If you grew up eating yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, or similar fermented foods, you’ve done your body a seriously good favor without even realizing it. And if you weren’t so fortunate to have these foods as part of your standard diet, it’s not too late to start! These naturally fermented foods have long been enjoyed in cultures around the world and are true heroes in the fight against cancer.

Our ancestors often preserved fresh vegetables by fermenting them so that they could be enjoyed in the out-of-season months. But what may have been done as merely a method of food preservation has also proven to be highly effective in preserving our long-term health.

What we’ve come to learn is that this natural fermentation process significantly boosts the balance of beneficial bacteria found in the gut — improving digestion and enhancing immunity. And yes, fermented foods are valuable assets in both preventing and fighting cancer.

Fermented Foods Fight Cancer

  • We know of eight different naturally occurring compounds in sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) that work to reduce the risk of cancer. In a study that treated breast cancer cells with cabbage juice, the chemo-preventive benefits of white cabbage products were found to impair cancer formation by decreasing the number/activity of certain enzymes.
  • A study involving over 21,000 Japanese women showed that the regular consumption of miso soup was linked to lowering breast cancer risk. In fact, those who enjoyed miso soup (3 or more bowls per day) had approximately half the risk of breast cancer as women with the lowest miso intake. See this article published in the Japan Times: “Miso a Day Keeps Breast Cancer Away.”
  • Kimchi, a popular Korean fermented dish that contains Chinese cabbage, fresh garlic, ginger, and spicy Korean chilies, is a powerful probiotic and a valuable tool in the prevention of cancer.
  • In a study of more than 1.44 million people from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, it was shown that high intakes of yogurt resulted in a 30+ percent reduced risk of lung cancer than those who did not consume yogurt as part of their diet.

In my book, I Used to Have Cancer, I talk about the importance of adding fermented foods to your diet. Almost any vegetable can be fermented, which is why you see these foods popular around the world. Fermented foods are decidedly rich in friendly bacteria (probiotics) which work to promote a healthy gut and make them a perfect tool in your arsenal in fighting cancer.

Not All Fermented Foods are the Same

TIP: When buying fermented vegetables, look for the words “raw, unpasteurized” on product labels. You’re looking for those fermented foods with live cultures of bacteria. For example, ditch the canned sauerkraut at the grocery that has been “preserved,” i.e., heated, which destroys the very bacteria that is most beneficial to your body. If you are unable to make the sauerkraut yourself, a recommended brand is Bubbie’s Sauerkraut. Ask your grocer where to find this in your local market.

Guard against overheating miso soup, as the beneficial microbes are destroyed by high heat. South River is a recommended brand that is traditionally prepared and never pasteurized.

We’re only scratching the surface in this blog post as to what is possible when you tweak your diet the right way. Read more about the importance of fermented foods and how they, along with other natural means and methods, have helped me to stay cancer-free for over thirty-five years in my book: I Used To Have Cancer.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of recipes to help you in your fight against cancer.

CANCER-FIGHTING RECIPES

2-Ingredient Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is not only a potent cancer-fighter, the homemade version is extraordinarily tasty and costs only pennies per serving!

Ingredients:

1 head of cabbage (organically grown)

1½ – 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt

Directions:

  1. Remove the green outer layers of cabbage and discard, reserving one large outer leaf. Discard cabbage core.
  2. Thinly slice cabbage (a mandolin works great for this process, but you can also use a knife or food processor). Place sliced/shredded cabbage into a large bowl.
  3. Sprinkle salt over cabbage and toss well. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Knead/massage the cabbage with your hands for at least 5 minutes. Save the liquid that will be released during this process.
  5. Pack the cabbage firmly into a clean glass quart jar or a ceramic container. Pour the brine (the liquid that was released during kneading) on top. If there is not enough of the reserved liquid to cover the cabbage, you can add a solution of salt water (1 teaspoon salt per cup of filtered water) to the mix.
  6. Place the cabbage leaf that you reserved on top of the packed-down cabbage. Place a weight on top of the cabbage to ensure that it stays submerged under the brine.
  7. Screw a lid onto the jar and allow to ferment at room temperature (1–4 weeks). After the fermentation process, you may store the sauerkraut in the refrigerator where it will keep for months.

