While you likely don’t think about your cervix very often, having a healthy cervix is pretty important. The cervix is lined with cells that look like scales on a fish called squamous cells. At the opening of the cervical canal is the endocervix and this is lined with columnar cells. These cells are collected during a Pap to look for infection such as human papillomavirus (HPV), cell changes and even cancer. In the United States, there are 11,700 new cases of HPV-associated cervical cancer reported every year.
Fortunately, you can optimize the health of these cells by following a healthful diet and taking certain nutritional supplements. Here are 5 nutrition tips for a healthy cervix.
1. Vitamins for a Healthy Cervix
A healthful diet rich in these antioxidant vitamins can help maintain a healthy cervix. Do not fear if you are unable to consume all of these vitamins through your diet alone. You can take a daily high-dose multivitamin supplement to help bridge the gap.
One ounce of sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts, and two tablespoons peanut butter top the list of foods rich in vitamin E. Research shows that this antioxidant vitamin may help maintain a healthy cervix. In a Brazilian study, tocopherols in vitamin E were found to have a protective effect against HPV.
The Brazilian study also found that women with HPV who ate antioxidant-rich fruit, such as papaya and oranges, had healthier cells in the cervix. These foods contain compounds known as provitamin A carotenoids (plant pigments that are converted into vitamin A). Sweet potato, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, mangoes, and cantaloupe are at the top the of the list of foods rich in provitamin A.
Any discussion of antioxidant vitamins would not be complete without mentioning vitamin C. Citrus fruits, red and green peppers, strawberries and kiwi are a few of the many fruits and vegetables that are rich in this vitamin. Aim to eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, to be well on your way to get the C you need.
The B vitamins are also important for a healthy cervix. Vitamin B6 is widely available in foods and supports healthy immune function. It contributes to enzymatic reactions in the body, many of these relate to protein metabolism, and keep cells healthy. Chickpeas, chicken breast, and salmon are rich sources of this vitamin.
Studies show that folate and Vitamin B12 may help prevent cervical cancer due to their role in DNA repair and synthesis. Spinach, fortified cereals, enriched pasta, and asparagus are at the top of the list of foods that supply folate.
Vitamin B12 is abundant in animal products and also fortified foods such as cereals. Good sources include fish, beef, and dairy products.
2. Brew Up Some Green Tea
Two-thirds of the world’s population drinks tea and considering it has been around for centuries, it’s clear our ancestors were on to something. The beneficial components of green tea include the catechins, particularly EGCG, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which has been linked to cancer prevention as well as other health benefits including cardiovascular health and diabetes management. Whether you choose iced tea or hot tea, choose green tea, since the leaves are handled in ways that preserve their polyphenols and their benefit to the body. If drinking green tea is not for you, a nutritional supplement with a green tea extract rich in EGCG is another good option.
3. Crunch on Some Cruciferous Vegetables
You’ve been told many times to eat your vegetables, and this advice is pretty important when it comes to fighting cancer. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables, is linked to decreased risk and progression of cancer. In one study, women taking an I3C supplement had more of a clearing of their abnormal cervical cells than women taking a placebo. Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli are just a few of these powerful cruciferous vegetables that are rich in I3C.
4. Nix the Fad Diets
Fad diets are bad for your health. It’s true. Think “the cabbage soup diet” or “the grapefruit diet” or any diet that drastically limits what you can eat. Many people follow fad diets for just a few days at a time. However, repeating the diet extends the amount of time you deprive your cells of some of the most basic nutrients. To keep your cervix healthy, these cells require a variety of foods, with a focus on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
5. Watch Your Weight
A study found that women who were obese, had high blood pressure and high triglycerides had a greater risk of cervical cancer. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat circulating around your body and are the storage form of excess calories. You can lower your triglyceride level by losing weight. If you’re already overweight you can also lower your blood pressure just by losing 5 to 10 pounds. Losing weight, even a small amount, can have big health benefits.
One strategy to help you lose weight is to eat foods with fewer calories but with higher volume. These types of foods include fruits and vegetables, soups and beans. The premise is that you will eat fewer calories overall and lose weight.
This soup recipe is savory and filling, and it can help you control your calorie intake and manage your weight to boot. Make a batch for dinner with plenty leftover to take for lunch the next day. The soup is so nutrient-rich it supplies I3C in the cruciferous kale, 21% of vitamin B12, 23% of vitamin E and a whopping 160% of your daily value of vitamin C and 62% of vitamin A to help keep all of your cells healthy and happy.
One-Dish Turkey Soup with Tomato, Chickpeas and Kale
Makes 6 servings
- 3 tablespoons safflower oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 medium sweet red peppers, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound ground turkey breast
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Two 15-ounce cans reduced sodium chick peas, rinsed and drained
- Two 15-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
- 32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
- 10 ounces mixed baby greens or baby kale
- Add oil to a large pot and heat over low to medium heat.
- Then, add onion and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Next, add red peppers and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic and heat for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from oven, squeeze lemon juice over the fish, and serve.
- Break turkey into small portions and add to the mixture, and heat while stirring to break up the mixture for 10 minutes.
- Add the drained chickpeas, the tomatoes with the liquid, the chicken broth, vinegar and the salt and pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil, add the kale, stirring to integrate the greens for 1-2 minutes, then turn off heat and stir to combine all ingredients well before serving.
For a healthy cervix the advice is simple. Maintain a diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, and drink some green tea daily. Include other antioxidant and B vitamin-rich foods including lean proteins, nuts and seeds. Consider a dietary supplement rich in these nutrients. Eating healthfully and taking a high-quality nutritional supplement are ways you can send thanks to the cells that work so hard in your body every day.
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