Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, but also raisins, dates, prunes and dried figs, the anti-cancer table is enriched with these precious allies for our health. But let's try to understand better by analyzing the results of a recent review published in the journal Nutrients thanks to a collaboration between American, French and Norwegian scientists (Bolling et al, Nutrients, 2023).
With our lifestyle choices we can prevent many cancers
It is estimated that 50% of cancers can be prevented. But how can we prevent these cellular degeneration? The factors that contribute to keeping us healthy and fighting cancer are mainly to follow a healthy diet, to have an active lifestyle, to not smoke, to limit alcohol consumption and to maintain the proper body weight. But what is part of a healthy diet? To answer this vitally important question, several studies have been carried out in recent years in order to understand what to eat to counteract tumors. Universities and research centers around the world have done their utmost to arrive at certain results and nowadays we can say that we have a vast knowledge of what is meant by anticancer nutrition, which should include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes and spices, without forgetting green tea, dark chocolate and extra virgin olive oil, even if new information is added every day. The article we are talking about today delves into the role of dried fruit and nuts in the fight against cancer.
The anticancer action of dried fruit
Dried apricots, prunes, dates, raisins, cranberries and figs are a very tasty and practical snack to take with you. This type of dried fruit also shows an interesting anticancer action. According to studies, dried fruit helps block early cell degeneration through several mechanisms. In fact, the substances contained in dried fruit, such as carotenoids, fibers and phenols, support the intestinal microbiota and the immune system, activate enzymes responsible for detoxification, inhibit inflammation and oxidative stress, reduce the impact of carcinogenic substances and pollution on tissues and induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells. The action of dried fruit has been observed to benefit different organs, such as the colon, breasts, liver, stomach, bones, kidneys and prostate. Of course, the fresh fruit from which these foods are made is also anticancer, but the process they undergo allows them to develop a unique profile of nutrients. For example, exposure to heat can increase the presence of substances called melanoidins, which have a powerful antioxidant action. Not only that, the drying process can make some polyphenols more available, as in the case of cranberries or other berries.
Nuts reduce the risk of tumors and improve healing ability
Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and pistachios, are a concentrate of nutrients, unsaturated fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, such as tocopherol, folate and niacin, minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, as well as substances with an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer action. Not only that, walnuts and other nuts help diversify the intestinal microbiota and support the proliferation of good bacteria. Nuts help counteract cellular degeneration, inhibiting their proliferation, increasing apoptosis, which is the death of diseased cells, and suppressing the formation of new blood vessels, nourishment for the tumor. In fact, walnuts have been shown to help fight breast cancer while a mix of walnuts and almonds has been shown to be protective against colon and prostate cancer. The anticancer substances of nuts are mainly ellagic acid, which is abundant in walnuts and pecans, selenium, which is found in Brazil nuts, melatonin, which is found in walnuts, and polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in all nuts. The consumption of nuts has shown an important anticancer action both in the long term and in the short term, less than two months of intake, which is noteworthy. Studies have also shown that each increase of 5 grams of nuts per day further reduces the risk of developing colon, breast, lung and pancreatic cancers. Not only that, 28 grams of nuts a day strengthen the body and improve the chances of healing by 21%, avoiding an unfortunate course, if a cellular degeneration occurs.
The review we saw today has the advantage of showing the importance of a healthy and varied diet, which also includes dried fruit and nuts. In fact, these foods, among which raisins, prunes, walnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts stand out, strengthen our natural defenses against cellular degeneration and fight tumors through various processes. In short, when we don't know which snack to eat in the middle of the morning, a bowl of this type of fruit could really be a good choice. In fact, dried fruit and nuts, as well as satiating us and supplying us with energy and antioxidants, help us stay healthy! The only precaution is to choose unsalted nuts.