One of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk is to maintain a healthy diet with a diverse intake of foods. Generally, consuming foods that haven’t been processed is best, so fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Research has revealed that whole grains are a particularly important form of food for the reduction of risk in certain types of cancer. This article will take a look at which types of cancer whole grains can help prevent and how to choose whole grain foods!
Whole grains are cereal grains that contain cereal germ, endosperm, and bran. They are close to their natural form as opposed to refined grains that have been processed to make them more easily used in processed foods or to improve the aesthetics of the food. Refined grains only contain the endosperm because the milling process removes the cereal germ and bran. The bran is the outer protective layer of the grain kernels and the endosperm is the starchy carbohydrate inside the bran husk. The germ is a very healthy part of the grain because it contains vitamin B, minerals, protein and healthy fats. Unfortunately processing the grain will remove the germ and you lose all of those benefits.
You can refer to the image above to see the different parts of a wheat grain. The next time you are shopping you can also compared brown rice and white rice to see the difference between unprocessed and processed rice. The brown rice is the natural state of rice, before the germ and bran have been removed in the processing. After the rice is processed it is white and faster to cook. That makes it more convenient but you also lose many of the natural nutrients in the rice.
Health Benefits of Grains
Many of the plant compounds in whole grains are very nutritious and contain compounds that can help protect your cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Whole grains are also high in fiber which helps maintain good overall health as well as reducing the risk of cancer of stomach, colon and rectum (amongst others). In addition to the fiber there are various antioxidants, phenols, lignans and saponins (organic compounds). Let;s take a closer look at these components.
Antioxidants are compounds that help minimize cell oxidization from free radicals. Anti-oxidants can help prevent aging, help you remain healthy and help prevent cancer.
Phenols are fragrant organic compounds in oils that also have interesting antibacterial properties and help your immune system. Lignans are a plant based form of estrogen that can help protect damaged cells. Saponins act as natural anti-biotic within the body as well as playing a role in fighting cholesterol and protecting against cancer.
Cancer Research Findings
Many studies have been performed into the possible link between whole grains and cancer prevention. A meta-analysis of 19 studies into the link between whole grains and reduction of risk of colo-rectal cancer and gastric cancer found that in 16 of the studies, the cancer risk reduction from whole grains was “high” compared to a diet with only refined grains.
A separate meta-study saw 45 from 50 studies mention that whole grains have an associated decrease in cancer risk. Whole grain consumption mostly reduces risk in gastro-intestinal cancers with analysis showing a 20% reduced risk of colon cancer, 28% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer and a 40% lower risk of gastric cancer.
Other research papers have linked the consumption of whole grains to a reduction of risk for 18 types of cancer. That includes reduced risk of stomach, colon, gallbladder, liver, rectum and pancreatic cancers.
Eating More Whole Grains
It’s very easy to start eating more whole grains and get the great cancer prevention and health benefits. Stop buying white bread and choose a healthier brown or grain bread. Remove white rice from your diet and start using brown. You can also switch to whole grain cereals instead of processed cereals like your standard corn flakes. Some whole grains are fun to eat, like pop corn! Switch to wholemeal crackers, brown flour and look into the ingredients of ready to eat meals – are their better alternatives.
Once you make the switch you will not only find that you are reducing cancer risk, but you will also have increased energy and fell better. The extra nutrition in whole grains will have an impact on your overall health. Try it out!