Wellkasa’s ™ Sumit Mehrotra met with Donald I Abrams, MD, Integrative Oncologist, to have an afternoon chat about nutrition. Dr. Abrams shared his recommendations on the foods that are beneficial and those that would be best minimized or avoided to decrease the risk of disease, including cancer.
What Does Dr. Abrams Recommend as the Best Diet?
Dietary issues have surpassed high blood pressure and tobacco use to become the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States today. As such, Dr. Abrams believes that the best dietary regimen for our bodies is organic, plant-based, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, real, and whole foods.
Dr. Abrams recommends that we should eat organic foods for many reasons. Eating organic produce avoids herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals that we do not need in our bodies. Organic plants must also produce chemicals that help them survive in their environment. These chemicals benefit us as well by increasing the potency of the nutrients.
We do not need to eat a strictly vegetarian, vegan, or raw diet, but Dr. Abrams believes that a diet rich in plants is the best for our health. We should eat 5 to 9 servings (at least 3 ½ to 4 cups) of fruits and vegetables daily, as they contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent damage to tissues by taking free radicals out of circulation.
Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s healing process, commonly following injuries or surgeries, for example. Unprovoked inflammation can lead to degenerative diseases of aging, such as dementia, heart disease, and cancer. The best foods decrease inflammation instead of promoting it.
Of course, in a corporeal sense, everything in the grocery store is real and tangible, but Dr. Abrams means real food in reference to foods that are not heavily processed. Real foods—what we should eat – are typically the ones located in the outer perimeter of the supermarket, while the aisles are often the regions stocked with processed and sugary foods. Real foods are best for our overall health, whereas the overconsumption of processed and ultra-processed foods over the past 50 years has contributed to a national deterioration in health.
Although obtaining nutrients through modified foods like juiced or powdered fruits and vegetables is possible, Dr. Abrams believes the best foods are whole foods as fiber is critical.
Dr. Abrams's Recommendations for Best Foods to Eat
Broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are named after the cross shape in which their flowers grow. There are also cruciferous roots like radishes and green leafy cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, collard greens, Bok choy, and arugula.
Cruciferous vegetables contain a chemical so potent at reducing the risk of cancer that doctors have started to look at it (sulforaphane) as chemotherapy. Cruciferous vegetables contain another chemical that can change estrogen from the type that fuels estrogen-driven cancer to a type that doesn’t. Along with cruciferous vegetables, we should increase our consumption of orange-yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash.
Organic, Non-GMO Soy
Soy is best if it is organic, non-GMO, and a whole soy food. We should eat soy foods like soybeans, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and miso rather than soy cheese, soy turkey, and soy hot dogs, which are more heavily processed. Ironically, soy foods are some of the best foods for women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Soy prevents breast cancer, and, in women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer on hormonal therapies, soy decreases the risk of recurrence.
Organic Pigmented Fruits
The best food in the fruit section is pigmented fruit like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Organic is preferred, as these fruits are like sponges for toxins.
Ginger, garlic, onions, and turmeric are healthful seasonings. Turmeric is a highly potent anti-inflammatory and may have anti-cancer activity. Mediterranean spices like basil, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are also great seasonings.
We should eat whole grains whenever possible. Brown rice is better than white rice. However, if white is preferred, jasmine and basmati are good options. Millet and quinoa are also good grains. Bread should be whole grain as opposed to whole wheat.
Best Seafoods for Good Health
The best animal foods are deep, cold-water fish like salmon, black cod, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and perhaps anti-depressant. Other fish and seafood are also good choices, but those are the richest in omega-3’s.
Caution on Poultry and Eggs
Chicken and eggs are some of the most inflammatory foods because their diets make them produce fats rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Organic poultry is typically healthier. Eggs are linked to numerous malignancies; if we eat them, they should be organic with omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid Processed Meats in Your Diet
Processed meats like salami, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, ham, and bacon are some of the unhealthiest foods. Processed meats are considered a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization—no doubt about it. Dr. Abrams does not eat beef or pork because he doubts they will ever be clean, but he occasionally indulges in lamb.
Caution on Dairy in Your Diet
No other animal drinks the milk of another species or drinks milk after being weaned. We lose the ability to digest the sugars and proteins in dairy by age 3 or 4. Lactose intolerance is considered to be a disease or a disorder, but it is the norm. Most of us don’t realize we are lactose intolerant until we stop consuming dairy. Some of the better dairy products are butter, ghee, yogurt, or kefir without artificial colors, artificial flavors, and added sugars.
Foods and drinks with added or refined sugar are some of the worst foods. Even 100 % fruit juices are problematic because, unlike when the sugar is linked to the fiber, as in the whole fruit, sugar without the fiber is too rapidly absorbed. This triggers insulin and insulin-like growth factor—both of which promote inflammation and the growth of cancerous cells. Sugar is the Number ONE NO! As green tea has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cancer, it may be a healthier breakfast alternative to orange juice.
Avoid Refined Carbohydrates
Many healthy foods like fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates that are good for us. Refined carbohydrates like white flour, white pasta, and white sugar are some of the worst foods for us because they promote obesity, metabolic syndrome, and probably some cancers.