Anti-Cancer Foods: Fennel Leaves

anti-cancer fennel leavesWhat anti-cancer benefits do fennel leaves and walnuts have in common?

Myricetin, a phytonutrient, is the magic common denominator. It binds both copper and iron floating around in your blood– compounds that can fuel oxidation and create harmful free radicals.  

As you read about in the post on walnuts, chronic oxidation and inflammation go hand in hand. Damage from oxidation triggers the immune system to activate its inflammatory response and send out growth signals to repair the damage and produce new cells. Unfortunately, cancer cells also feed off those growth signals.

In lab studies, myricetin has demonstrated anti-cancer effects on many different types of cancer cells, causing cancer cells to do what normal cells eventually do after they’ve divided a number of times– commit suicide (called “apoptosis”). 

Of all foods, fennel leaves, parsley and capers are richest in myricetin. 

Quercetin, another phytonutrient in fennel leaves, also binds both iron and copper and in addition, stimulates the uptake of zinc, an important anti-oxidant.  It’s abundant in many common foods–capers, coriander, dill, kale, red radish leaves and the outer layers of red onions–and studies have shown it’s a “significant anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent.”   

“The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil,” says the George Mateljan Foundation on its World’s Healthiest Foods website. ” In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. Researchers have also proposed a biological mechanism that may explain these anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.”

That mechanism involves Nuclear Factor-kappa B cells (NF-kB), considered the Black Knights of inflammation and cancer because they stand guard to help cancer cells evade the immune system.

LIke the curcumin in turmeric, anethole inhibits NF-kB. 

NF-κB plays a major role in development and progression of cancer,” say scientists who are focusing on the ability of herbs and spices to act as anti-cancer agents.  NF-kB cells regulate genes involved in all aspects of the cancer process–inflammation, cell survival, growth and proliferation, tumor metastasis and invasion. They suppress apoptosis, cell suicide, in a wide variety of tumors.

So what to do with your next parcel of pungent fennel leaves? Just chop them up and throw them into this sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout salad, courtesy of the Jittery Cook. And for anti-cancer synergy, add some green tea to the menu, too. 

 photo of anti-cancer fennel plant also courtesy of the Jittery Cook 




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