Cancer is a term used for a group of diseases that are a direct result of abnormal cellular growth. It accounted for 8.8 million deaths worldwide in the year 2015. This means that 1 in 6 global deaths was due to cancer. Amid these alarming statistics and a growing number of cancer cases, science is looking for ways to prevent cancer.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), we can prevent 30-50 percent of the cancer cases. Just like other diseases, cancer too has some factors that put a person at a higher chance of getting affected. Some of these risk factors are obesity, use of alcohol and tobacco, poor diet patterns, certain infections, exposure to carcinogens like radiation and chemicals, etc.
Today, the contemporary medical world is technically more advanced than the times of Hippocrates, yet we still seek his saying “let food be your medicine.” Nature has placed such right ingredients in our food that when taken in correct proportions, it can help us to fight off diseases and be the healthiest version of a human being.
It is not clear which food plays a definitive role in the prevention of cancer, but certain foods have shown some promising results in research studies.
13 Cancer Fighting Foods
This article aims to bring 13 cancer-fighting foods to your attention. These foods are readily available and are usable in various forms. A variety in the usability of these foods is what makes them easier to incorporate into our daily diet.
This leafy green is not only packed with high nutrition, but it can also help guard against cancer. The cancer-fighting properties are often attributed to the carotenoid substances lutein and zeaxanthin that act against free radicles. Some studies suggest that these substances help prevent oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and stomach cancer. Other studies say that spinach can reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancer.
If you want to take the full nutritional benefits of spinach, try it in a raw form or when it is lightly cooked. Most lutein is lost if you overcook the spinach. Also, add olive oil to the spinach salad dressings. Since lutein is fat soluble, it won’t absorb if not taken with fat. Olive oil serves the good purpose of helping with lutein’s absorption.
This vegetable that is always in the good books of the nutritious diet can help you ward off cancer. Broccoli belongs to the group of cruciferous vegetables that include cauliflower, kale, radish, turnips, Brussels sprouts, wasabi, and a few others.
Almost all of the cruciferous vegetables have cancer-fighting properties, but the compound sulphoraphane — said to be a potent anti-cancer substance — is found in a sizable amount in broccoli.
Sulphoraphane and some other chemicals in broccoli help in the prevention and treatment of cancers that arise from organs like breast, lungs, prostate, bladder, stomach, and liver.
You may not be a broccoli fan, but adding it to salads, omelets, and other foods may dilute the strong taste while you still reap the health benefits.
After salt and pepper, cinnamon is the most used spice in the world. The benefits of this spic have been told for thousands of years, and modern day research confirms those benefits.
Cinnamaldehyde and procyanidins are the main ingredients of cinnamon that impart cinnamon its medicinal properties. These substances have antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-diabetic effects.
Cinnamon extracts have shown to reduce tumor growth and angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels) in tumors. The extracts of this herb have specifically been studied in terms of gastrointestinal cancers.
So far, the research results supporting cinnamon for its anti-cancer properties are from the test-tube and animal studies. More research is required to establish the exact role of cinnamon in fighting off cancer.
Adding half a teaspoon of cinnamon to your diet, however, comes with multiple benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
We all know turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, is even taken as supplements to protect against multiple diseases. It has shown to reduce the risk of numerous chronic disease.
Based on the anti-oxidant properties of curcumin, it plays a role in the prevention of cancer. A research conducted on curcumin showed a significant decrease in the potential cancer-converting lesions. It has also shown to help slow down tumor growth and the killing of tumor cells in the case of lung, breast, colon, prostate, and head & neck tumors.
There is only 3 percent of curcumin in turmeric. If you want to reap the benefits of this magical compound, it is best to take turmeric extract that has significant amounts of curcumin. Moreover, use black pepper to help the absorption of curcumin as it is otherwise poorly absorbed.
The fanciest looking of all fruits, berries are an excellent source of phytonutrients — the substances with cancer-fighting properties — vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, and anti-oxidants.
Research over the last two demands has collected an extensive body of evidence in favor of cancer-preventing potential of berries.
Try consuming 4-5 servings of mixed berries per week. Go for fresh and frozen variety of berries, and avoid processed ones.
Black raspberries are particularly useful as they are high in anthocyanin, a phytochemical which slows down the growth of the tumor and that of premalignant cells.
Packed with vitamin E, carotenoids, and avocatin B, avocados possess the anti-cancer properties that may help fight off acute myeloid leukemia and cancers of prostate, colon and oral regions.
Not only avocados come with potential anti-cancer properties, but they are also good for your eyes, heart, digestion, bones, and mental health.
Avocados are also a great source of vitamin C, K, B2, B3, B6, folate, lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and pantothenic acid.
