Wine, Cheese and Chocolate are three things you don’t always associate with an anti-cancer diet. However, while critics may say–whoa, hold on now—hear me out. Wine, cheese, chocolate can be good for you, in moderation and with a few rules.
Red wine, (and dark chocolate) have positive components that are actually good for your heart and may inhibit the development of certain cancers, including breast cancer. There have been studies and reports on this for years. Of course, there are studies that say ANY alcohol raises your risk for breast cancer (likely these were done by teetotalers…just kidding). The bad news is that the body converts alcohol into DNA-destroying acetaldehyde, a carcinogen (same family as formaldehyde). However, you can help neutralize alcohol’s toxic effects by consuming certain nutrients and phytonutrients. A glass or two of red wine now and then can be a very nice social experience and can be quite enjoyable–and healthful–just don’t over-do it.
Protective components are carotene (think carrots), folic Acid (B9), niacin (B3), vitamins B6, B1, C, D, E, and a few others in smaller amounts. Keep in mind that red wine is a good source of folic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium and magnesium….so it itself, it is part of the solution. A note on folic acid— research indicates that women who drink alcohol and have a high folate intake are not at any higher risk of some breast cancers than those who abstain from alcohol. But when it comes to folic acid, go for the real thing– you can find it in abundance in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, and peas, and yes, red wine—all in the form of natural folate, which is much safer than synthetic folic acid. (Please don’t depend on the folate in wine…you need much more).
Alcohol also depletes necessary glutathione; NAC helps the body produce more glutathione. (N-acetyl cysteine is also used for preventing alcohol related liver damage and to combat toxicity from Tylenol use). Keep in mind that alcohol is tough on the liver, and you depend on your liver to remove toxins from the body. Green tea and silymarin (milk thistle) prevent damage to the liver by acting as an antioxidant and enhancing the detoxification process; grape seed extract and barley grasses are also helpful. Remember too…always have a high-fiber snack with your wine and consider a daily brazil nut, as they are high in selenium, of which a deficiency can increase risk for cancer; selenium levels tend to be reduced in people who drink alcohol regularly.
Take a look at these links…you can taste the controversy—so please, while there are arguments on both sides, it is best for your all around health to enjoy your wine if it brings you pleasure, but limit consumption and load up on the protective nutrients that may eliminate or reduce risk of cancers associated with drinking alcohol.
Cheese; a cancer no-no, right? Most of us think cheese is the enemy; it’s loaded with fat and contributes to cancer. Dr William Li has a different opinion. Certain cheeses contain Vitamin K2 that inhibits cancer growth. But don’t think you are limited to Gouda and Jarlsburg; other hard and soft cheeses contain K2, as do butter and egg yolks. Also, full fat dairy contains CLA which has powerful anti-cancer benefits, so skip the low fat versions; just be sure to buy organic, locally produced cheese made from cows or sheep not injected with hormones, and who are grass fed, whenever possible. CLA may also help reduce body fat—especially belly fat, something which increases our risk for cancer. Remember—real food for real people; when you mess with Mother Nature you pass up on nutrients and add chemicals. (Eat the butter and cheese, pass on the substitutes)
Chocolate, oh how we love chocolate. Chocolate was once thought to be nothing more than a decadent indulgence. We think of chocolate as forbidden as we try to avoid sugar; but chocolate actually helps regulate blood sugar. Just be sure to eat the real thing….the general rule is to look for 70% or higher and sugar content should be minimal; read the ingredients (there should not be many and they should be real foods). And, research shows that dark chocolate may just be the top antioxidant, right up there or even better than blueberries! For better or worse, the food you eat sends messages to your genes which alters their expression patterns, and that in turn can alter disease. Inflammation-related genes are no exception, and inflammation is the precursor to cancer. Eating plenty of blueberries and chocolate can make those inflammatory genes behave nicely. Chocolate covered blueberries anyone?
There is more to the chocolate story:
So, enjoy your party—but don’t cry…..have some red wine, some cheese and a few truffles, soufflés and even hot chocolate as it can be a good source of resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) as long as dark chocolate with a high content of cocoa is used. Just remember that terrible word…moderation. Live a little….isn’t that why we work so hard to beat cancer?
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Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer coach, radio talk show host, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn is also on the peer review board of the Natural Standard Database. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.