The modern human body has been evolving on this planet for a little over 1 million years and up until the last 100 years or so it had been brought up on a diet mainly consisting of fruit, berries, nuts, root vegetables and fish. Around the world the majority of these foods would have been eaten raw and as much as this may now seem unpalatable to most people, there is no other diet more perfectly suited for our bodies.

Once mankind learned how to control fire it wasn't long before we began using fire in the preparation of our food - and why not. Cooking makes food taste better by bringing out and combining its flavours and it can also make some types of food easier to chew and digest by softening it. Perhaps more importantly cooking food destroys harmful microorganisms that could otherwise make you ill. A god-send in times when food was scarce and you had to either starve or eat what was available, no matter how long it had been lying around.

However there is a downside to heating food. Many of the complex and highly nutritious enzymes’ and proteins found in fresh/raw fruits and are damaged through the heating process. In fact temperatures even as low as 40 degrees Celsius will cause the irrevocable breakdown of many of these health promoting chemicals. It is also well-known that cooking will result in the loss of vitamins and minerals although some vitamins will be lost due to other factors such as exposure to air, light or water.

The human body’s immune system and its ability to repair and regenerate itself are marvels of the scientific world. Given some of the right ingredients, as found in the complex enzymes and nutrients of fresh/raw fruit, nuts and vegetables, and almost miraculous feats of recovery can be witnessed from life threatening diseases perhaps the most important of which is cancer.

Perhaps the most important chemicals found in plants that help in the fight against cancer are the antioxidants. These are substances that protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals, and it is this damage that can lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause.

Of course there has been plenty of research in recent years – beginning with the advent of the popular term ‘superfoods’ – that has uncovered numerous cancer fighting chemicals within many of our common foods. However the most important point with regards to eating these ‘Super’ fruit and vegetables is to eat them at their most fresh and preferably straight from the plant.

Below is a list of the most easily grown fruit and vegetables that are suitable for the garden.

Carrots are full beta carotene and part of the healing family of carotenoids which are known to be a powerful anti oxidants. Beta-carotene also provides protection against: cancer, especially lung, bladder, breast, esophageal and stomach cancers; heart disease, and the progression of arthritis by as much as 70 percent. In February 2005 a research team from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and Danish Universities found they also contain falcarinol, a chemical believed to reduce the risk of developing cancer. High levels of beta-carotenes are also found in beetroot sweet potatoes and other yellow-orange vegetables. Note: Cooked carrots have considerably higher levels of antioxidants than uncooked.

Garlic is perhaps the world's oldest known medicinal and culinary herb and again is packed with antioxidants that can not only help fend off cancer but also heart disease and the effects of aging. The sulphur compounds that give garlic its pungent odour are thought to be responsible for its healing benefits as it boosts the immune system and can reduce development of some tumours. Eaten in its raw state it is believed to reduce the risk of many types of stomach cancers. Studies have shown that garlic keeps the heart healthy by lowering cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure, fighting free radicals and keeping blood from clotting. Garlic also has potent anti-fungal properties and can help treat asthma and yeast infections.

Chili, bell, sweet and jalapeno peppers contain the chemical capsaicin. A recent study from Nottingham University has shown that the family of molecules to which capsaicin belongs, the vanilloids, will bind to proteins in the cancer cell mitochondria triggering cell death without harming the surrounding healthy cells.

Grapes, red contain bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that work as cancer preventives. They are also a rich source of resveratrol, which inhibit the enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth and suppress immune response. They also contain ellagic acid, a compound that blocks enzymes that are necessary for cancer cells - this also appears to help slow the growth of tumours. Further studies have shown that grape seed extract also has an effect on skin, breast, bowel, lung, stomach and prostate cancer cells.

These contain lycopene which can decrease the amount of free radicals from entering our body. This level of lycopene is also found to be higher when tomatoes are concentrated such as in a puree or in ketchup and is more easily absorbed into the body if it is accompanied by an oil dressing. As well as being able to ward off certain kinds of cancer, tomatoes can help to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, and maintain mental function as we age. Studies have shown that men who eat more tomatoes or tomato sauce have significantly lower rates of prostate cancer. Other studies suggest that lycopene can help prevent lung, colon and breast cancers. Tomatoes also contain the antioxidant glutathione, which helps boost immune function. Note: cooked tomatoes are preferable, since heat allows more desirable antioxidants in tomatoes to be made available to the body.

Raspberries contain many vitamins, minerals, and the antioxidants known as anthocyanin that can help protect against cancer. According to a recent research study reported by Cancer Research, rats fed diets of 5% to 10% black raspberries saw their number of oesophageal tumours decrease by 43% to 62%. Strangely though, the study showed that a diet containing 5% black raspberries was more effective than a diet containing 10% black raspberries. Research reported in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in May 2002 shows black raspberries may also prevent and reduce colon cancer.

A report by investigators at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tokyo say benzaldehyde – of which a derivative is found naturally in figs - is highly effective at shrinking tumours.

All of the foods from this list – which covers only a selection of the research available - are either easy to grow from seed or readily available from your local plant retailer.

For related articles click onto the following links:
Seven (Easy to Find) Foods That May Help Prevent Cancer

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