Despite all the controversy regarding the possibility of fighting cancer through dietary changes, scientific studies and clinical trials prove one’s food choices do matter as there are products that can increase the risk of developing cancer and foods that have exactly the opposite effect.
Eating highly processed foods, rich in chemicals, fats and sugars favors the accumulation of toxins inside our bodies and puts our health at a higher risk for ailments like diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Choosing unrefined foods on the other hand helps our bodies get the needed nutrients for strengthening the immune system and fighting against illnesses.
Healthier eating habits are associated with lower cancer risks, here’s a list of the most important allies nature provides for keeping this merciful condition away:
One of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods known today, turmeric is proven to stop tumors growth and to enhance the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy. To be processed by our bodies and then absorbed inside our cells, this food needs to be combined with black pepper or dissolved in oil.
2. Garlic and onions
By regulating blood sugar levels and reducing insulin secretion, these two foods prevent cancer cells from appearing and protect against skin, lungs, prostate and colon cancer. The main compound found in these foods, responsible for fighting against cancer, is diallyl disulfide, an oil-soluble organosulfur component. (Yang J.S., Kok L.F., 2006)
Fruits and vegetables like potatoes, carrots, apricots, tomatoes, yams or squash are very rich in carotenoids, chemicals which give them the bright colors. The high content of vitamin A and lycopene make these foods extremely efficient against aggressive types of cancer affecting the stomach, lungs, pancreas, prostate or breasts. (Krinsky N, 2001)
Rich in phytochemicals known to slow down the degenerative processes inside the body, beans are linked with a significant reduction of the risk of digestive cancer.
Proven to stimulate the reproduction of immune cells, mushrooms are widely used in Asian countries for strengthening the organism, improving the results of chemotherapy and diminishing the effects of cancer.
The active anti-cancer compounds in this plant are isoflavones, chemicals which protect against bladder, stomach, cervix and lungs tumors. But besides these components, soy also contains substances which resemble the natural hormones found inside the human body and which seem to be efficient in preventing breast and prostate cancer. (Ollberding NJ, Lim U, 2001)
7. Cruciferous vegetables
Vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and kale provide very large amounts of chemical compounds shown through laboratory studies to slow down the growth of tumors and the spreading of cancer cells.
8. Whole grains
One of the most important categories of anti-cancer foods includes whole grains, which provide important amounts of fibers, antioxidants and phytoestrogens, all of them with a crucial role in keeping most cancer types away. (Gil A, Ortega RM, Maldonado J, 2011)
9. Green vegetables
Leafy, green vegetables are active in preventing cancer cells formation thanks to their high concentration in antioxidants and vitamins (folate, carotenoids), compounds that play an essential role in destroying free radicals and speeding up their elimination from the body. Shown to reduce the risk of various types of cancers, romaine lettuce, mustard greens and Swiss chard should be part of an anti-cancer diet. (Krinsky N, 2001)
10. Green tea
This plant is an extremely powerful antioxidant, rich in polyphenols which are known for preventing the formation of new blood vessels needed for cancer spreading and tumor growth. Green tea beverages help the liver eliminate toxins from the organism faster and they block the action and harmful effects of chemical carcinogens involved in the occurrence of stomach, colon, breasts and lung cancer.
11. Oranges, lemons and grapefruit
Citrus fruits are also listed among the anti-cancer foods due to their high content of flavonoids, anti-inflammatory compounds naturally found in the human skin with important roles in preventing the formation of cancer cells.
1. Yang, JS; Kok, LF et al – Diallyl disulfide inhibits WEHI-3 leukemia cells in vivo. Anticancer research 2006, 26 (1A): 219–25.
2. Krinsky NI – Carotenoids as antioxidants. Nutrition 2001 Oct; 17(10): 815-7 2001. PMID: 15110.
3. Zhang D, Holmes WF, Wu S, et al – Retinoids and ovarian cancer. J Cell Physiol 2000 Oct; 185(1): 1-20 2000. PMID: 16140.
4. Gil A, Ortega RM, Maldonado J – Wholegrain cereals and bread: a duet of the Mediterranean diet for the prevention of chronic diseases. Public Health Nutr 2011, Dec; 14 (12): 2316-22.
5. Ollberding NJ, Lim U et all – Legume, Soy, Tofu, and Isoflavone Intake and Endometrial Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. J Natl Cancer Inst 2001, Dec 12.