The Five-A-Day campaign is probably the most well-known of our government’s health campaigns so, in that respect, the most successful. However, since its introduction in 2003, we’re still only eating only three and a half portions of fruit and vegetables a day on average. But, now there’s even more reason to up your fruit and veg intake, particularly if you want to ward off breast cancer.
According to a recently-published study in the International Journal of Cancer, getting your five-a-day – and more – could mean you’re getting a sizable chunk of extra protection from aggressive forms of breast cancer, and the medical community is sitting up and taking notice.
The study, conducted by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, utilised the data of 182,145 female nurses from 1980 to 2013, and concluded that those who’d eaten 5.5 servings of fruit and veg a day or more, were significantly less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate fewer than 2.5 servings. In fact, they had an 11% lower risk.
Antitoxidants and nutrients can help
So what kinds of fruit and veg should you be looking for? According to the study, the anti-cancer properties of greens and fruits have nothing to do with the fibre they contain, which doesn’t seem to have a substantial effect on fending off cancer (although it keeps you regular).
According to the study, the real benefits of a five-a-day routine come from the increased levels of antioxidants and micronutrients – particularly in the following…
Otherwise known as ‘brassicas’, cruciferous vegetables are mainly leafy greens – things like broccoli, sprouts, cress, cabbage, bok choy, kale and caulis (but also turnips and radishes). The reason for this is that they’re loaded with glucosinulates (which can reduce hormone-related cancers and deactivate carcinogens). They work especially well when eaten raw – as part of a smoothie, for example – but also do a job when they’re lightly cooked – in a stir fry, for example.
Low in natural sugar, that are packed with anthocyanins – which reduce inflammation and fend off oxidation in the brain – and ellagic acid, which can neutralise carcinogens and have anti-tumour benefits.
Capisicums and other yellow-orange veg
If you like spicy food, keep it up: there’s been a barrage of scientific evidence which claims that capsaicin – the active ingredient of chilli peppers – has the ability to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells undamaged. But other veg such as pumpkin and corn can help, too.
Know your portions
If you’re not portion-savvy but you’d like to begin a healthy-eating regime, it’s worth remembering the following: one portion equals to or three small items (like plums, apricots etc), one medium-sized fruit (like apples or pears), one portion of a large fruit (slice of pineapple, melon etc), four tablespoons of greens, three tablespoons of cooked veg, and three heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans. Oh, and potatoes don’t count, alas: they’re counted as a starchy food.