The relationship between food and cancer has long been the subject of research and attempts at dietary intervention; studies have suggested all kinds of things about compounds that your body needs to prevent cancer and foods that might actually increase your cancer risk.
But the bottom line is that maintaining an overall healthy diet is a solid line of defense against many health problems — including cancer. Following a diet rich with foods that may help prevent cancer will probably have a ricochet effect to make you into a healthier, more energized person overall.
Even if you eat a perfect diet filled with the foods on this list, it’s impossible to guarantee you won’t get sick. Factors such as your sleep schedule, whether or not you smoke, where you live geographically, and others that may be out of your control, like genetics, also play a role in your cancer risk.
Watch out for the telltale signs that cancerous tumors might be beginning to form inside your body. But the best you can do is treat your body well with nourishing foods and lots of rest to lower your risk of cancer. These 50 nutritious foods could help to protect you from the onset of cancer.
Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts you can add to your diet. Just one handful of them can provide one-eighth of the protein you need in a single day. They also contain more fiber than any other nut — possibly because they’re not technically a “nut” at all. But regardless, according to Medical News Today, some studies show that almonds could help lower the risk of breast cancer.
Anchovies can have a lot of sodium, so they’re best eaten in moderation. However, the health benefits of these fish are significant. Some studies show that an increased consumption of fatty fish results in a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Additionally, anchovies have a large amount of vitamin D when compared to some other sources of lean protein. This vitamin is crucial for a number of reasons, but it’s also been shown to help prevent cancer.
It might not be a fruit you buy often, but an apricot has a large amount of vitamin C. Dried apricots contain this vitamin, as well, along with some fiber. Keep in mind that dried fruit has more sugar than the fresh kind — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it! Dried fruit can be great to keep at your desk for a snack that won’t spoil. Mix in some nuts and seeds to make a satisfying trail mix.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, beans contain resistant starch and fiber that could help to protect colon cells from developing cancer. Beans have a number of other health benefits, too. Consider using beans as a way to add more protein to a meatless meal or making a traditional South American dish of black beans and rice.
Blueberries are a popular superfood, often eaten as a high-fiber snack or as a light addition to a summer salad. Anthocyanins, which give blueberries their bright hue, are antioxidants that may prevent cancer.
Bok choy may not look similar to the other cruciferous vegetables on this list such as broccoli and cauliflower, but it’s part of the same family of plants. That means it also contains the same cancer-fighting compounds as these other vegetables. Studies have shown that this family of vegetables could lower the risk of lung, prostate, colon, and breast cancer.
Brazil nuts contain selenium, a nutrient that’s relatively rare from popular foods in the American diet. You don’t need many Brazil nuts to get the selenium to benefit your body — it takes only two Brazil nuts a day to meet the recommended quota. According to some studies, the selenium in Brazil nuts could help prevent prostate cancer.
Previous studies have suggested that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, could help prevent and halt the progression of certain types of cancer. Newer studies show the same conclusion. Whether you eat broccoli in your takeout Chinese food, dipped in hummus, or in your coffee (yes, your coffee), it’s good for you.
The Harvard School of Public Health says that Brussels sprouts, in the same family as other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli, could derive anti-cancer benefits from a phytochemical called glucosinolate. This compound also gives the sprouts their uniquely bitter flavor — but if you know how to cook them right, these vegetables can still taste great.
There’s evidence that goes both ways on this one. Some studies suggest that overdoing it on cheese and other dairy products could actually make your risk of cancer worse. But in a study that points to better news, research showed that a compound naturally found in some cheese could kill off cancer cells.
This summer fruit has all kinds of health benefits ranging from improving heart health to helping you get better sleep. Fighting off the onset of cancer is one of them. Sip on cherry juice, make a delicious cherry dessert, or eat them plain as a snack. Just don’t eat the pit — it could kill you!
Cinnamon is great in many types of sweet and savory recipes, ranging from tagine to apple pie. Of course, if you’re eating cinnamon to get a boost to your health, you might want to skip the pie and use it as a healthy way to add flavor to your coffee, instead. But no matter how you eat it, cinnamon may lower your cancer risk and ease inflammation. To get the most benefit from this spice, make sure you buy the right kind — not all cinnamon is created equal!
Corn is one of the healthiest side dishes at any barbecue. In addition to fiber and other nutrients, corn contains a phenolic compound called ferulic acid, which may help stave off cancer. Plus, there’s something just so satisfying about crunching into a fresh cob — here are the 10 best ways to cook it.
Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving — add them to any meal for an extra boost of their many benefits. These fruits are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants that could help to combat cancer cells.
As if you needed another reason to eat chocolate every day... But while it might not be a good idea to eat a Milky Way or Hershey bar on the daily, snacking on a few squares of dark chocolate could be really beneficial. Cocoa beans, one of the ingredients in store-bought dark chocolate, contain antioxidants that could have cancer-fighting benefits.
No yolking around — the fatty, delicious center of the egg is the healthiest part. Of the many nutrients in an egg yolk, vitamin D is one of the most crucial. You really need to be eating enough vitamin D for a number of reasons, but preventing cancer is one of them. Good news is that eggs are easy to eat more of — here’s 50 ways to cook them so you never get bored.
Flaxseed might not taste like much, but it packs a ton of fiber and nutrition. According to some studies, flaxseed could help to prevent breast cancer. Few foods have healthy fats, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals such as selenium and manganese. It’s well worth stocking up on some ground flaxseed to add to your smoothies or mix in your yogurt.
