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 help to make you into a healthier, more energized person overall.
But even if you eat a perfect diet and avoid every food that could increase your risk of cancer, it’s impossible to guarantee you won’t get sick. Factors such as whether or not you smoke, where you live geographically and other issues that may be out of your control, like genetics, also play a role in your cancer risk. So while there are no certainties in life, eating more of these 50 cancer preventing foods is a good place to start.
Almonds are among 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. Regardless of that fact, some studies show that eating almonds could help lower the risk of breast cancer.
Anchovies are among those foods you may not know 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, one of which is its preventative effect against cancer.
Apples contain many important nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Additionally, an apple a day could keep cancer away, according to some studies. And that’s just one of many reasons you should eat more of this fruit, according to science.
It might not be a fruit you buy often, but you should. Just one 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 per ounce than the fresh kind — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it! Fresh apricots are only in season for a few months of the year, and dried fruit can be great to keep at your desk for a snack that won’t spoil.
Bell peppers of any and all colors are filled with cancer-fighting nutrients like vitamin C and lycopene. These nutrients are also what makes bell pepper one of the best foods for your skin. Make stuffed Mexican bell peppers for a creative weeknight dinner, or cook them into a frittata at breakfast.
Blueberries are among the healthiest fruits you can eat, and can be incorporated into your diet as a high-fiber snack or as a light addition to a fresh summer salad. Anthocyanins, which give blueberries their signature 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. According to the National Cancer Institute, 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 in popular foods in the American diet. You don’t need many Brazil nuts to get beneficial results — it takes only two Brazil nuts a day to meet the recommended quota of selenium. 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 pasta, roasted, grilled, raw dipped in hummus or any other way, eating broccoli is 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.
Snack on carrots by dipping them in hummus or a healthy salad dressing. In addition to tasting great, carrots have health benefits derived from carotenoids and bioflavonoids, including lowering your risk of cancer. Crunch on some carrots or one of these other foods and you could improve your eyesight, too!
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, specifically prostate cancer. But if you’re looking for a reason to eat more cheese, one study showed that a compound naturally found in solid cheeses such as cheddar and manchego could help prevent colorectal cancer. Studies also suggest dairy products could help prevent breast cancer, making cheese one of the foods that women should try to eat every week.
This summer fruit has health benefits ranging from improving heart health to helping you get better sleep. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, fighting your risk of cancer is just another benefit of cherries. 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 sweeten your coffee instead. But no matter how you consume it, cinnamon may lower your cancer risk and ease inflammation.
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 an essential part of your Thanksgiving dinner — add them to any meal at any time for an extra boost of their many benefits. This fruit is rich in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants that could help to combat cancer cells.
While it might not be a good idea to eat one of America’s favorite candy bars on the daily, snacking on a few squares of dark chocolate could be really beneficial, and for more reasons than one. Cocoa beans, one of the ingredients in store-bought dark chocolate, contain antioxidants that could have cancer-fighting benefits.
Eggs get a bad rap because of the cholesterol in the yolks, but the fatty 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, and preventing cancer is one of them. The good news is that eggs are easy to eat more of — here are 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 the American Institute of Cancer Research, flaxseed could help to prevent breast cancer. Not many foods have as many nutrients as these seeds do: healthy fats, fiber, selenium and manganese, to name a few. Flaxseed is also one of the best foods for your heart.
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 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.
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. It’s one of a few foods that can mess with your medication.
Red grapes could actually be the healthiest kind — the skin of red grapes contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that could help prevent cancer. This compound is also why certain wines are healthier than others.
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!
While dark leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach are better for preventing cancer due to the nutrient folate, really any leafy green will be beneficial. These vegetables should be consumed in larger portions than others. Eat them in a healthy, delicious salad or blend them into a kale smoothie — here’s how to make kale smoothies that actually taste good.
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 study, mushrooms can help decrease your risk of breast cancer by up to 64 percent.
Oatmeal is one of those foods some of the oldest people in the world swear by for its health benefits, and 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 healthy 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. Certain types of olive oil taste better in certain dishes, so make sure you’re using your olive oil correctly for the best-tasting dish.
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 have their benefits, 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.
Pomegranates are bursting with flavor, nutrients and antioxidants; stock up on some of the seeds when they’re in season. According to studies, pomegranates could have impressive medicinal qualities including the ability to inhibit the growth of different types of cancer.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a healthy choice for so many reasons. There’s a reason neurologists recommend eating salmon and other fatty fish so often. Breast cancer is another good reason to eat this fish — in a study published in the British Medical Journal researchers found that those who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids experienced a 14 percent lower risk of breast cancer. If you have a grill available, here’s a simple guide to grilling salmon perfectly every time.
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 risk of cancer according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Make sure you wash your berries well, however. The Environmental Working Group lists strawberries among 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 type of nutrient 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. They are also good for your gut, since they 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 among the vegetables with the most lycopene; 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.
Walnuts can prevent colon cancer and may reduce your risk of breast cancer, too, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. If you’re not yet eating walnuts, or other types of healthy nuts, 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.
You may think that cutting carbs from your diet is the healthiest choice, but your body could react poorly. Bread can actually be really good for you — especially if you opt for the kind made with whole grains. The American Cancer Society recommends making sure at least half of your grains come from whole grains such as wheat pasta, barley and whole-wheat bread.
Winter squashes — such as delicata squash, acorn squash and even pumpkins — are a great way to add healthy carbohydrates to your diet. They’re in some of the best fall dinner dishes, they have a ton of fiber and, according to some research, 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 cutting open the oddly shaped squash in the produce aisle, buy a can of pureed pumpkin — there are lots 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. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, cancer risk isn’t the only issue you’ll face. Luckily, you can find this nutrient in many common foods, and your body can produce more of it on its own if you spend time outside. If you’ve made all these diet changes and still are concerned about your cancer risk, talk to your doctor and watch for these telltale symptoms that could indicate you have cancer.
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