The Best Foods to Help Prevent Cancer

In 2018, over 1.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer. At least 35% of those diagnosed will die from cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. But there’s hope. Linda Kelemen, a registered dietitian at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, says that “up to one-third of cancers are related to food we eat.”

Although there’s no guarantee, increasing our consumption of certain foods may lower our risk of developing the disease. Some foods help because they have fiber, and others are anti-cancer because they’re colored red. These scientifically-backed foods all fight and prevent cancer in different ways.

Tea Time Is All The Time

Tea pours out of a tea pot into a porcelain cup on a table.

While there is no evidence that tea cures cancer, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, tea’s antioxidants may stall cancerous growth. In animal studies, tea catechins prohibited cancer cells from invading the body.

The type of tea you drink largely depends on personal preference. Black tea contains more antioxidants than green tea, but fewer catechins. Green tea offers more catechins and less caffeine than black tea. Remember that drinking tea isn’t guaranteeing that you won’t get cancer, but it will supply you with healthy nutrients.

Thank Raspberries For Their Ellagic Acid

Raspberries wrapped in plastic are on display in a new hypermarket.

In laboratory studies, raspberries have demonstrated anti-cancer properties. The American Institute for Cancer Research credits the fruit’s high levels of ellagic acid. This phytochemical helps the body eliminate carcinogens, which would otherwise form cancer cells. Strawberries are also rich in ellagic acid.

In an animal study reported in Cancer Research, freeze-dried black raspberries reduced esophageal tumors by 62%. They also lowered the overall number of tumors by 62%. A similar result came up during a 2016 study on oral cancer. While all berries are anti-cancer to an extent, raspberries stand out among the crowd.

Eat Beans To Protect Your Colon

Refried beans are on a breakfast plate on a cafe table.

Beans are a protein-rich food that may prevent cancer growth. Believe it or not, its ability partially comes from its high fiber content. During a 2012 study published in PLoS One, researchers concluded that high fiber intake may stop colorectal cancer. At least two other studies have backed up this claim.

How many beans should you eat? During a study in Nutrition and Cancer, rats who ate black beans a couple of times a week had 75% fewer colon cancer cells. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans said that people should consume three cups of beans per week.

Rosemary Protects You Before You Even Eat It

Fresh rosemary sits in an open plastic box.

After reading this, you’ll want to flavor more food with rosemary. In 2016, a study in Nutrients reported that rosemary stopped cancer cells from growing and spreading. The same results showed up for colon and breast tumors. Nutrients in rosemary protect the body from toxins and inflammation.

Rosemary also defends your body before you eat it. Research in the 2006 Journal of Food Science observed the cooking of ground beef with rosemary. As the meat cooked, rosemary stopped cancer-causing agents from forming. No wonder it’s such a popular culinary herb.

How Olive Oil’s Fats Help You

A woman pours Olive Oil over some bread.

Despite being high in calories, olive oil contains healthy fats that protect your body. In Lipids in Health and Disease, researchers reviewed 19 studies about olive oil with over 13,800 patients. They concluded that those who consumed more olive oil had a lower chance of developing breast and digestive cancer.

Research in a 2019 issue of PLoS One indicated that certain olive oils work better than others. Extra virgin olive oil zaps cancer cells, while non-extra virgin olive oils have no effect. High-quality olive oils contain oleocanthal, the ingredient responsible for preventing cancerous growth.

Strawberries May Halt Esophageal Cancer

Christine Mayn receives a strawberry from Ehemann Nick Wilder.

With a survival rate of just 19%, esophageal cancer is one of the most dangerous cancers out there. Fortunately, 2011 research suggests that strawberries could prevent this disease. Scientists from the University of Ohio tested freeze-dried strawberries on 36 people. The fruits slowed down cancer growth in most participants.

Strawberries offer a wide range of cancer-fighting flavonoids. One is the famous ellagic acid that’s also found in raspberries. During the study, researchers noted that freeze-dried strawberries supplied more nutrients than fresh strawberries. The participants only ate two ounces a day to receive benefits.

Tomatoes Help Because They’re Red

Man slices tomatoes over a silver bowl.

Tomatoes get their red color from a compound called lycopene. This same compound fights cancer. Better yet, consuming cooked or canned tomatoes does not change this effect. According to a 2013 review of 17 studies, consuming plain lycopene, raw tomatoes, or cooked tomatoes reduces your risk of prostate cancer.

