I have long believed that people can transform their health with the foods they eat. I encourage patients with a wide array of conditions to examine their diets in addition to using traditional treatments and medicines. For some, adopting a healthy diet full of produce, whole grains and lean protein can improve symptoms through weight loss. For people with certain diseases, choosing foods with unique, wellness-promoting qualities can provide a major boost to their health.
For those seeking to actively prevent cancer, the foods you eat can bring big health benefits. Countless studies have been done on the effects of different diets or individual foods on the many types of cancer that can strike. Although there is certainly a lot of data out there, I have put together some information about the most beneficial nutrients for fighting cancer, as well as a list of the top anti-caner foods.
How Food Fights Cancer
The easiest way to adopt an anti-cancer diet to is to eat mostly plant based foods—fill about two-thirds of your plate with them. If you’re picturing salads everyday for lunch and dinner, start broadening your horizons. Fruit and vegetables are crucial, but beans, whole grains and tofu are also plant-based. So you might enjoy a tofu and veggie stir-fry over brown rice; a bean and cheese burrito in a whole wheat tortilla; or a grilled vegetable sandwich with a few thin slices of chicken breast on whole grain bread.
Everyone needs protein, so don’t eliminate lean sources like chicken, fish and lowfat dairy. Seafood in particular is loaded with healthy fats that protect your heart. Simply try to eat red meat less often, or make it one flavorful component of a meal, rather than the main focus.
Researchers have also singled out certain nutrients for their anti-cancer benefits. You most likely have been hearing about antioxidants for a long time, and with good reason. These plant chemicals—many different antioxidants with different properties exist—fight inflammation in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are substances in the environment that can damage our cells and cause inflammation, a hallmark of many diseases from cancer to autoimmune disorders.
Folate, a type of B vitamin has important anti-cancer functions. People with low levels of folate seem to be more susceptible to mutation in DNA. In one study, men who consumed the recommended daily allowance of folate cut the risk for pancreatic cancer in half. Vitamin D not only builds strong bones and teeth, but slows the growth of cancerous cells. The American Association for Caner Research reports that increased intake of vitamin D is associated with lowering breast cancer risk.
The 7 Best Cancer Fighting Foods
The foods on this list are loaded with anti-cancer benefits. Better yet, none of them are expensive, exotic or difficult to find. Load your shopping cart with them today, and you’ll be protecting yourself from cancer and boosting your general health for years to come!
1) Tomatoes – Lycopene in tomatoes protects against cervical, ovarian and prostate cancers. Tomato products like sauce, paste and ketchup are even better sources due to their concentrations.
2) Berries – The vivid colors of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries come from antioxidants called anthocyanins, which fight a variety of cancers. Frozen berries are available year round—try them in smoothies or in cereal.
3) Tea – Both green and black tea contain antioxidants called catechins, which curb caner growth.
4) Spinach – One of the most nutritious leafy greens, the lutein and vitamin E in spinach fight liver, ovarian, colon, and prostate cancers.
5) Garlic – Italians and want-to-be Italians, rejoice! Garlic fights stomach, esophageal, and breast cancers. To get the most benefits, chop just before cooking.
6) Apples – This affordable, delicious, year-round fruit has plenty of antioxidants and vitamins, but it also boasts quercetin, a plant chemical, which may lower lung cancer risk and slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.
7) Pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes – As long as it’s orange, take your pick! These sweet, fiber-rich vegetables are excellent sources of beta carotene, which may protect the DNA in your cells.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.