Garlic and other plants from the allium family have been on the recommended list of anti-cancer foods from the National Cancer Institute for years. There are garlic supplements available in a pill form; but if you want to skip the pills and eat your nutrients instead, try one of these simple methods for getting more garlic in your diet.
Ginger can do more than just settle your stomach when you’re feeling nauseous. It has cancer-fighting properties and nutrients such as beta-carotene. Make yourself a cup of ginger tea when you’re feeling ill or as a soothing bedtime ritual to reap the benefits of all the antioxidants it provides.
Pink or red grapefruits are some of the healthiest fruits you can eat. They’re rich with lycopene, a nutrient that’s also found in tomatoes. This compound can help to lower the risk of prostate cancer according to some studies. Just don’t eat grapefruit if you’re taking prescription drugs before checking with your doctor. Some drugs combined with grapefruit could be dangerous!
A single small kiwi has over five times the amount of vitamin C as an orange. This fruit also contains vitamin K and antioxidants. Vitamin C plays a large role in cancer prevention, as do antioxidants. Kiwis are great for your skin and hair, too, so eating them could add an extra beauty benefit!
While dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach are better for preventing cancer due to the nutrient folate, really any leafy green will work. These vegetables should be consumed in larger portions than others — try sneaking them into foods that wouldn’t normally include them in order to boost your greens consumption without having to eat salad all day.
According to a systematic review conducted in 2008, a high intake of citrus resulted in a protective effect against stomach cancer. Luckily, adding more citrus to your diet isn’t too difficult. Even something as simple as adding lemon to your water could make a significant difference — and keep you hydrated at the same time!
Mushrooms have been used medicinally for thousands of years; according to the National Cancer Institute, Japan and China have approved mushrooms as a legitimate form of medicine in treatment plans for cancer for over 30 years. Research shows many benefits of eating mushrooms, some of which are mushrooms’ anti-tumor properties. According to one promising study, mushrooms can help decrease your risk of breast cancer by up to 64 percent.
Some of the longest living people in the world swear by oatmeal for its health benefits; preventing cancer could be one of them. Oatmeal is a whole grain and, like brown rice or barley, could protect against colorectal cancer. Try spicing up your oatmeal with other healthful ingredients like nuts and fruit.
Cooking with olive oil not only makes food taste great, but it also makes your dinner healthier. Numerous studies link olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, to a lower risk of cancer. This cooking oil has more than a few tricks up its sleeve, including some additional health benefits of using it that you might not know about.
They might make your breath stink, but onions are definitely worth adding to your diet. If you don’t like them raw, you can eat them cooked. But the benefits are strongest when you don’t cook them. Research also shows that red onions are the best for fighting cancer, though scallions and other types of onions will work, as well.
Oranges are famous for boosting your immune system, but that’s not the only thing they can do for your body. The vitamin C content in oranges can help to prevent multiple different types of cancers. Here’s another fun fact about this food: “Orange” the fruit actually came before “orange” the color. Orange you glad we told you that?
More peas, please! These legumes have powerful antioxidant properties and have been shown to significantly reduce risk from prostate cancer in some studies. Buying peas frozen is a good way to cut down on cost without sacrificing any nutritional value.
Berries are extremely powerful tools for fighting off the risk of cancer. They’re lush with vitamin C, antioxidants, and ellagic acid, all of which have been studied and correlated with a lower cancer risk. Make sure you wash your berries well, however. The “Dirty Dozen” lists strawberries as one of the foods that are likely to have the most pesticide residue when bought from the store.
The orange color of these tasty tubers comes from carotenoids, a call of nutrients also found in other orange vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers. Some studies have shown a decreased risk of breast cancer with an increased consumption of sweet potatoes, which also provide a hefty dose of fiber.
Tomatoes are typically a summer vegetable, but it’s a good idea to eat them all year round. Lycopene, which tomatoes have a ton of, is a powerful antioxidant that could lower the risk of many cancers. Tomatoes are one of the vegetables with the most lycopene of any other source; it’s the compound that gives this vegetable its red color.
Turmeric has many health benefits, including staving off memory loss and improving overall mood. Research suggests that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, could help to prevent cancer. The research isn’t decisive, but the spice has worked miracles for some cancer patients.
They’ve been rumored to curb cravings, they can prevent colon cancer, and evidently they can reduce your risk of breast cancer, too. If you’re not eating this miracle nut already, it’s time to start. Walnuts contain phytosterols, compounds that can help control the estrogen that contributes to breast cancer risk.
Watermelon is one of the most hydrating fruits you can eat, making it one of the healthiest things you can snack on in the summer. It also contains a hefty dose of antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which are linked to a lower cancer risk. Even better? Watermelon can do double duty as a snack and a face mask.
Winter squashes — such as delicata squash, acorn squash, and even pumpkins — are a great way to add healthy carbohydrates to your diet. They have a ton of fiber and, according to some studies, the vitamin C in these types of squash can help protect against damaging free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer. If you’re intimidated by the oddly shaped squash in the produce aisle, buy a can of puréed pumpkin — there’s actually a ton of recipes you can make with the stuff from a can!
Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, all contain vitamin D. This essential vitamin can help reduce the risk of breast cancer and halt its progression. For a list of more foods that are full of it, click here.
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