In particular, tomato sauce acts as a cancer-fighting agent. Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a 2002 study observed that eating more tomato sauce helps guard your cells against prostate cancer. Remember that these studies don’t account for other factors, such as a healthy diet or exercise.

Soy Products Do Not Cause Breast Cancer

Woman holds and examines tofu at an organic supermarket.

You may have heard the theory that soybeans raise estrogen levels and cause breast cancer. However, the research doesn’t support this. The largest study on this topic, the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, concluded the opposite. Out of 72,223 women who consumed soy, 22% had a lower risk of breast cancer and 47% had a smaller risk of premenopausal breast cancer.

Soy has also affected prostate cancer during certain studies. According to Harvard Health, an analysis of 30 cohort trials revealed that soy intake lowers a person’s risk of prostate cancer. In other words, there’s no need to fear soy.

To Save Your Stomach, Eat More Legumes

Museum curator tries Natto, a type of legume made from fermented soybeans.

Legumes are seeds or fruit from a legume plant that are high in proteins and fiber. According to a 2009 study, the more legumes you eat, the less risk you have of developing cancer. The study connected legumes with several cancers, including stomach, kidney, and digestive cancers.

The research, published in Cancer Causes & Control, mentioned that several previous studies had confirmed this case. The reason is likely the resistant starch in legumes. When this starch meets gut bacteria, it ferments and produces other compounds. These compounds are thought to fight against cancer.

A Teaspoon Of Cinnamon Can Make A Big Difference

Man sprinkles some cinnamon on a latte.

Some test-tube and animal studies have indicated that cinnamon stops cancer from spreading. According to a 2010 study in BMC Cancer, cinnamon extract killed cancer cells in a test-tube. Further research in Molecular Carcinogenesis suggests that cinnamon extract can lower the number of breast and ovarian cancer cells.

The credit goes to two ingredients in cinnamon: procyanidins and cinnamaldehyde. In several studies, these ingredients have acted as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and antibacterials. Adding 1/2 to one teaspoon of cinnamon (two to four grams) to your daily diet can also reduce blood sugar and inflammation.

Blueberries Have The Most Potent Antioxidants

Woman with painted nails holds out blueberries.

Blueberries are called a “superfood” for having more antioxidants than most fruits. In a study published in Pathology & Oncology Research, blueberry extract improved radiation therapy. The researchers explain that blueberry extract reduces cancer cell growth. By itself, blueberries killed 25% of cancer cells before they developed into tumors.

Blueberries contain many compounds that prevent cancer. The compound resveratrol (the same found in wine) makes cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. Blueberries’ flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial. All of these help the body defend against cancer.

To Prevent Cancer, Eat More Nuts

One pistachio is slightly open among a wave of pistachios.

Scientists indicate that eating nuts may be linked to a lower risk of cancer. For instance, a 2014 study reported that mice who ate walnuts had 80% less cell growth and 60% fewer tumors. Another study followed men with prostate cancer. People who ate nuts five times a week had less chance of dying from the disease.

Most types of nuts have cancer-fighting nutrients. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts. All of them are brimming with minerals like vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium. To keep your calorie count low, limit your serving to one ounce of nuts.

Turmeric May Stop Cancerous Growth

Woman at a Hindu festival throws powdered yellow turmeric and chunks of coconut over revellers from a basket on her head.

In recent years, turmeric has been idolized for its healing properties. Some studies have indicated that turmeric’s key ingredient, curcumin, kills tumor cells in laboratory studies. According to the National Cancer Institute, two studies have shown turmeric stopping cancer cells before they grow.

Although there is not enough evidence to advise turmeric as a cancer treatment, it can assuage cancer symptoms. In some clinical studies, turmeric has reduced joint pain in breast cancer patients. It also heightens the immune response to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Skip Red Meat And Eat Fatty Fish Instead

A chef slices raw salmon at a shop in Tokyo.

A few servings of fatty fish per week may benefit you in the long run. A large study by the National Cancer Institute followed 478,040 participants over five years. Those who ate more fish had a smaller risk of colorectal cancer. Meanwhile, those who ate more red meat had a higher risk.

Fish is famous for its omega-3 fatty acids, which stop cancer. In 2013, researchers observed that omega-3s kill tumors before they fully develop. Fatty fish also contain high amounts of vitamin D, which lowers the risk of colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

Eat Any Food Rich In Plant Sterols

Green and yellow fruits and vegetables are arranged against a mint-colored background.

