Strengthening Immunity – Eating for Resistance

Recently, research shows that part of the strengths of certain foods against cancer derives from their effect on your immune defenses. When Cancer cells arise, your white blood cells must recognize that they are abnormal and destroy them. White blood cells like soldiers work much better when they are well nourished and do not have to cope with a load of fat in the blood stream.

Researchers asked a group of volunteers to reduce the fat content of their diets, cutting down fats from all sources. Three months later the researchers took blood samples from the volunteers and examined their cells’ ability to recognize and destroy abnormal cells. As noticed, their immune functions were greatly increased.

Vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes are not just low in fat. They also contain nutrients, particularly beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and the mineral selenium, all of which shown to bolster immune function. It does not mean that you have to eat enormous amounts of vegetables to see a difference. The amount of beta-carotene shown to boost immune function was 30 mg, the amount in two large carrots.

Researchers found that vegetarians have tremendous advantage when samples of their blood was analyzed. They tested white blood cells of vegetarians and non-vegetarians working at the cancer center to see the ability of the white blood cells to knock out cancer cells. The vegetarians had more than double the ability to destroy cancer cells compared to non-vegetarians, presumably because their diets were lower in fat and higher in vitamins and minerals.

A healthful diet can be used along with whatever other treatments for cancer you may be using. On the other hand, grains, beans, vegetables and fruits are protective. They are plant-based. They have no animal proteins or animal fat, their roughage speeds the passage of food through the colon, helping you to get rid of carcinogens. Fiber also absorbs and dilutes bile acids and changes the bacteria that populate your colon, so that harmful secondary bile acids are less likely to form. Diets rich in animal products and other fatty foods tend to increase cancer risk, while vegetables and fruits help to reduce it.

Preventing Damage

Free radicals, extremely unstable and destructive molecules that are in waste products made by our cells, are the biological equivalent of factory exhaust. Free radicals are also made by our white blood cells for use as weapons against bacteria.

Unfortunately, these molecular toxins end up attacking your own body tissues and are believed to actually cause damage of inflammation.

vegetables-1014505_640The cells in your body are surrounded by a thin cell membrane that has built in antioxidants to knock out free radicals. Beta-carotene is one of the best-known antioxidants. It gives carrots and sweet potatoes their orange color. It sits in the cell-membrane, waiting to neutralize free radicals as they approach stopping them from doing further harm.

Vitamin E and the mineral selenium, found in grains, beans and vegetables, assist beta- carotene on the cell surface as important parts of your antioxidant defenses.

Foods for Defense

Antioxidants in Foods (MG)

  Vitamin C Beta-Carotene Vitamin E
Apple (1) 8 0.04 0.80  
Broccoli 116 1.30 1.30
Brussel Sprouts 96 0.67 2.00
Carrots (1) 7 12.00 3.00
Cauliflower 68 0.01 0.10
Chickpeas 2 0.02 5.10
Grapefruit (1) 94 0.38 0.64
Navy Beans 2 0 4.10
Pineapple 24 0.02 0.16
Rice, Brown 0 0 4.00
Soy Beans 3 0.01 35.00
Spinach, Fresh 16 2.30 1.10
Strawberries 85 0.02 0.18
Sweet Potato (1) 28 15.00 5.90

Serving sizes are one cup, except as otherwise noted. Sources: J.A>T. Pennington, Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions commonly Used, 16th ed. (Philadelphia, Vitamin E. content of foods, “ J Am Dietetic Assoc 75)

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