A daily dose of fresh fruits and vegetables can help keep cancer at bay

So, what are you eating for breakfast? Fruits? Fresh vegetables? Probably not. In fact, almost all of you are starving your bodies of necessary nutrition.

Why should you care? Your body runs beautifully on ghee dosas anyway. You can shop all day and dance all night fuelled by chocolate alone. And when you’re tired, well, all it takes to get you going again is strong, frothy cappuccino.

Think again. Since its Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re taking a break from fun food to give you a quick refresher course on power food. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re worlds apart. All it takes to start eating well is readjusting your perceptions. Your body already knows the answers. (Think of how you feel after a lunch of deep fried chicken and chips.) Now your mind just has to agree.

M. Bamini, chief dietician at Sundaram Medical Foundation, says that the risk of cancer can be largely minimised by the food you eat. What the naturopaths have always known is that food can be your body’s most powerful weapon against disease — of any kind. There are even studies that say 30 per cent of all cancers are linked to poor diets.

Bamini says that the risk of cancer of the breast, colon, stomach and even oesophagus can be minimised significantly by eating right. “Most things we can prevent — a few are not under our control,” she says, adding, “When you see the history of cancer patients, it often shows that there was no proper intake of fruits and vegetables. Especially greens and fresh vegetables.”

Fibre is especially important. It reduces diseases in the digestive tract, including colon cancer. Research has shown that it also removes excess estrogen, high levels of which have been linked to breast cancer.

We have a natural advantage thanks to all the cancer fighters in Indian food, starting with turmeric. Garlic increases the activity of immune cells, helping your body stay string. Tomatoes have lycopene, an antioxidant that tackles free radicals, which are suspected to trigger cancer. Spinach too is a power food, packed with antioxidants and vitamin E, protecting you from cancer of the liver, ovaries, colon, and prostate.

There’s more good news. Tea, coffee and green tea all have antioxidants, (which not only fight cancer, but also signs of aging so you can skip that botox you were planning to gift yourself on your 50th birthday.)

Of course it gets confusing with researchers saying something different every day. Like the soy milk dilemma. “There are lots of myths,” says Bamini, “actually soya is good, but as with any food, you need to eat the right amount. Too much of anything is harmful.”

Celebrity nutritionist and writer Rujuta Diwekar says the bottom line eating sensibly. “We are all looking for this magical cure. But what we should do is take a holistic approach,” she says, adding that it’s essential that you eat fresh, seasonal and local food. “Bear the inconvenience of cooking so you get fresh food. Food that is stale is dead,” she says, adding, “If you cut a salad at 11 a.m. and eat it at 1 p.m., you’ve lost out on most of its nutrition.”

Rujuta says it’s important to eat whole grains. Also vegetables and fruits in season — they retain nutrients and have a higher level of antioxidants.

Simple everyday adjustments are also essential. Eat your meals on time. Exercise. Sleep. “We need to rethink the way we are living our lives,” says Rujuta, “It’s not just cancer. Eating badly or following fad diets can give you osteoporosis, bad moods, depression and a host of other diseases.”

Elizabeth Simkin, a breast cancer survivor, who now spreads awareness at schools with NGO Canstop (Cancer Support Therapy to Overcome Pain) adds that you should get six servings of fruits and vegetables a day. She says, “My advice is to eat well and be strong.”