Top Cancer-Fighting Foods

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The American Cancer Society says that ¼ of annual deaths in the United States are due to cancer. Of course, the question is “How do I keep myself from becoming part of that statistic?” Besides avoiding obvious health risks, like smoking, one way to be proactive in defense against cancer is to eat foods that contain cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing nutrients.

Broccoli

BroccoliIf you are interested in protecting yourself from cancer, learn to love broccoli because you should be eating a lot of it. Put it on your pizza, make it into a slushie, use it in your omelets, just eat it as much as you can.

 Why broccoli?

Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a substance that increases the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out chemicals in our bodies that could potentially cause cancer. In fact, the University of Michigan recently conducted a study on mice and discovered that sulforaphane specifically targeted cancer stem cells, which is what causes tumor to grow. Please note: just swallowing broccoli whole will do you no good, as it seems that the cancer-fighting properties of cruciferous vegetables only work when they are cut or chewed. (I guess it’s back to the old “hold the nose and have something tasty handy” method.)

Aside from sulforaphane, broccoli also contains indole-3-carbinol, as does cauliflower and cabbage. This substance fights breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen to a type that is more protective.

Mushrooms

Shiitake mushroomAgaricus blazei Murill, coriolus versicolor, maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms are all foods that build immunity, act as a source of beta glucan, contain a cancer-fighting protein called lectin, and can stimulate interferon production within your body.

Cherries

CherriesSweet and tart cherries contain fiber and vitamin C; tart cherries are also an excellent source of vitamin A. Cherries also contain several types of antioxidant phytochemicals, like anthocyanins, which inhibit cancer cell growth and cause them to self-destruct (with no harm done to healthy cells in the process!), hyrdroxycinnamic acid, and perillyl alcohol. Tart cherries contain more of these substances than the sweet varieties. Also, while fresh cherries are best, dried cherries and cherry juice are a close second, though frozen cherries will do if nothing else is available.

Cherries have been convincingly shown to combat colorectal cancer, and are thought to probably lower one’s risk of esophagus, lung, mouth, and stomach cancers.

Red and Purple Grapes

Purple grapesRed and purple grapes contain a lot of resveratrol, a kind of phytochemical. Green grapes contain this substance too, as do jam and raisins, though not as much as the red and purple whole grape. The best source of resveratrol is the skin of the grape, so don’t peel it!

Research on resveratrol is still ongoing, but evidence suggests that resveratrol contain powerful antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities. Studies conducted on cells, tissue, and animals have demonstrated that resveratrol protects cells from damage that could cause the cancer process to start. Still more research says resveratrol is able to slow the growth of cancer cell and also keep tumors from forming stomach, breast, liver, and lymph cells. One study even showed that resveratrol completely blocked the further development of leukemia, breast, and skin cancers in all three stages.

Garlic

GarlicReach for the breath mints because garlic, along with broccoli, is about to become your go-to spice. Garlic contains allium compounds which boost the activity level of the body’s immune cells, prompting them to fight cancer, as well as barring carcinogens from cells, thus slowing tumor development. There is a link between lower risks of stomach and colon cancer and the regular consumption of either raw or cooked garlic (not garlic supplements!)

Whole Grains

Whole grainsWhole grains contain an abundance of substances that are either known to fight cancer or seen as having the potential to fight cancer. These substances include antioxidants, phenols, saponins, lignans (a type of phytoestrogen). Of course, whole grains are also rich in minerals, vitamins, and fiber-all of which are essential to keeping the body healthy, strong, and cancer-free.

Apples

Apples help fight cancerApples contain fiber, vitamin C, and phytochemicals with antioxidant properties, including: triterpenoids, anthocyanins (red apples only), quercetin (a type of flavonoid that is an anti-inflammatory agent as well as antioxidants.), epicatechin, and other flavonoids.

Because they are high in dietary fiber, apples guard against colorectal cancer, and as a vitamin c-containing fruit, could possibly lower the risks of mouth, stomach, lung, esophagus, larynx, and pharynx cancers.

Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in cancer fighting chemicalsWalnuts are rich in a type of phytochemical called “polyphenols,” which have strong antioxidant properties. In addition to polyphenols, walnuts provide melatonin, elligitannins, alpha-linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid), phytosterols (compounds that are known to decrease blood cholesterol and which are currently being studied to ascertain if they have any anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties, and gamma-tocopherol (a vitamin E compound).

Studies in mice have shown linked walnut consumption to decreased tumor growth, specifically those found in the breasts and colon.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Collared greens can help to fight off cancer Collard greens, leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, kale, and spinach are just some examples of dark green leafy vegetables, a type of food rich in substances with the potential to prevent cancer. Folate (there is growing evidence that folate lowers the risk of pancreatic cancer), fiber (guards against colorectal cancer), various kinds of carotenoids (which likely protect against mouth, larynx, and pharynx cancer by acting as antioxidants), saponins, and flavonoids.

Conclusion

These are just some of the foods that can protect your body against the scourge of cancer. Generally speaking, most of the cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing compounds will be found vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains. These should make up the bulk of your anti-cancer diet. For more information on cancer prevention, visit some of the links in the source list below, especially the American Institute for Cancer Research’s website—it is full of information and is updated frequently.