Can Gardening and Salads Prevent Lung Cancer?

Fresh salad with tomato

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog.
Ripe, juicy tomatoes were my father’s obsession.
Every year, Dad would plant enough tomato plants to keep our family of four and my grandparents, my aunt and her husband and my uncle and his family with huge beefsteak and oval plum tomatoes all summer long. At summer’s end, he and my mother would spend weekends canning tomatoes.

After many August weekends of canning whole tomatoes, my mother revolutionized her life by canning tomato sauce which could be used right from the jar to prepare meals. Much later on my parents discovered the wonders of freezing the sauce to keep more of the fresh made taste.

Getting bumper crops of tomatoes took a lot of work preparing the soil, starting plants from seeds, planting and then watering and tending the plants. Most spring and summer evenings, you would find my father out in his garden helping plants grow.

Two Packs A Day

And, during that time, my father was a two pack-a-day smoker. He quit “cold turkey” one day after 35 years of smoking because a coughing fit left him wheezing and unable to catch his breath. In that instant, he finally realized that his only choice was to stop smoking.

He continued to vigorously garden until his late 70’s when his second wife pronounced the garden “too much work for him” and urged him to give it up. Believe it or not, the garden seemed to be the source of his energy and strength.

Over the next few years, Dad’s health slid into decline. Hospitalizations became more frequent.

Gardening and Salads?

So even though it seems a bit far fetched, it doesn’t surprise me that the researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found recently (December 2007) that smokers and non-smokers may be able to reduce the risk of lung cancer by eating salads 4 or more times per week and working in the garden 1 or 2 times per week.

Cynical reviewers could say that this research is nothing more than getting exercise and eating the right kinds of foods. Yet, I wonder if there is something additional going on?

Thwarting Pesky Gophers!

When my children were in preschool and first grade, we tended a little garden in tubs placed in a sunny spot near our front door. We grew all plants in containers to thwart the gophers who managed to devour everything in their path.

After a few minutes of pulling weeds and watering, I would lapse into a reverie — an almost primal connection to the earth. The warmth of the sun would melt the tension from the week. Stretching and bending felt so good after a week of desk sitting. I would be refreshed and ready for the hectic week ahead.

In a number of weeks after all of my solicitous garden tending, we would be rewarded with the most delicious tasting vegetable and herbs. An added benefit of all of the work in the garden is that , even today, my sons willingly eat salads and vegetables!

And now, the researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have been able to empirically show that eating vegetables (antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) and getting outdoors to get some sun (Vitamin D) and exercise (reduce stress and condition the heart and lungs) can save smokers lives.

It is a sad irony that just a few years after my father gave up gardening, he died of lung cancer.

If you have a parent or spouse who smokes, don’t give up on getting him or her to quit. 80 percent of lung cancers are related to smoking tobacco.

In the meantime, you might want to suggest heading out to the garden to plant some veggies.

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post in any manner. Please use the comments to request permission.