The Environmental Working Group has just released its new Cancer Defense Diet, developed based on existing research linking diet to cancer and designed to help people consume more cancer-fighting foods through a varied, plant-based diet.
“The real strong evidence for reducing cancer risk in terms of diet is focused on broader dietary patterns,” explains EWG Senior Scientist Curt Della Valle, Ph.D., director of the organization’s Cancer Prevention Initiative, noting that the “synergy of nutrients” in a varied diet is more likely to have cancer-fighting benefits than a sole “fad” superfood.
“Those might be part of a healthy diet, but thinking that any one nutrient or one food source is going to be the cure-all probably is not true,” he says.
EWG’s philosophy in creating the Cancer Defense Diet was to make information about cancer-fighting foods more easily accessible, thus encouraging people to abide by these guidelines.
“Most people know that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you,” explains Della Valle, “But most people, at least most people in the U.S., aren’t doing that.”
He and his team believe that by presenting not only the what, but also the why of a diet based on cancer-fighting foods, EWG is offering people the ability and the motivation take control of their own health.
The Cancer Defense Diet website includes a nutrition calculator, which allows people to check whether they are consuming cancer-fighting foods or likely carcinogens.
EWG also highlights food pairings that can enhance the bioavailability of nutrients and phytochemicals or even reduce risk factors in possibly carcinogenic foods. Della Valle notes, for example, that the nitrates in hot dogs are “a big concern from a cancer perspective” and are less likely to become carcinogenic when consumed with vitamin C or another antioxidant.
“It’s great to have more resources out there to help people transition to a plant-based diet,” says Michele Simon, JD, MPH, Executive Director, Plant Based Foods Association, of the new diet. “In addition to education, however, we need policy change to help ensure that people have access to healthy, plant-based foods.”
Simon notes that while there is definitely a consumer shift toward a more plant-based way of eating, increasing the availability of plant-based foods and continuing to promote them through policy change are also important factors in furthering these healthy living goals.
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