Sterols are substances that naturally appear in certain fruits, vegetables, legumes, and seeds. They have powerful cholesterol-lowering abilities. During a 2013 study in the journal Nutrients, researchers reported that sterols lower LDL cholesterol. This is the “bad” cholesterol that leads to various diseases.

According to the research, plant sterols may prevent the formation of breast and estrogen cancer. Seventh-Day Adventists, who have a lower risk of cancer than most of the population, eat a diet rich in sterols. Foods with high plant sterols include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, vegetable oils, and sunflower seeds.

Here, Have Some Citrus

Woman poses with sliced oranges over her eyes.

Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons may guard you against cancer. According to a review of nine studies in the journal Pancreas, citrus fruits reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer. In 2010, another large study suggested that citrus fruit lowers the risk of digestive and upper respiratory cancers.

You don’t need a ton of citrus to see the results, either. Eating just three servings of citrus per week lessens your risk of stomach cancer by 28%, according to a 2008 study in Gastric Cancer. Just a few servings of margarine or lemon water will do wonders for your health.

Another Reason To Eat Flaxseed

A wooden scoop sits in a huge pile of flaxseeds.

Many people add flaxseed to their meals for extra fiber. But did you know that flaxseed also eliminates cancer cells? During a 2005 study, breast cancer patients who ate a flaxseed muffin every day experienced less cell growth. Like beans, flaxseed’s high fiber aids the fight against cancer.

Flaxseed also stops the spread of tumor cells. The American Association for Cancer Research published a study treating 161 prostrate cancer patients with flaxseed. Not only did the flaxseed kill harmful cells, but it also prevented them from spreading. That’s why flaxseed could help to fortify your body against cancer.

The Unique Flavonoids Of Parsley

The blind employee Klaus Mueller chops parsley on a cutting board.

Parsley offers unique flavonoids and chemicals that may reduce cancer. One flavonoid, myricetin, has killed colon cancer and skin cancer cells in many studies. With 100 grams of myricetin, parsley has the highest myricetin concentration of any herb.

Another flavonoid, called apigenin, suppressed tumor formation during a study in BMC Cell & Bioscience. This plant nutrient has several functions. It prevents blood vessels from feeding cancer cells and improves chemotherapy. In particular, apigenin guards against mesothelioma cancer that creates tumors in the lungs, heart, and abdomen.

Clear Your Lungs With Chili Peppers

Red and green chili peppers line up near a woven basket.

If you like spicy foods, you’ll love this food. An ingredient in chili peppers may block lung cancer. The compound, capsaicin, gives chilis their flavor. During a 2019 study, researchers discovered the capsaicin stops the first stage of cancer cell formation. It’s called metastasis, or “invasion.”

This isn’t the first study on capsaicin. Prior research stated that chili peppers prevent breast cancer triple-negative cells from growing. Another suggested that they could lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Overall, it seems that chili peppers have the ability to inhibit multiple cancers.

Broccoli Has One Notably Powerful Compound

broccoli is very healthy

Scientists have studied broccoli for a compound called sulforaphane. When researchers tested sulforaphane in rats, the compound killed 50% of prostate cancer cells. A review of 35 studies in Annals of Oncology concluded that broccoli lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.

Like many cancer studies, these results only occurred in test tubes. More studies need to be conducted on sulforaphane in humans. Even so, eating broccoli a couple of times a week may decrease your risk of cancer. Sulforaphane reduces tumor size and eliminates tumor cells.

Why You Should Eat More Melons

Woman holds a large slice of watermelon in front of her face.

In 2009, a Chinese study demonstrated that people who ate watermelon, cantaloupes, and papayas had a lower chance of getting breast cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends watermelon and other melons to combat cancer. What makes them so special? It’s a phytochemical called lycopene.

Lycopene is related to beta-carotene, the compound that creates vitamin A. Lycopene is an antioxidant that protects normal cells from cancerous mutation. According to the EXCLI Journal, lycopene is reported to inhibit colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers.

An Apple A Day Keeps Cancer Away

A young boy eats an apple against a white wall.

There’s a reason why apples are often associated with health. In 2018, a study in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis stated that apples inhibit breast cancer cells. An ingredient called polyphenol phloretin stops the protein that builds cancer cells, while not affecting normal cells.

Apples also provide antioxidants that may prevent tumors from forming. According to WebMD, these antioxidants send signals to healthy cells, telling them not to feed cancer cells. In an experiment with laboratory rats, apple water effectively reduced colon cancer cells.

Cabbage The Cancer-Fighter

A participant of a cooking class cuts red cabbage for a vegan Christmas dinner.

