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Why olive oil is healthy
Radhieka Pandeya
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January 11, 2007

We all know that cancer can be incurable if discovered in its later stages. What many don't know is that cancer is a lifestyle disease that can actually be prevented from spreading in your body.

From occupying the ninth position as the most common cause of death in the last decade, cancer has moved up to occupy the sixth position.

If you lead a fast-paced life that thrives on junk food, tobacco and alcohol, keeps you inactive all day and includes a few hundred grams of groundnuts, you could be at the risk of getting cancer.

However, studies now show that certain foods and oils can cut the risk of cancer. In fact, according to a recent study by Danish researchers, about 25 millilitres of olive oil every day reduces the level of a substance that causes cell damage, thus causing cancer.

Olive oil contains a number of compounds called phenols and monounsaturated fats, which are believed to act as powerful antioxidants. Nutritionist Shikha Sharma says, "Since olive oil is processed only marginally and is not cooked too much, it retains its antioxidants."

Foods with high levels of Vitamins A, C or E are also good for preventing cancer. In fact, studies have shown that only natural products are really beneficial for the body.

Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, garlic, ginger, fish oil and herbal products like amla, as well as those that belong to the phyllanthus group of plants and citrus fruits, are also considered preventive foods when it comes to cancer.

Dr Surendra S Shastri, professor and head, department of preventive oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, cautions, "The best thing for Indians would be to include these foodstuffs in their diet. Vegetarianism is a good option since red meat is a known cause of cancer and also causes obesity." Abstinence from alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco, other major cancer causing agents, is also recommended by experts.

A favourite Indian winter snack has also come under the scanner for causing cancer -- groundnuts. Groundnuts can contain a fungus that might enter the human body and cause a fungal infection leading to cancer, particularly liver cancer. Which is why scientists have now developed a genetically modified groundnut.

Dr B C Das, director of the Institute of Cytology and Preventive Oncology, Noida, explains, "Oral hygiene is very important. You must also avoid junk food and a sedentary lifestyle. With increased life expectancy, more cancer cases are coming to the fore. It is thus essential that people adopt healthy lifestyles."

So, it might be a good idea to toss your vegetables in olive oil instead of over-cooking them and to bake instead of frying, suggests Sharma.

Tomorrow: Exciting recipes

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