This post will be the first in a monthly series focusing on the health of both the female and male reproductive organs. My goal is to provide insight regarding the steps we can take to promote and maintain cellular health and organ reserve, as well as to prevent the illnesses and diseases of these organs that can arise through the aging process.
Unlike our breasts or ovaries, few of us spend much time thinking about our cervix. If we weren’t reminded through our annual pap smear, many of us wouldn’t give much thought to its existence. Yet cancer of the cervix, the part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina, is the third-most-common cancer in the world, and so we’d be putting ourselves in great danger by ignoring it.
So, what can we do to prevent cervical cancer and cervical dysplasia (atypical cells), besides getting regular pap smears and preventing HPV? Well, as it turns out, there’s a lot we can do. With regards to cervical health, diet and nutrient intake can have a direct impact.
Certain phytonutrients found in plant-based foods, especially cruciferous vegetables, offer great protection to the cervix, acting as antioxidants and exhibiting anti-cancer potential. In addition, several B vitamins specifically the activated forms of folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 play a critical role in maintaining healthy DNA expression, cell division, and cell health, which are all of great importance to the integrity of cervical cells. Also, the minerals zinc and selenium may also play an important role in the health of the cervix, as they both exhibit antioxidant potential and support immune function.
To translate all this science to your grocery checklist, I offer these simple dietary suggestions.
Eat a diet rich in a wide variety of plant-based foods. Think of the rainbow and try to work in every color. Add at least 2-3 non-starchy vegetables to all meals and snack on them whenever possible, aiming a minimum of 7 different vegetables per day.
Try to eat at least 1 but ideally 2 servings of cruciferous vegetables daily. This group of vegetables includes broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These health-promoting vegetables contain phytonutrient compounds that are currently under investigation as chemotherapeutic agents, substances that are known to be of use in chemotherapy.
Organic berries are low-glycemic fruits rich in polyphenols and fiber. Add fresh berries to your diet when in season. Red grapefruit is abundant during the winter months and is an excellent source of fiber, naturally occurring vitamin C, and phytonutrients. Eat the whole fruit rather than drink the juice, as this is more beneficial.
Ensure a regular intake of essential fatty acids, particularly the omega-3s found in wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon. Bake rather than broil to avoid damaging the fats.
Avoid refined sugars and processed grain-based foods, including gluten-free alternatives. These foods are acidifying, contribute to inflammation, and promote cancer cell growth.
Choose hormone-free, antibiotic-free, organic grass-fed options when available, especially when eating meat or eggs. Eat small portions and bake instead of grill to prevent the formation of cancer-promoting compounds.