Diet and Nutrition
Top 10 Foods That Reduce the Risk of CancerJune 12, 2018 /
Reviewed and updated by Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, LDN
Contributed by Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS
Many foods have exceptional health benefits, and certain nutrients that can reduce the risk of cancer. Here are 10 of the best cancer-fighting foods (in no particular order) that are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anticancer nutrients.
You can get flax either as the whole seed, ground, or as flaxseed oil. Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant omega-3 fat. The omega-3s, lignans, and fiber found in flaxseed are found to have a protective effect against cancer, particularly breast cancer. Add flax to yogurt or a smoothie to create a richer, slightly nutty flavor. Add flaxseed oil to salad dressings, or integrate them into pancakes, waffles, or baked goods, such as cookies or muffins. Grinding whole flaxseeds will make them easier to digest, and your body will be able to absorb their nutrients.
Uniquely rich in selenium, fiber, and phytochemicals, Brazil nuts can help fight inflammation, improve the immune system, and prevent tumor growth. And you do not need many of them—1 or 2 a day can do the trick. Enjoy them as you would any other nut, such as with some fruit, as part of trail mix, or with roasted asparagus, which is full of anticancer chlorophyll.
An excellent source of a cancer-fighting compound called allicin, garlic and its relatives (onions, leeks, scallions, and chives) are shown to help prevent and slow tumor growth in stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Garlic and onions are found in a range of different foods, including Italian, Spanish, Indian, Thai, and Chinese dishes. Some people even lightly crush and swallow a piece of garlic every morning.
Dark-green leafy vegetables
From kale to collards to spinach and Swiss chard, dark-green leafy vegetables probably are considered a “one-stop shop” for all of the best nutrients your body needs to fend off cancerous cells—fiber, B vitamins, phytochemicals, chlorophyll, and more. Adding some greens to your diet daily is good for your health.
A great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, as well as vitamin D, salmon (especially wild caught) can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to regulate cell growth and prevent cancer. You can steam, bake, grill, or sauté salmon. Salmon is a great option that can pair well with many of the other foods on this list, such as garlic, dark-green leafy vegetables, turmeric, peppers, and broccoli.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
As a cruciferous vegetable (along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale), broccoli is rich in sulforophane and indoles, which are shown to regulate cell growth multiple ways and help fight a range of cancers, including breast, bladder, lymphoma, prostate, and lung cancer. Interestingly, broccoli sprouts have the highest concentration of these compounds. Add them to any salad for a healthy, flavorful boost. Enjoy broccoli and any of these cruciferous vegetables as a side dish, in a stew, or roasted and tossed with some garlic and slivered almonds.
Pick a pepper, any pepper! Most have some phytochemical or nutrient that will help fight cancer. Chili and jalapeño peppers have capsaicin, which is shown to fight the growth rate of cancer cells, particularly in the prostate. Green peppers are rich in chlorophyll, which can bind cancer-causing carcinogens found in the gut. Red peppers have both capsaicin and antioxidant carotenoids. Include peppers in a vegetable stir-fry, or eat them raw with some hummus.
All berries are rich sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which play a role in reducing oxidation and cancer cell formation in the body. Add some blueberries to your morning cereal, put a few raspberries in plain yogurt for a snack, or enjoy strawberries with a piece of dark chocolate for an evening snack.
Whole grains are rich in fiber and a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, including selenium and B vitamins. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, whole grains may dilute potential carcinogens, promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, and they may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Choose whole grains, such as quinoa, barley, oats, amaranth, brown rice, and whole wheat, over their refined, white counterparts. Heat them in the morning with some milk and cinnamon for a warm cereal, eat them as bread at lunch, or cook them up within 30 minutes as a no-hassle (bring to a boil and simmer) healthy side dish at dinner.
A spice commonly found in curry powder, turmeric lends a yellow hue to Indian food, along with a healthy dose of a cancer-fighting compound called curcumin. Studies show that curcumin can inhibit the growth of many types of cancer cells, including breast, gastrointestinal, lung, and skin cancer. Pick up some fresh turmeric root, or a bottle of curry powder at your local grocery store, and to help your body absorb it better, add some black pepper. Try making your own classic Indian dish, such as this vegetable curry, which contains a number of these top 10 cancer-fighting foods.
References and recommended readings
- AICR’s Foods That Fight Cancer. American Institute for Cancer Research Web site. http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/. Accessed April 2, 2018.
- Bimonte S, Barbieri A, Palma G, Rea D, Luciano A, D’Aiuto M, Arra C, Izzo F. Dissecting the role of curcumin in tumour growth and angiogenesis in mouse model of human breast cancer. BioMed research international. 2015;2015.
- Calado A, Neves PM, Santos T, Ravasco P. Flaxseed Fighting Against Breast Cancer: A Literature Review. Frontiers Nutri. 2018;5:4.
- Donaldson MS. Nutrition and cancer: a review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutr J. 2004;3:19. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-19.
- National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet. Reviewed June 7, 2012. Accessed April 2, 2018.
- Nicastro HL, Ross SA, Milner JA. Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer Prev Res. 2015;8(3):181-189.
Current review date: 6/8/18
Previous review date: 2/10/14