By Linda Rath
You might have heard that sugar causes cancer or makes it grow faster. In some ways, this makes sense. Every cell in your body uses blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But cancer cells use about 200 times more than normal cells. Tumors that start in the thin, flat (squamous) cells in your lungs gobble up even more glucose. They need huge amounts of sugar to fuel their growth.
The sugar your cells need comes from your diet. And not just from gooey desserts or giant white chocolate mochas. Sugar is also found in:
- Fruit (fructose)
- Vegetables (glucose)
- Dairy products (lactose)
- Carbs like bread, pasta, and rice
What would happen if you cut out these foods? Would that slow cancer or stop it from forming in the first place?
So far, there’s not much proof that a low-sugar or low-carb diet lowers your chance of cancer. One exception is cancer of the esophagus, the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. A recent study suggests that sugar and sweetened drinks may raise the chances of this cancer by 70% or more.
Is It Obesity?
Many experts, including the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, don’t think sugar causes cancer. They say the real problem is obesity.
Fat cells release inflammatory proteins called adipokines. They can damage DNA and eventually cause tumors. The more fat cells you have, the more of these proteins you’re likely to have.
Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for at least 13 types of cancer, including breast, liver and colon cancer.
Other cancer experts say sugar itself can drive cancer. One such expert is noted cancer researcher Lewis Cantley, PhD, director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
Cantley thinks some cancers may start with high levels of insulin, the hormone that controls the amount of sugar in your blood. He says his research shows that “having high levels of insulin is likely to drive cancer. And what drives insulin levels is sugar.”
He doesn’t eat any sugar himself because he believes the link between sugar and cancer is clear.
Weight Loss Superfoods: Fact or Fiction?
There’s no magic bullet for weight loss. For example, you may have heard that grapefruit “burns” fat, right? Wrong. No food can do that. But if you eat grapefruit as a snack instead of chips or a candy bar, that can help you lose weight. Among other things, it’s a good source of vitamins A and C.
You’re more likely to stick to a diet that includes nuts, so you’re more likely to lose weight as well. Grab a handful — don’t let the fat content put you off. The fats in nuts are healthy and help satisfy hunger, making you less likely to overeat.
You read that right. Full-fat, not low-fat, yogurt may help with obesity — as long as you don’t overdo it. And yogurt is good for the bacteria in your gut. That can lead you to lose weight and not gain belly fat, the most dangerous kind of fat.
They can really satisfy your hunger. And when you feel satisfied, you’re less likely to overeat. In addition, boiled potatoes form something called “resistant starch,” a special kind of fiber that may help you lose weight. But don’t load them up with butter, cheese, or sour cream.
If you want something sweet, berries are a good choice. Low in calories and filled with juice and fiber, these small, flavorful fruits may keep your hands from the cookie jar. They also may help drop your cholesterol, and they’re loaded with antioxidants to help fight off sickness.
Avocado-rich guacamole is a staple at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But this creamy, filling fruit is great on its own or in slices on a sandwich. Yes, it has fat, but it’s the good kind. A little avocado in your diet can help keep hunger away while helping to lower your cholesterol.
They’re full of nutrients and great for making you feel full. If you want to lose weight, and you already burn more than you eat, eggs can help you eat less and reach your goal.
Fermented foods, such as kimchi, are good for the mix of bacteria in your gut, which can mean better fat metabolism and weight management. Food gets fermented when it sits for a long time in water or salt or other spices. This can change its chemistry and taste. Make sure to buy fermented foods — not simply pickled — to get the full effect.