Incorporate these foods into your diet to help prevent cancer
The causes of cancer are complex, but inflammation appears to be a primary culprit behind cancer growth, and part of the reason why tumors get started in the first place. Just as it is in heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, inflammation and free radical damage are found at the very root of cancer.
Many studies point to cancer-preventative qualities in foods that reduce inflammation. Some research suggests that 30 percent of all cancers can actually be prevented by following a diet high in antioxidants, those natural anti-inflammatory nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables.
Here are some of the top inflammation-lowering foods:
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green veggies top the list of healthy things you can eat, because they are absolutely loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, carotenoids and other cancer-preventive compounds. Fruits and vegetables that are vibrant in color – green, orange and deep red – are the ones that provide the most health benefits. And the leafy greens are the best of the best: spinach and kale, collard greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and arugula. These contain compounds that encourage cancer cells to die off, and help prevent tumors from forming and growing. Chop leafy greens into salads, braise them, juice them, or bake them into casseroles and chips.
Orange Vegetables and Fruits
Sweet potatoes, squash, oranges, pumpkin, carrots, beets and tangerines signal the presence of antioxidants by their sunny orange colors. If you have dark green veggies on your plate, be sure to have some orange-colored ones, too – by “eating the rainbow,” you enjoy the fullest array of cancer-preventing benefits in food. The complex carbs and carotenoids in orange fruits and veggies are known to reduce the risk of several types of cancer, and strengthen the immune system. Roasted yams, steamed squash and cooked baby carrots only need a dash of salt or spice to bring them to perfection.
Red and Purple Berries
Scientists have found that berries contain the highest antioxidant levels of all fresh fruits, which make them an important part of a cancer-preventative diet. Black and red raspberries, tart cherries, strawberries, goji berries, blackberries and especially blueberries lower free radical damage and help prevent cancer. Since berries are so easy to eat out of hand, and easy to use in recipes, they are also the easiest way to “eat yourself away” from cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are known to be generally good for you, but not everyone knows how good they are at preventing cancer. These veggies are packed with strong antioxidants that protect the structure of DNA and scoop up free radicals. Studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of cruciferous veggies often have dramatically lower rates of colon, breast and uterine cancers. Preparation: Try roasting, steaming, stir frying, chopping into salads and soups, or simply dipping in yogurt for a healthy snack.
Nuts and Seeds
Chia seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are full of nutrients, and they have been shown to be extremely effective against cancer. Even a couple of tablespoons per day can help slow the growth of colorectal, prostate and lung malignancies. Walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds contain the important mineral selenium, which dramatically lowers the risk of cancer. Nuts make a convenient snack, and they can also be toasted and added to salad, cereal, yogurt and baked goods.
Fresh Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, raw garlic, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil and parsley are powerful immune system boosters that are known to reduce the risk of cancer. Turmeric has been shown to reduce tumor size in colon and breast cancers, and ginger has been shown to slow ovarian and colorectal cancers. Turmeric can be added to stir-fried vegetables, scrambled eggs and salad dressing, to name a few recipe ideas. Try sliced ginger in tea, and grated ginger in savory dishes.
Black and Green Teas
While there is a huge variety of herbal teas on the market, traditional black and green teas are considered the best sources of cancer-inhibiting antioxidants. In one study, women who drank at least two cups of black tea daily had a 32 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer, compared with those who drank one cup or less per day. Green tea has also been seen to decrease cancer risk. Both black and green teas are rich in the polyphenolic compounds which keep tumors from growing and spreading to other organs. Since metastasis is the principle cause of death in cancer patients, the value of tea-drinking cannot be overlooked. Whether it is served hot or cold, a cup of tea twice a day is a simple way to help keep cancers at bay.
Lauren Blechle, MS, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Covenant LifeStyle Centre in Lubbock.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.