Using Food as Medicine?

For the past 5 years I have been reading about how foods can directly effect our health and our risk of certain illnesses including cancer.

A recent lecture given by John Farquhar, MD from Stanford University, reinforces all the things that I have been reading and blogging about.

Cancer Rates

There is continuing compelling evidence that the food we ingest has a direct relationship on your risk of certain cancers—more of a relationship than genetics.

inject yourself with healthy food

Longterm studies that compared the rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer showed a dramatically lower rate in countries that have traditionally lower meat consumption and high intake of fruits, veggies and grains.  The USA has a 10 times higher rate of these cancers than in India and Peru, for example.  But over the past 30 years, the rates of cancers have increased relative to the increase in the adoption of western diets.

“Cultures that traditionally include (a moderate amount of whole)soy intake in their diets appear to have a lower risk from breast, colon, and prostate cancer,” Farquhar said. “When the diet changes, so do the cancer rates…… may be a mixture of increased meat in the diet or a loss of protective foods, but the rates shifted dramatically and rapidly. With no real answers, my suggestion is to copy the lifestyles of cultures with low cancer rates.”

Take 3

I always see lists and lists of “things we should be doing for your health”.  While we try for perfection, I find (speaking for myself) that it’s not easy and I don’t like feeling like a failure!

So here is the list from Dr Farquhar…try to “take 3” of these and see if you can fit them into your diet today.

  • One serving (8-10 grams) of soy protein from tofu, soy milk, or edamame.
  • One cruciferous vegetable. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. These have exceptional cancer fighting benefits.
  • One serving of a vegetable from the onion family, such as onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, or garlic.
  • Two fruits, especially berries, but stay away from juice which lacks fiber.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids three times a week from fish or capsules containing 1 gram of fish-oil fatty acids. Flax, soy, and canola are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but the body does better if the fish oil sources are included.
  • Vitamin D from time in the sun (10 min/day…3x/week) or in capsule form of 2000 IU/day.
  • One teaspoon of turmeric.
  • Three servings of tomato-preferably heated-each week.

“Eat red meat only once a month, and limit poultry, pork, and egg yolks to no more than twice a week. He also suggested avoiding convenience foods, products with fructose, frozen dinners, canned soups, and fast food because of their high salt, sugar, or saturated fat content. Avoid white bread and anything that comes in a crinkly bag”, he said.

crinkly bag….no……….that does not mean Fiddle Faddle is healthy!

If you view food as medicine, it will really take the joy out of eating.  And eating should be a joy.  But I think you can have it both ways.  With each little step you take….even if it’s going for the fruit salad with your burger instead of the fries…you are accomplishing a “change in choice”.  With enough of these changes, you will accomplish “health”.

Good life and smart eating to you!

John W. Farquhar, MD, is a professor emeritus of medicine and of health research and policy. He founded the Stanford Prevention Research Center in 1972 and served as director until 1998. He was named the first C.F. Rehnborg Professor of Preventive Medicine in 1989. For the past 40 years he has studied community-based methods of disease prevention and has made major contributions to basic, clinical, and public health knowledge about preventing heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Categories: cancer prevention, diet, health, health and wellness, healthy diet, nutrition

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13 replies

  1. My mom definitely follows these rules after she had her large intestinal cancer removed many years ago and so far she’s been fine. In Japan there are an increasing number of colin cancers because of the diet change. Many people like to eat meat nowadays including myself although I can live without meat for a while. I would love my children to eat more veggies, so I will definitely try to include broccoli and bok choi more often which I find easy to do. We have strawberries, but I sometimes worry about the pesticides. Maybe Indonesians don’t use the same pesticides in the U.S., but you can find worse pesticides in Indonesia, something that other advanced countries have banned… Scary. I love using onions, so that’s good to know that they help! Thanks for all the information!

  2. Good article, but to get me too eat less meat is something very difficult. I love my meat, especially red meat. I eat red meat everyday for a source of protein. Here in South Africa, we have something we call “Biltong”. This is red raw meat which we hang out to dry out covered in a bit of salt so that it does not rot. I eat this every day for a snack in the mornings, so giving up red meat is a bit difficult to me 😦

    • Then, please don’t give it up! Especially if it makes you that happy! I realize there are cultural differences in diet, and I don’t claim to know everything. (people in the USA are not exposed to eating raw meat) The data supports eating occasional red meat as long as the other areas of your diet are balanced with fruits, veggies and whole grains. Meat is just one piece of the puzzle.

  3. Nice article! I’ve noticed we are worrying over the contents of the packaged foods deemed by some to be healthy when it’ so much simpler to be sure of the ingredients we may choose when we prepare everything from scratch.
    Also, reading labels doesn’t always give the whole story. So, the fresher the better, as you’re so fond of mentioning (and rightly!) is a simple rule to follow.
    I’ve enjoyed adding the season’s cranberries to morning hot oatmeal as it’s simmering. That, along with a little ginger plus my stevia at the end, makes a wonderful, warming, healing morning repast. Yum!

  4. I have been inspired by you and incorporated carrots, tomatoes and berries into my diet today 🙂

  5. Good suggestions. I still have much to work on… a constant refinement. Many underestimate the power food has… for the good or bad!

  6. Thanks for this…I am hoping to include more berries in my diet. I’ll start with that and work in other good stuff as well 🙂


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