This is a nutrient dense fruit. From 100 grams (1/2 an avocado) of avocado, you get
- 160 calories
- 2 g protein
- 14.7 g fat
- 8.5 carbohydrate
- 6.7 g fiber
Keeping in view the high caloric content, do not consume too much of avocado. For sure, you don’t want to consume most of your calories from just one fruit.
7. Citrus fruits
This group of fruits is an excellent source of nutrients like vitamin C, folate, carotenoids, beta-carotene, and flavonoid quercetin.
Why do citrus fruits are named in the list of cancer-preventing food? It is because there exists an inverse relationship between citrus fruit consumption and the risk of breast cancer.
Citrus fruits also have a positive effect on prostate and stomach cancer. If you are not already taking these fruits, add some to your diet. Commonly consumed citrus fruits include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, lime, and tangerines.
Research is not clear on exactly which constituent in citrus fruits plays the defensive role in breast cancer, but vitamin C and the flavonoids in these fruits are thought to be the decisive factor.
This food that comes in orange, red, yellow, and purple colors is in the spotlight of present day research. It is all due to the antioxidant properties that carrots possess.
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin K. They also have a good amount of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. But, most importantly, carrots have various phytochemicals that act as antioxidants — the substances that counteract free radicals possibly leading to cancer. These phytochemicals include beta-carotene, luteolin, polyacetylenes, and anthocyanin.
All of these phytochemicals — well supported by research regarding their anti-cancer properties — help prevent cancer either directly or indirectly. They promote a lot of activities ranging from immune-boosting effects to maintaining the healthy life cycle of cells.
There have been claims from multiple cancer survivors about carrots being their savior. Your take-home message is to add at least 1 carrot to the daily diet.
Stinky breath caused by garlic can be good for you. Not that the garlic breath scares off cancer causing cells, but the sulfur compounds that impart this breath do play a role in fighting cancer. They kill the cancer cells and help in DNA repair.
Garlic fights the bad bug, H.Pylori, that is responsible for stomach ulcers and gastric cancer. Some research also suggests that garlic is helpful in preventing various other cancers including breast, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers.
Adding garlic to your diet is super easy. No one asks you to eat the bitter garlic clove as it is. Chop the cloves and leave them as such for 20 minutes. This will release sulphur compounds, and you’d be able to get the maximum health benefits. Use these chopped cloves while cooking the food.
Based on recommendations by World Health Organization, adults should consume one garlic clove daily.
For the treatment of various ailments, mushrooms are especially famous in Asian medicine. A few varieties of this ancient superfood are linked to the prevention of cancer.
The mushrooms that are used for treating diseases are termed as medicinal mushrooms. Those involved in cancer-fighting processes are Reishi, Maitake, Agarics Blazei Murill, and Turkey Tail.
Reishi and maitake reduce the spread of cancer and trigger the death of cancer cells. Colorectal, prostate, lung, and breast cancer have shown to benefit from these mushrooms.
Nutritionists suggest the addition of beans to your diet for various health benefits. Another compelling reason is that beans can protect you against different types of cancer.
Beans are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients.
Studies have found an inverse relation between regular bean consumption and colon cancer. In a large study on women health, beans and lentils have shown to be the most protective of breast tissue among other foods. Men can also benefit as beans reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Thinking of adding beans to your diet? Go for pinto, kidney, and red beans. These are the best source of antioxidants.
12. Flax seeds
Not many individuals consume flaxseeds as a part of their regular diet, but these seeds contain the highest levels of lignan compared to any other plant-based foods. They are also an ideal food to get omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
Lignan is important because it has shown to reduce the size of tumors in animal studies. Health care providers have used lignan to treat breast and prostrate cancer successfully.
If you plan to add them to your diet, just make sure that the flaxseeds you get have high lignan properties.
This red fruit can be your weapon against prostate cancer. Tomatoes contain significant amounts of lycopene, a phytochemical. A diet rich in lycopene has link with a low risk of prostate cancer.
In some lab studies, lycopene has also shown to stop the growth of cancer cells in organs like breast, lungs, and uterus. Scientists believe that lycopene produces these effects as a result of two things.
1. Immune boosting effects
2. Interfering with the growth of abnormal cells
Processed tomatoes are good because processing improves the cancer-fighting properties of tomatoes.
Watermelon and grapefruit are also a good source of lycopene. You can munch on these as well.
Researchers are focusing on finding a link between different foods and cancer prevention. It seems to be the only best option in the present-day cancer statistics that are on a rise.
Based on the research results, foods that are a good source of carotenoids, beta-carotene, vitamin C, E, and B6, quercetin, lycopene, and folate usually have cancer-fighting properties.
If people add potential cancer-fighting foods to their diets, the world might have less cases of mortality and morbidity.