Easy Clean-Out-The-Frig Kimchi

There may be no better way to make use of those still crispy vegetable scraps in your refrigerator that you haven’t thrown away yet. Turn them into one of the healthiest foods on the planet in no time at all. Note: always use organically grown vegetables for best results

(Recipe modified from https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/clean-out-the-fridge-kimchi)

Ingredients:

  • 1 Napa cabbage cut into 2” pieces (remove outer leaves)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • Ginger, 2″ piece, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 fresh garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce (can use gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-5 Tablespoons red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 2 scallions, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 lb. mixed veggies (such as carrots, cauliflower, fennel, green beans, radishes, turnips) cut into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle salt over. Using your hands, massage salt into leaves until cabbage begins to release its liquid. Cover with cold (filtered) water and let cabbage soak for 1 hour.
  2. Drain cabbage. Reserve 2 cups of brine. Rinse cabbage in 3 changes of freshwater. Drain well and transfer back to the bowl.
  3. Combine ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl to form a smooth paste. Stir in red pepper flakes.
  4. Add paste, scallions, and other mixed veggies into the bowl with the cabbage. Using your hands, toss until cabbage and veggies are evenly coated.
  5. Tightly pack kimchi into a glass or ceramic jars. Eliminate air bubbles by pressing down firmly. Leave 1” space at the top of the jar. If needed, top off the kimchi with reserved cabbage brine to be sure the kimchi is completely submerged in liquid. Cover jar(s) tightly with lid(s). Store at room temperature, away from sunlight. Open jars once daily to allow gases to release (for a minimum of 1 day and up to 5 days). The longer the kimchi sits, the sourer it will be. Give it a taste, and when you’re satisfied with the flavor, transfer/store jars in the refrigerator.

fermented foods fight cancer
References

S. Tasdemir, N. Sanlier, “An insight into the anticancer effects of fermented foods: A review,” Journal of Functional Foods (December 2020); Vol 75, 104281.

Lipscomb University Senior Students, “Fermented Foods and Gastric Cancer Prevention,” Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (April 13, 2017).

Lampe, “Fermented Foods: Intake and Implications for Cancer Risk,” AICR’s 2013 Annual Research Conference on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer. Hyatt Regency Bethesda. (7-8 November 2013 Presentation).

Szaefer, B. Licznerska, V. Krajka-Kuźniak, A. Bartoszek, W. Baer-Dubowska, “Modulation of CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 expression by cabbage juices and indoles in human breast cell lines,” Nutr Cancer (Aug. 2012); 64(6):879-88. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.690928.

Park, J. Jeong, Y. Lee, and J. Daily III, “Health Benefits of Kimchi (Korean Fermented Vegetables) as a Probiotic Food,” Journal of Medicinal Food, (Jan 23, 2014) Vol. 17, No. 1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2013.3083.

Kwak, Y. Cho, G. Noh, A. Om, “Cancer Preventive Potential of Kimchi Lactic Acid Bacteria (Weissella cibaria, Lactobacillus plantarum),” J Cancer Prev. (Dec. 2014); 19(4): 253–258. doi: 10.15430/JCP.2014.19.4.253

Yamamoto, T. Sobue, M. Kobayashi, S. Sasaki, S. Tsugane, for The Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study on Cancer Cardiovascular Diseases (JPHC Study) Group, “Soy, Isoflavones, and Breast Cancer Risk in Japan,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (June 18, 2003), Volume 95, Issue 12: 906–913, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/95.12.906.

Yang, D. Yu, Y. Ziang, et al., “Association of Dietary Fiber and Yogurt Consumption With Lung Cancer Risk, A Pooled Analysis,” JAMA Oncology (2020); 6(2):e194107. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.4107.

Sehadet, Tasdemirab, N. Sanlierc, “An insight into the anticancer effects of fermented foods: a review,” Journal of Functional Foods (Dec. 2020): Volume 75, 104281.

Sharp, F. Lagarde, T. Mizuno, C. Sauvaget, T. Fukuhara, N. Allen, G. Suzuki, S. Tokuoka, “Relationship of hepatocellular carcinoma to soya food consumption: a cohort-based, case-control study in Japan,” Int J Cancer (June 10, 2005); 115(2):290-5. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20897.

Kurozawa, I. Ogimoto, A. Shibata, et al., “Dietary habits and risk of death due to hepatocellular carcinoma in a large scale cohort study in Japan. Univariate analysis of JACC study data,” Kurume Med Journal (2004); 51(2):141-9. doi: 10.2739/kurumemedj.51.141.

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