Plants have an important role in disease prevention and cure. They possess immunity-building chemicals that protect us from disease. Diet and exercise are essential components of ancient medical systems.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytochemicals—these help in building body immunity. Vitamins B and D and calcium found in plant and other foods have cancer-preventive properties. Plant-based phytochemical-rich foods help regulate hormones such as estrogen, slow cancer cell growth, and block inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, related vegetables, lycopene found in tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and apricots all protect several types cancers.
No single antioxidant molecule has been found that can replace the health benefits generated by a combination of natural phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. Consumers need to eat 5–10 servings of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily to mitigate the risk of chronic diseases and to meet nutrient requirements essential for optimum health (Liu, 2004).
Dietary phytochemicals act as modulators of cellular signals that trigger proteins that will make cells turn cancerous (Lee et al., 2001). In both preclinical animal models and human studies, dietary phytochemicals were cancer-preventive (Lee et al., 2013).
Turmeric (curcumin), red chili (capsaicin), cloves (eugenol), ginger (zerumbone), fennel (anethole), kokum (gambogic acid), fenugreek (diosgenin), black cumin (thymoquinone) contain chemicals—shown in the bracket after each herb—that prevent cancer (Aggarwal et al., 2008).
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are observed to reduce cancer risk in organs such as colorectum, lung, prostate, and breast. This protection is attributed to the high amount of glucosinolates molecules found in such vegetables (Abdull et al., 2013).
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