Mexican Food Can Fight Cancer

Thursday, Jan 15, 2009  |  Updated 1:37 PM EDT
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Mexican Food Can Fight Cancer

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"Native," vegetable-heavy Mexican food is much better for you than the "Americanized" versions, like taco grandes and burrito supremos stuffed with fatty meats and cheeses.

If you love Mexican food but think it's bad for you, think again. A new study shows that the right Mexican food might actually prevent cancer, Dr. Bruce Hensel reported.

"Lots of fried beans and cheese and a lot of meat are still bad for most of us, but this new research says not all Mexican food is bad. What you shop for and how you cook it can make it good for you," Dr. Hensel said.

As a two-year breast cancer survivor, Margie Carrillo closely watches what she eats.

"I go a lot toward the fruits and the vegetables, of course salads and protein. I'm big on protein," Carrillo said. 

That good choice that may already be paying dividends among some Hispanic women.

New research shows that the rate of breast cancer among Hispanic women is less than that of non-Hispanic white women.
The rate of breast cancer is lowest among women who eat a native Mexican diet.

But don't mistake native for the high-fat, low-fiber Americanized version of Mexican food.

Dietician Sue Cunningham says the native diets is different: "The native Mexican diet would have an abundance of fruits and vegetables, beans. They would have tomato-based sauces and lower fat Mexican cheese."

Native Mexican food has ingredients you can find at the grocery store, such as cabbage, squash, corn, beans and different spices.

"The American Cancer Society has for years said fruits and vegetables are where the immune-boosting components of food are found. And this is just a study that confirms that," Cunningham said.

Margie's breast cancer is in remission. She's cooking and eating to keep it that way.

"Researchers compared our western diet to a low-fat diet and a Mediterranean diet. The western diet, high in sugar and fat, was associated with the greatest risk of breast cancer. Mediterranean and low fat had lower risks. Mexican can be cooked low fat. The native diet includes fresh fish as well as vegetables," Dr. Hensel said.

FAST FACT:
Roughly 182,000 new cases of female breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008.

For general information on breast cancer:

American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov

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