Superfoods

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The term superfoods applies to foods with high natural polyphenol and antioxidant contents. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the American food and drug regulatory authority have published league tables of foods ability to scavenge and remove the DNA damaging free radicals. The tables rank food according to their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). 

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Antioxidants are thought of wield their anti-cancer properties by directly or indirectly counterbalancing the super oxide free radicals produce from carcinogens in our diet or other environmental factors. The section on what is cancer  explained how these free radicals damage the DNA, rearranging the genes within the cells leading to the development of cancer. Antioxidants are often subcategorised as carotenoids, polyphenols or trace minerals although there is considerable overlap in their properties and the types of foods which contain them. For more detailed information on the specific chemicals which form the antioxidants refer to the antioxidant section.  In general foods with a high antioxidant (polyphenol, carotenoid and trace minerals) concentration include:- 

 

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the American food and drug regulatory authority have published league tables of foods ability to scavenge and remove the DNA damaging free radicals. The tables rank food according to their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC).  The best contenders being goji berries, prunes, flaxseed, linseeds, nuts, dark greens, cruciferous, brightly coloured vegetables, berries, fruits and grains. As these have high ORAC ratings they have been nicknamed superfoods. The best contenders being goji berries, prunes, flaxseed, linseeds, nuts, dark greens, cruciferous, brightly coloured vegetables, berries, fruits and grains. As these have high ORAC ratings they have been nicknamed superfoods.

More recently, foods more uncommon in the Western world have been discovered which have extremely high antioxidant concentrations. A good example of one of the better known varieties is the Tibetan Goji berry (Lycium Barbarum). As you can see from the table below, this amazing fruit stands head and shoulders above other foods in the index. The Goji Berry has been used in traditional Tibetan medicine for centuries. The berries are never touched by hand when picked but are shaken onto mats, and then dried in the shade. No pesticides are used in their production and the high altitude ancient soils are free of pollutants. Not to be confused for the Chinese wolfberry which can be loaded with pesticides and are highly sulphured. The Tibetan goji berry also contain 2500 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit, making it one of the world's richest sources of vitamin C just close behind the Australian billygoat plum and the South American camu camu. It is packed with more beta-carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach, plus B vitamins, vitamin E, 18 amino acids and 21 trace minerals.
 

The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of foods- examples:

FOOD

ORAC (units /100 grams)

Tibetan goji berries

25,300

Prunes

5,770

Raisins

2,830

Blueberries

2,400

Blackberries

2,036

Kale

1,770

Strawberries

1,540

Spinach

1,260

Raspberries

1,220

Brussels Sprouts

980

Plums

949

Alfalfa Sprouts

930

Broccoli Florets

 890

White onion

860

 Beets

 840

Tomato

770

 Oranges

750

 Red Grapes

 739

 Red Bell Peppers

 710

Cherries

670

Carrot

650

Pea

360

*The US Food and Drug Administrations have recommended over 3,000 ORAC units a day.
 

It cannot be emphasised enough that a variety of cuisine is the key to success as a diverse range of antioxidants in different foods are more likely to confer lasting protection against a wide and ever changing array of cancer promoting factors. Likewise, variety is less likely to cause an overload of one substance and a deficiency in another.


Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.


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