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Frequently Asked Questions

 


Q - What are your thoughts on the importance of consumption of organic foods for cancer survivors?

Here are some of the factors I have taken into consideration regarding your question.

  • Only 12 of 15,015 (less than 0.1%) of all presentations and abstracts at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) meetings from 1999-2003 were relevant to evaluating the effect of nutrition and/or exercise on cancer survivorship. ( Chleblowski , CA Cancer J Clin 2003 53: 266-267)
  • I'm not aware of any studies looking at rates of recurrence or survival in cancer patients who eat organic foods versus those that don't. So we don't have any strong science to guide our food choices. Therefore I have looked at other information to help me make my own decisions about what to choose to eat.
  • Hundreds of published papers in the scientific literature have shown a significantly decreased risk for primary prevention of many types of cancers with the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Of note, these studies are looking at people who are consuming produce purchased from a variety of locations, with no special emphasis on organic purchases. The logical assumption from the vast amount of data accumulated from these studies is that fruits and vegetables typically purchased from grocery stores (not organically grown) have a quantity and type of cancer protective molecules that overrides whatever pesticides used may be potentially cancer-causing.

 

However, I still consider this an issue with many loose ends. Therefore, I have chosen to consume organic fruits and vegetables generally following the rankings listed by the Environmental Working Group, focusing on purchasing organically for their list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of potentially carcinogenic pesticides:

Foods That Tend to Be High in Pesticides

FRUITS:

Apples
Cherries
Grapes (Imported)
Peaches
Pears
Red Raspberries
Strawberries

VEGETABLES:

Bell Peppers
Celery
Hot Peppers
Potatoes
Spinach

These are the choices I have made for consuming my foods at home. I do not obsess about the lack of availability of organic foods in restaurants. I will add that I purchase many food items organically that are not on this list, and I also occasionally purchase non-organic foods that are on the list. I try to balance availability and cost, knowing also that I am trying to maximize taste of my foods by purchasing fresh, local, and in-season foods when possible.

Regarding meats and dairy foods, I have chosen to eliminate meat items from my diet, focusing on filling my plate (and body!) with the multiple known health benefits from consuming plant foods (fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and more). It is easy to obtain an appropriate protein quality and quantity from a plant-based diet built around the beans, legumes, small amount of organic dairy and eggs, and seafood that I consume.

For people who choose to consume meats and dairy foods, my recommendation is to choose sources from animals permitted access to natural grass grazing in order to minimize (even eliminate) use of growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticide residues. In addition, grazing on grass optimizes the manufacture of cancer-fighting fatty acids (conjugated linoleic acid = CLA) within the meat and milk products.

In my experience, organic foods TASTE better :-) (My husband will also vouche for this observation!) Food is more than biochemistry. I want to be enjoying my food at the same time I know that its thousands of phytochemicals are helping to optimize my health while minimizing potential environmental toxins.

As a cancer survivor and Registered Dietitian, I first needed to examine if I believed the phrase "we are what we eat". Yes, after much study, I do believe that, and even more importantly, I believe "we can become what we eat". I have made my food choices with intention based on the simple philosophy that I wanted everything going into my mouth to be nurturing my recovery. Recovery covers many aspects of life, from spiritual to physical.

....Food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth. The extent to which our food reveals itself depends on us. We can see and taste the whole universe in the piece of bread! -- Thich N'hat Hanh, Peace is Every Step (New York: Bantam, 1991)

Organic foods help me connect to both the earth and universe, knowing I am making choices that have the potential to both optimize my own health and that of our planet.

Bon appétit!

FAQ posted 4/04

 

 

Back to Main QandA Page

Meat

Gastric Cancer Diana, do you ever eat any meat (other than fish)? posted 11/02
Gastric Cancer What are your thoughts on the importance of consumption of organic foods for cancer survivors? posted 4/04

Back to Main QandA Page

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables Which fruits and vegetables are the best to eat?  updated 6/02
Fruits and Vegetables What is your opinion of the vegie washes that are on the market? What do you use on your fruit and vegetables? posted 4/03
Fruits and Vegetables What are your thoughts on the importance of consumption of organic foods for cancer survivors? posted 4/04

 

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