phyto-nutrients and antioxidants, cancer cells have nothing but to accept defeat when the spice is fennel. ‘Anethole’, a major constituent of fennel resists and restricts the adhesive and invasive activities of cancer cells. It suppresses the enzymatic regulated activities behind cancer cell multiplication. A tomato-fennel soup with garlic or fresh salads with fennel bulbs make for an ideal entree prior to an elaborate course meal. Roasted fennel with parmesan can be another star pick.
Cumin: Yes, it aids digestion and probably that is why we like chewing a handful of cumin seeds at the end of every meal. However, its health benefits go beyond. A portent herb with anti-oxidant characteristics, cumin seeds contain a compound called ‘Thymoquinone’ that checks proliferation of cells responsible for prostate cancer. So, instead of loading your usual snack options with calories and oil, add this seasoning to your bread, fried beans or sauce and make the dish rich in flavour and high on health. You can rediscover the magic of cumin in your regular bowl of tadka dal and rice too!
-Start your day with a cup of cinnamon tea (in leaf or sachet)
-Make your breakfast meal a super healthy one; just add this wonder spice to your
morning oatmeal and you are going well!
-A fruity delight comprising chopped apples, a few walnuts and your magic potion cinnamon
-Honey and cinnamon in your glass of milk before going to bed; no cancer nightmares assured!
Oregano: More than a pizza or pasta topping, oregano confirms its worth as a potential agent against prostate cancer. Consisting of anti-microbial compounds, just one teaspoon of oregano has the power of two cups of red grapes! Phyto-chemical ‘Quercetin’ present in oregano restricts growth of malignant cells in the body and acts like a drug against cancer-centric diseases.
Cayenne Pepper/Capsaicin (Chilli peppers): A promising spice with anti-cancer properties, an overdose of chilli peppers however should be restrained. Capsaicin induces the process of apoptosis that destroys potential cancer cells and reduces the size of leukemia tumour cells considerably. It can be concluded that apart from setting our tongues on fire, chilli peppers can scare cancer pathogens off too.
Ginger: This humble spice boasts of medicinal qualities that help lowering cholesterol, boost metabolism and kill cancer cells. Easily added to vegetable dishes, fish preparations and salads,ginger enhances the flavour in cooking. Chew on fresh parsley if the odour bothers you.
Others: Cloves, anise, basil, garlic, caraway, fenugreek, mustard, mint leaves, rosemary, Limonin (fresh lemon), virgin olive, vinegar and avocado are other cancer-fighting diet components.
Dr. K Medhi, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology informs us on other diet habits that can keep cancer risk at bay:
1. A plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and beans is the best organic way to fight cancer.
2. Add fibre: Replace white rice with brown rice in meals
3. Substitute whole-grain bread for white bread; choose a bran muffin over a pastry
4. Snack on popcorn instead of potato chips.
5. Eat fresh fruits with skin.
6. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation.
7. Cook with olive oil instead of regular vegetable oil
8. Avoid packaged or fried foods that are high in trans-fats
9. Avoid processed salt. Celtic sea salt/Himalayan salt can be consumed sparingly.
10. Cancer patients: Do not load your diet with turmeric or Curcumin supplements without doctor’s consult or prescribed dosage.