There’s only one vegetable that’s never frozen, canned, or cooked – it’s only served in its fresh form. And if you eat plenty of this vegetable and others like it, you might reduce your risk of one of the most common and deadly chronic diseases that afflicts both men and women – especially women.
Setting risk levels
Did you guess the answer to the vegetable riddle? It’s lettuce. And when your diet combines this leafy green with others, such as spinach, cabbage, and kale, you can be certain you’re getting a potent combination of antioxidants and flavonoids.
In a study currently published only online on the web site for the journal Nutrition, researchers at Spain’s Galician Public Foundation for Health Emergencies conducted a study to examine the correlation between fruit and vegetable intake and lung cancer risk.
- Researchers recruited more than 600 subjects from a population in Northwest Spain – nearly 300 were lung cancer patients, and the rest were cancer-free control subjects
- All of the subjects were over the age of 35
- Analysis of each subject’s dietary intake revealed no link between fruit intake and a reduced risk of lung cancer
- Subjects who ate at least one serving per day of leafy green vegetables had half the risk of lung cancer compared to subjects who only ate these types of vegetables a few times each week
- Daily intake of tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, and turnip tops were also linked to a reduced risk of lung cancer
The Spanish team believes that the key to this protection is vitamin A, which is quite a bit more abundant in leafy green vegetables compared to fruit. But they stress that the vitamin A effect requires the full complement of other antioxidants and nutrients these foods supply.
This study is especially noteworthy for women because we’re more susceptible to lung cancer than men. In fact, about 80 percent of non-smokers who develop lung cancer are women. And the consequences are grave: Among women, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than ovarian, breast, and uterine cancers combined.
In a 2005 interview, lung cancer specialist Jyoti Patel, M.D., told USA Today that all women need to be aware of these primary lung cancer warning signs:
- A cough that changes character (such as severity or frequency)
- Coughing that wakes you up at night
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in sputum
Meanwhile, maintaining a high level of vitamin D (a proven cancer fighter) also provides important support for lung health.
In a 2006 study from Australia’s University of Auckland, researchers compared blood serum levels of vitamin D to results of a test that measured lung capacity in more than 14,000 subjects. Analysis revealed a significant relationship between high D concentrations and the vital capacity of the lungs.
And while fruit intake may have struck out as a lung cancer preventive in the Spanish study, other research has shown that a high intake of vitamin C from dietary sources is necessary to maintain optimal lung function.
“Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables and Risk of Lung Cancer: A Case-Control Study in Galicia, Spain” Nutrition, Published online ahead of print, 3/7/08, sciencedirect.com