30 Proven Foods to Help Prevent Cancer
Add some of these healthy foods to your diet to help prevent cancer and keep other diseases at bay.
Add garlic to everything you eat
Garlic contains sulfur compounds that may stimulate the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer, and may have the potential to reduce tumor growth. Studies suggest that garlic can reduce the incidence of stomach cancer by as much as a factor of 12! To be better equipped to fight cancer, learn the truth about these common cancer myths.
Eat your fill of broccoli, but steam it rather than microwaving it
Broccoli is a cancer-preventing superfood, one you should eat frequently. But take note: A Spanish study found that microwaving broccoli destroys 97 percent of the vegetable’s cancer-protective flavonoids. So steam it, eat it raw as a snack, or add it to soups and salads. Eating broccoli is just one of many healthy habits that are easy ways to help prevent cancer.
Toast some Brazil nuts and sprinkle over your salad
They’re a rich source of selenium, a trace mineral that convinces cancer cells to commit suicide and helps cells repair their DNA. A Harvard study of more than 1,000 men with prostate cancer found that those with the highest blood levels of selenium were 48 percent less likely to develop advanced disease over 13 years than men with the lowest levels. And a dramatic five-year study conducted at Cornell University and the University of Arizona showed that 200 micrograms of selenium daily—the amount in two unshelled Brazil nuts—resulted in 63 percent fewer prostate tumors, 58 percent fewer colorectal cancers, 46 percent fewer lung malignancies, and a 39 percent overall decrease in cancer deaths.
Make a batch of fresh lemonade or limeade
A daily dose of citrus fruits may cut the risk of mouth, throat, and stomach cancers by half, Australian researchers found.
Mix half a cup of blueberries into your morning cereal
Blueberries rank number one in terms of their antioxidant power. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are unstable compounds that can damage cells and lead to diseases including cancer. Blueberries are just one of many foods that are even better for you than you realized.
Learn to eat artichokes tonight
Artichokes are a great source of silymarin, an antioxidant that may help prevent skin cancer. To eat these delicious veggies, peel off the tough outer leaves on the bottom, slice the bottom, and cut off the spiky top. Then boil or steam until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Drain. Dip each leaf in a vinaigrette or garlic mayonnaise, then gently tear the fibrous covering off with your front teeth, working your way inward to the tender heart. Once there, gently scoop the bristles from the middle of the heart, dip in a little butter or lemon juice, and enjoy. For more ways to cut your skin cancer risk, learn the facts about skin cancer that everyone should know.
Throw some salmon on the grill tonight
Australian researchers found that people who ate four or more servings of fish per week were nearly one-third less likely to develop the blood cancers leukemia, myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other studies show a link between eating fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and tuna, as well as shrimp and scallops) with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in women. Ah, those amazing omega-3s at it again. In addition to eating the right foods, women should keep an eye out for the signs of cancer they’re likely to ignore.
Cut a kiwifruit in half, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon
Kiwi is a little hand grenade of cancer-fighting antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and copper. You can also rub a couple of cut kiwifruit on a low-fat cut of meat as a tenderizer.
Sprinkle scallions over your salad
A diet high in onions may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent. But the effects are strongest when they’re eaten raw or lightly cooked. So try scallions, Vidalia onions, shallots, or chives for a milder taste.
A Finnish study found that the fermentation process involved in making sauerkraut produces several other cancer-fighting compounds, including ITCs, indoles, and sulforaphane. To reduce the sodium content, rinse canned or jarred sauerkraut before eating. Here are some surprising risks of cancer you may not know about.
More than 4,000 women followed the Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, the diet with nuts, or a low-fat diet in a JAMA: Internal Medicine study. In five years, women on the Mediterranean diet with olive oil had a 68 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those on the low-fat diet. The nut group had an insignificantly lower risk. Women with the lowest risk ate about four tablespoons of olive oil per day. You can also lower your breast cancer risk by adopting these habits.
Make tea a go-to drink
Women who drink at least two cups of black tea daily have a 32 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer compared with those who drink one cup or less per day, according to a large study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This may be due to certain flavonoids (antioxidant compounds synthesized by plants) in black tea. The study did not include other types of tea, though studies have shown benefits in other varieties.
Snack on apples
When the natural fiber in apples ferments in the colon, it produces chemicals that help fight the formation of cancer cells, according to German research. Other studies have shown that one type of antioxidant found in apples, called procyanidins, triggered a series of cell signals that resulted in cancer cell death.
Add avocado to salads
Healthy monounsaturated fats (like those in avocados and its oil) will help your body better absorb anticancer antioxidants such as lycopene (from, say, tomatoes) and beta-carotene (from carrots, for example). And the signs you’re not eating enough healthy fats will be pretty clear.
Garnish food with bean sprouts
Bean sprouts are a rich source of sulforaphane, one of the most potent anticancer compounds isolated from a natural source. Sprouts can contain 50 times more sulforaphane than mature beans. Garnish chicken or beef noodle soup with sprouts, sprinkle a layer of sprouts on a whole grain tuna salad wrap, or add sprouts to a veggie omelet—they’re all ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.
Stock up on bran cereal
Bran, one of the richest sources of dietary fiber, is the indigestible outer husk of wheat, rice, oats, and other cereal grains. Bran’s high fiber content may reduce the risk of colon and other obesity-related cancers. In addition to eating bran in the morning, stir a couple of spoonfuls of oat bran into a stew or use wheat bran instead of bread crumbs to top casseroles.
