Spices and Cancer Risk, Free Range Chicken, Citrus Fruits and Vitamin C

Q: Can eating more spices like turmeric really lower my cancer risk?
Q: What is meant by the term “free range chicken”?
Q: Are all citrus fruits high in vitamin C?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Can eating more spices like turmeric really lower my cancer risk?

A: There is laboratory evidence to suggest that curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow color, might reduce formation or growth of cancer cells. However, we have very little evidence of its effects in humans. Small studies suggest that it may protect against cancers of the breast, colon and more. But in some cases, benefits are only seen from amounts of curcumin that far exceed the quarter-teaspoon of turmeric typically found in a serving of curry dishes. Using modest amounts of turmeric, as is the tradition in Indian and North African cooking, is safe for most adults. Use of larger amounts might have some negative effects, including disturbing liver function or existing gallbladder disease or upsetting some people’s stomachs; we clearly need more research on this.

Some small studies suggest that curcumin could have synergistic effects with compounds in onions or cruciferous vegetables, so that perhaps small amounts could have important protective effects.

Q: What is meant by the term “free range chicken”?

A: Although this term conjures images of birds roaming an open barnyard all day, that’s not necessarily what you’re buying. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), free range chickens are defined as birds that have any access to the outside, perhaps for just a few minutes a day. The term has no bearing on what the chicken is fed, what medications it receives or the amount of living space it has. In practical terms, the claim doesn’t mean much in the U.S.

Q: Are all citrus fruits high in vitamin C?

A: Citrus fruits – which include the common orange and grapefruit as well as the tangerine, clementine, tangelo, kumquat and ugli fruit – are all excellent sources of vitamin C. On their own, one standard serving of these fruits packs from 20 to 70 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C. Although this doesn’t quite meet the daily recommended needs for adults (current recommendations call for 75 mg of vitamin C a day for women and 90 mg for men; daily goals for children range from 25 to 75 mg, depending on age), you can easily obtain your daily quota by adding up the smaller contributions of the other vegetables and fruits that you need for overall good health. Besides citrus fruits, other produce rich in vitamin C includes strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, broccoli and bell peppers.

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