Health Careers Journal

Category — Research

More Colors on their Plates Mean Less Cancer in Women

A study published this week in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute” confirms, once again, the old wives often told wise tales. When grandma insisted that you had to eat your carrots and red bell peppers, she spoke with doctors and nutritionists on her side.

WebMD contributor Saylynn Boyles reports that women with higher levels of the nutrients found in bright yellow, red, and orange vegetables have markedly lower risk of breast cancer than women who do not get enough “carotenoids” in their diets. In her article, Fruits, Veggies Tied to Lower Breast Cancer Risk, Boyles reports that the colorful vegetables seem especially effective against tumors that do not depend on estrogen for rapid growth, the same tumors that oncologists regard as most resistant to treatment.

Colorful Foods Reduce Cancer Risks

Dr. Hoa Nguyen, primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, expressed no surprise at the new Harvard study, saying, “More than any other behavioral influence on women’s cancer risks, researchers have studied women’s diets. The evidence has piled-up to the point that women must take notice,” he declares. “Women can prevent cancer or improve their chances of survival when they reduce animal fats and increase vegetable proteins plus carotenoids and anthocyanins.” Translating the big scientific words into everyday language, Nguyen prescribes, “More colors on your plate mean less risk of cancer. We already knew that red and purple fruits and vegetables do your body good; now, add yellow and orange to your nutritional rainbow.”

New Findings Supplement Other Dietary Research

In 2011, two definitive studies proved that so-called “heart-healthy” diets also reduce women’s cancer risks. Writing for, Dr. Andrew Seibert emphasizes that no single food or group of foods can guarantee great health, but “the new American plate,” high in plant proteins and Omega-3 fatty acids, both promotes heart health and reduces cancer risks. Seibert and others emphasize the critical importance of reducing fats—especially from red meats. Physicians and dieticians insist no more than one-third of the calories on any plate should come from animal fats.

All the experts emphasize the importance of maintaining healthy weight. Nguyen avers, “If a patient can do just one thing to reduce at least a dozen health risks, that one thing must be following healthy diet and exercise guidelines to reach the ideal body mass index. Nothing, not even quitting cigarettes and alcohol, matters so much as healthy weight.” Seibert notes that extra pounds increase women’s risks for colo-rectal, kidney and esophageal cancers which are exceptionally difficult to treat but very easy to prevent.

Concern for Women and Families in the Inner Cities

The new study does not surprise but definitely troubles healthcare administrator Danielle McHarris who expresses concern for inner-city women who do not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. McHarris explains, “In Newark, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other old ‘rust belt’ cities, the grocery chains have pulled out, making corner convenience markets the primary food source for well over 100,000 urban families.” Transportation and price problems prevent smaller markets from stocking fresh produce, so that families most in need of fruits’ and vegetables’ health benefits cannot find anything fresh in their markets. McHarris does, however, point to one promising sign: The City of Detroit recently leveled a square mile of derelict houses and turned the land to community gardens. The city also has donated space for weekly farmers’ markets in Detroit’s most depressed neighborhoods. “Since families have been able to buy low-priced fresh produce, school nurses have seen dramatically improved health among elementary school students.”

December 14, 2012   No Comments