While research continues, there is compelling evidence that a diet filled with certain foods can help lower a person’s risk for various cancers and even help fight the cancer itself. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of whole foods is the way to go if you’re looking to optimize your health.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), you should fill at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Other organizations have additional recommendations. For example, the American Cancer Society includes the following dietary guidelines for cancer prevention:
— Eat whole grains instead of refined grain products (e.g., brown rice instead of white rice).
— Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
— Limit your intake of red meat.
— Limit alcohol to one drink per day (women at high risk for breast cancer should consider not drinking alcohol at all).
— Avoid processed foods.
Taking It A Step Further
Following the general recommendations above is step one. The next step is including those specific foods that provide the highest cancer prevention benefits. This typically means they are high in antioxidants, substances that remove and neutralize free radicals that can damage cell membranes, affect DNA, and even destroy cells.
The following list of cancer-fighting foods from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is a good start:
— cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale),
— grape seed extract,
— tomatoes, and
— winter squash.
But That’s Not All
The list from AICR is not exhaustive. Research is continuously being conducting on the effects of certain foods, or compounds within those foods, on cancer. For example, City of Hope researchers have found some possible “superfoods” with cancer-fighting properties. These superfoods have the ability to block the hormones that support the spread of cancer, diminish existing tumors, and boost the body’s immune system. The five main superfoods identified by the researchers are pomegranates, mushrooms, blueberries, grape seed extract, and cinnamon.
The Bottom Line
The foods you eat may fight cancer both directly and indirectly. Many minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals possess direct anti-cancer properties, actually impacting cancer cells themselves. However, evidence suggests that it is substances working together in a person’s diet that offers the strongest cancer protection. At the end of the day, a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will put you on the path to good health.