Like the skin, our digestive tract continuously sheds and regrows cells. We need to nourish these cells to prevent tumor growth, and cabbage offers the perfect nutrients. In 2018, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute found that chewing cabbage releases a cancer-fighting vegetable.

The chemical, called indole-3-carbinol, regenerates cells and soothes inflammation. Mice who consumed indole-3-carbinol stopped developing tumors. To get this benefit, don’t overcook your cabbage, the researchers told BBC. Make sure it’s not soggy. Otherwise, enjoy more of this healthy cruciferous vegetable.

Garlic Prevents More Than Colds And Flus

A man holds a handful of garlic bulbs at the production line.

You may have heard that garlic prevents cold and flu cases. It also prevents a more dangerous disease: cancer. Allicin, the active component in garlic, has been shown to reduce cancer cells. During a 2010 study, allicin extracted from crushed garlic killed colon cancer cells.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, allicin isn’t the only helpful nutrient in garlic. It also offers flavonoids, inulin, S-allyl cysteine, and saponins. All these compounds are regarded for their anti-tumor capabilities. Since servings are so small, you’ll have to really love garlic in order to reap all of these nutrients.

Carrots Impact Many Types Of Cancer

Chopped carrots are added to a lamb strew.

Throughout several studies, carrots have demonstrated cancer-fighting properties. In the Journal of Gastric Cancer, a study showed that carrots lower the risk of gastric cancer by 26%. A year later, another study associated carrots with an 18% lower risk of prostate cancer. Finally, research in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that eating carrots reduces the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Why are carrots so powerful? According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, it’s their phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, which make carrots orange, may destroy cancer cells. They also prevent certain cancers from occurring.

Boost Your Immune System With Mushrooms

A chef cooks at the Matryoshka Restaurant.

With over 100 species of medicinal mushrooms, you have plenty of cancer-fighting fungi to choose from. According to the National Cancer Institute, mushrooms slightly alter our immune response. In clinical trials, mushrooms stimulate natural killer cells that don’t tolerate cancerous growths.

However, this is not sufficient evidence that mushrooms aid people with cancer. Until more research is done, consider mushrooms to be a healthy dish that potentially prevents cancer. So far, reishi mushrooms, shiitake, Chaga, and maitake mushrooms have been analyzed in cancer research.

Onions Deliver A Cancer-Fighting Punch

Woman gathers red onions from a wholesale onion market.

In 2017, researchers from the University of Guelph noted that onions eliminate cancer cells. More specifically, onions “trick” cancer cells into undergoing cell death. Anthocyanin, the compound that gives onions their color, does this effectively. The redder the onion, the more it’ll ward off cancer.

But the best recipe combines onion with garlic. A study in 2019 suggests that allium vegetables–onions, garlic, chives, and shallots–can hinder the development of cancer. Participants who consumed high amounts of allium vegetables were 79% less likely to develop colorectal cancer.

To Suppresses Tumors, Eat Kale

A farm worker from Mexico inspects organic kale.

The body has a natural protein that suppresses tumors. It’s called PTEN, and researchers have studied how to create more for a long time. One way to receive PTEN is to eat cruciferous vegetables such as kale. With its high amount of antioxidants, kale stabilizes cell growth to slow tumor growth.

To be clear, Harvard researchers do not suggest that eating kale will stop tumors. You’d have to eat six pounds a day to have the same effect as the cancer-fighting compound I3C. But if you want to potentially prevent cancer, consider eating more kale.

The Power Of Pomegranates

Peeled pomegranates are stacked in a line.

In 2017, a scientific review of pomegranates and cancer was published in the journal Molecules. Pomegranates guard the skin against UVB rays, which prevents skin cancer. They also may stall lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

Pomegranates offer polyphenols that are easily absorbed by the body. Once these nutrients enter the tissues, they stop cancerous growth from spreading. Potentially, pomegranates can slow down the spread of cancers. Researchers note that pomegranate extract, juice, and seeds all produce this effect.

Grapes May Stall Cancer Cells

Woman holds green grapes to eat.

In 2005, researchers reported that chemicals in grapes might work to defeat cancer. The team identified ten previously unknown flavonoids in grapes. These chemicals work in tandem to stop cancer cells from growing. In the skin of a grape, there’s reservatol, another phytochemical that halts cancerous growth.

Notably, the researchers stated that supplements do not have the same effect. You have to eat grapes whole to get the perks. The American Institute for Cancer Research claims that grapes can battle tumors in the liver, breast, stomach, and lymph nodes.

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