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According to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, adding a variety of vegetables to you diet may help reduce the risk of getting lung cancer. And for people who smoke, upping your assortment of fruits and veggies may decrease the risk of squamous cell lung cancer. More often associated with smoking, squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of lung cancer. Of course, it’s only prudent to add here that quitting smoking will also decrease your risk of lung cancer -- much more so than eating a cornucopia of produce will.
The researchers examined the diets of 452,187 people -- 1,613 of whom had lung cancer. They looked to see how many of the 14 most commonly eaten fruits and 26 commonly eaten vegetables participants regularly ate. They found that, regardless of the amount, participants who ate a wide variety of vegetables had a much lower risk of lung cancer. Smokers who ate a diverse mix of fruit and vegetables “substantially” decreased their risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
According to Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., editorial board member for Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, cigarettes contain a complex mixture of cancer-causing agents, so it makes sense that a mixture of fruits and vegetables -- and the various chemicals they contain -- is needed to combat all of those carcinogens.
Every fruit or vegetable has its own potent mixture of plant compounds that offer protective health benefits. According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat to Live, we haven’t even discovered all of these healthful chemicals yet. “A strawberry doesn’t have 30 nutrients; it has 1,000 nutrients. A piece of broccoli has thousands. You can’t expect one particular superfood to give you maximum protection. Foods work together to maximize the immune system and prevent chronic disease.”
If my knowledge of vegetables were based on what I ate as a kid, I would, no doubt, think only three vegetables existed: Corn, peas and carrots. Growing up, dinner invariably involved one of those vegetables, as well as some variation on chicken. Though I was never a picky eater as a kid, it didn’t occur to me as an adult to shop outside of my comfort zone until I became interested in health. Still, grocery-shopping tends to be a mindless affair for me, and as such, I end up buying the same produce every week. But this year, I decided to join my neighborhood’s community-sponsored agriculture (CSA), where you pay a set fee to a local farm before the growing season begins, and the farm delivers its crops to you once a week. I have never experienced so much variety in my life: Pattypan squash, purple kohlrabi, Hakurei turnips and three different types of kale. I love trying new recipes for vegetables I’ve never heard of. And, with studies like this one, it makes me even happier to know I’m branching out and giving my body nutrients they may never have experienced before. If they help undo the damage of all my past health sins, well, that’s just even better.
What does the produce bin in your refrigerator look like? Is it the same each week or something different all the time? Chime in below.