Make friends with cabbage
People who eat large amounts of cabbage have low rates of colon cancer, as well as other kinds of cancer. Cabbage contains bioflavonoids and other plant chemicals that inhibit tumor growth and protect cells from free radicals. One study found that women who ate the most cabbage and its cruciferous cousins, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, had a 45 percent lower breast cancer risk than women who ate the least. Other chemicals in cabbage also speed up the body’s metabolism of estrogen, a hormone that, in high amounts, is associated with breast cancer. These chemicals may also help protect against cancers of the uterus and ovaries.
Trade crackers for carrots
Let carrots be your go-to dip utensil. In addition to being our most abundant source of beta-carotene, carrots also contain other carotenoids, including alpha-carotene and bioflavonoids, which have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer. However, studies have shown that beta-carotene supplements may be particularly harmful to smokers. In addition to quitting smoking and never starting in the first place, these other habits reduce your risk of lung cancer.
Cook with cherries
Sour cherries are an abundant source of quercetin, a flavonoid with anti-carcinogenic and antioxidant activities. Add quartered cherries to pancakes, or make a sauce with cherries and pomegranate juice thickened with arrowroot. Cherries are one of the antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies you should be eating.
Keep on drinking coffee
Java fan? Your daily beverage might help fend off cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that those who drink four or more cups of coffee a day (regular or decaf) have a 15 percent lower risk of colon cancer than those who do not drink coffee. Studies from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School show that coffee intake may help reduce the risk of basal cell carcinoma.
Nibble on corn
This summer BBQ staple contains a phenolic compound called ferulic acid, which may inhibit cancer-causing substances. Think outside the cob: You can mix corn kernels with chopped bell pepper and ground pork for a tasty burger, or even add some cooked kernels to a smoothie. Corn is a great cancer-fighting food you should be eating lots of.
Have dates for dessert
Dates are higher in total polyphenols than any of the most commonly consumed fruits or vegetables, according to the USDA. The reason? They grow in deserts, and the harsh environment causes polyphenols to provide protection from oxidative stress to the palm’s fruit. The polyphenols, along with vitamin B6 and fiber, may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Eat the whole egg
Egg yolks are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, which helps reduce the risks of some cancers as well as heart disease and diabetes.
Spice things up with ginger
A number of studies point to cancer-fighting properties of ginger. In one from the University of Michigan, ginger was found to cause ovarian cancer cells to die; in another, gingerroot supplements reduced inflammation in the colon, which suggested that ginger may have potential as a preventive measure. Tumors induced in laboratory animals grow much more slowly if the animals are pretreated with beta-ionone, a compound found in ginger. Add a slice of ginger to tea as it brews, sprinkle chopped candied ginger over morning oatmeal, or stir a heaping spoonful of grated ginger into mashed sweet potatoes. In addition to cutting cancer risk, here are some more health benefits (and risks) of ginger.
Eat grapefruit for breakfast
Pink and red grapefruits are high in lycopene, an antioxidant that appears to lower the risk of prostate cancer. A six-year Harvard study involving 48,000 doctors and other health professionals has linked 10 servings of lycopene-rich foods a week with a 50 percent reduction in prostate cancer. Other protective plant chemicals found in grapefruits include phenolic acid, which inhibits the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines; limonoids, terpenes, and monoterpenes, which induce the production of enzymes that help prevent cancer; and bioflavonoids, which inhibit the action of hormones that promote tumor growth.
Snack on grapes and raisins
The skin of red grapes contains resveratrol, a potent phytochemical that is linked to a reduction in cancer as well as heart disease and stroke. Grapes also contain ellagic acid, which is thought to protect lungs against environmental toxins. In addition to popping grapes as a snack, you could stir halved grapes into gazpacho or toss some slices into a pasta salad.
Load up on kale and other cooking greens
Bioflavonoids, carotenoids, and other cancer-fighting compounds are abundant in cooking greens. They also contain indoles, compounds that can lessen the cancer-causing potential of estrogen and induce production of enzymes that protect against disease. Add some raw kale to salads, braise chopped mustard greens with plenty of chopped garlic, or layer chopped cooked chard in lasagna. While you’re shopping for kale, you should also stock up on these other healthiest vegetables at the supermarket.
Make room for mushrooms
Portobello and white mushrooms are good sources of selenium, which is a potent cancer-fighting mineral, particularly for prostate cancer. Additionally, mushrooms are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals and eating them regularly has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer in Chinese and Korean women, according to studies. You should definitely eat your mushrooms, but learn which foods seriously increase your risk of cancer.
Pick on peas
A study in Mexico City published in the International Journal of Cancer showed that daily consumption of green peas, along with other legumes, lowers the risk of stomach cancer, especially when daily intake of coumestrol (a phytochemical that acts similarly to estrogen in the body) from these legumes is 2 mg or higher. One cup of green peas contains at least 10 mg of coumestrol.
Sip pomegranate juice
Researchers at UCLA measured levels of patients’ prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which help indicate the presence of cancer. They found that drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice daily significantly slowed rising PSA levels in patients previously treated for the disease. In addition to eating certain foods, learn other things cancer doctors do to avoid getting cancer themselves.