Fighting cancer with food is possible provided you have the right ones by your side. Your best bet is to opt for fruits and veggies that are bright red, blue, and purple in color (think berries, plums, eggplant, tomatoes, grapes, figs!). Equally beneficial are nuts and seeds, whole grains, probiotics, and anti inflammatory herbs and spices such as rosemary, oregano, turmeric.
Cultures where consumption of fruits and vegetables is high, the prevalence of the most common cancers is recorded to below.
If you’ve ever known someone who’s had to go through cancer, you’ll know how deadly this terminal illness can be. It can strike anybody at any time, sometimes without warning and with no chance of getting any treatment. Yes, cancer can grow in you for years and you may not even know. Worse still, even after chemotherapy and cancer treatments, there is a chance of relapse. But a diet rich in antioxidants and immune-boosting foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, can significantly lower the risk of cancer, especially of the stomach, mouth, pharynx, lungs, and colon. Here’s a list of the superfoods that fight cancer.
High in antioxidants, the berry family of fruits is one the top foods that fight cancer. There is evidence to support that blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, and their cousins have beneficial effects against a variety of human cancers. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends blueberries and cranberries.
Blueberries can fight cancer by preventing oxidative stress, inhibiting pro-inflammatory molecule production, and increasing apoptosis or cell death of cancer/tumor cells. Multiple animal studies have examined the benefits of blueberries in fighting breast cancer, esophageal, and colon cancers. However, human studies are limited, making it hard to pin down a specific quantity to be consumed.
Blackberry and raspberry too inhibited colon, breast, lung, and gastric human tumor cells by 50, 24, 54, and 37%, respectively, in one study.
All berries contain an abundance of flavonoids called anthocyanins (which give their hues) that have antioxidant and hence anti-cancer properties.
2. Rosemary, Oregano, Bay Leaf, And Cloves
In a study that examined a variety of herbs and spices, it was found that rosemary showed effective scavenging capacity against cancer cells. Oregano and bay leaf also showed promise against cervical cancer cells.
A compound in clove called eugenol has also been observed to be a powerful cytotoxic agent. Its anti-tumour qualities work against different types of cancer cells, especially esophageal cancer cells.
Black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, curry leaf, cumin, and caper are some other revered anti-cancer herbs. They have phytochemicals that can induce cancer cell death and inhibit the spread of tumor cells.
Garlic from the allium family can lower your chances of developing cancer, besides also helping slow progress of certain cancers already in the body. The vegetable offers this protective effect due to the presence of organosulfur compounds that can stop or slow tumor growth. It is especially useful for cancers of the colon, stomach tissue, bladder, and prostate. Additionally, the diallyl disulfide in garlic can prevent lung, skin, and colon cancers. Laboratory studies have also found that the diallyl disulfide and ajoene from garlic can help act against leukemia cells. Other animal studies show its effectiveness against cancers of the breast and esophagus as well.
Turmeric or curcumin, in particular, is one of the best stomach and blood cancer-fighting foods. The use of turmeric has shown to reduce the risk of stomach cancer primarily because it protects the body against a carcinogenic bacterium called H. pylori. Turmeric has been traditionally used in South Asian countries to treat inflammation. This anti-inflammatory property is what makes this spice an anti-cancer spice.
5. Probiotics Like Yogurt And Kimchi
Probiotic foods promote a healthy gut by making good bacteria flourish. But did you know that they are also a potential anti-cancer agent? Several studies on humans and animals have shown probiotics to be effective against cancer, especially of the colon. They produce short-chain fatty acids in the colon and acidify it, lowering the pH. And lower colon pH levels are associated with a lower rate of colon cancer.
6. Whole Grains
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, choosing whole grains over refined grains gives you a cancer-fighting edge. How? They are rich in dietary fiber, polyphenols, and lignans, all of which promote your body’s cancer-fighting abilities. They also have protease inhibitors that may help prevent the spread of cancer cells. So go ahead and load up on whole grains like bulgur, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, and millet, among others.
7. Plums And Prunes
Plums can be helpful in the cure of cancers of the breast and colon. Dried plums (prunes) are rich in neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which are powerful anti-cancer agents. According to a study, when these and the phenols from plums came into contact with breast cancer cells, it killed the malignant cells without causing any harm to the healthy ones.
Medicinal plants like moringa have impressive anti-cancer properties. According to a study, the effect of moringa leaf extract was observed on a human tumor cell line. Due to the presence of phenolics such as quercetin and kaempferol, the increase and spread of the cells were reduced and cancer cells were also destroyed.
Moringa has also shown great results with leukemia or blood cancer as well as ovarian cancer, causing many cancerous cells to die.
9. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are already recommended for their anti-inflammatory potential and cardiovascular benefits. They are now emerging as a nutrient that can help fight cancer. These polyunsaturated fats are found in certain fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Researchers closely tracking the data on the incidence of cancer have found that high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids seems to be linked to lower risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Try and have a 3-ounce portion of any fatty fish you like a couple of times a week, to give yourself the benefit of this nutrient. If you’re vegan, you can get your omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, oils, and seeds.
10. Nuts And Seeds
Flaxseeds are one of the foods that can fight cancer tumors. They are especially wonderful for women. Rich in fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and lignans, they are also a great source of phytoestrogens. Flaxseeds have been shown to reduce breast cancer tumor growth by 45% and also inhibit prostate cancer.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans are nuts that fight cancer because of the presence of antioxidants and polyphenols in them.
11. Cruciferous Veggies
Those crunchy cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower do more than just add a punch to your salads. Researchers from various parts of the world have demonstrated that an intake of cruciferous vegetables is useful in colorectal cancer and cancers of the bladder, breast, prostate, and lungs.
They contain sulforaphane that can directly detoxify cancer-causing chemicals in the body. Researchers suggest that 3 to 5 servings of broccoli (or cauliflower) a week should help prevent cancer. Further clinical study can help to firm up the exact quantity needed.
12. Tomatoes And Tomato Sauce
One of the best antioxidant foods for cancer, tomatoes have a lot of health benefits. There is ample scientific evidence that high consumption of tomatoes reduces the risk of diseases caused due to reactive oxygen species (ROS) like cancer by improving the antioxidant capacity.
The lycopene in tomatoes is what enables ROS scavenging, enhance detoxification systems, prevents the increase and spread of cancer cells. Lycopene can help prevent cancers of the prostate, stomach, and lung. Early signs also point to its potential in warding off cancers of the breast, pancreas, colon, rectum, cervix, and esophagus.
Tomato sauce is just as helpful. Having tomato sauce was found to be linked to lower prostate cancer risk in Caucasian men and those who consumed a large quantity of tomatoes – like those with Southern European ancestry. Get in tomatoes every day, and try and have them cooked in tomato paste or as a juice too to pack in more nutrition.
13. Dark Green Veggies
Before you wince or make a face, know this. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, bok choy, turnip greens, and kale are rich in the vitamin folate, which is crucial to DNA methylation and synthesis. What does that mean? It means folate has the potential to modify DNA. This nutrient is your line of defense against cancers of the colon, rectum, pancreas, esophagus, and breast.
Researchers found that test subjects taking 900 mcg (or more) of folate every day lowered their risk of even developing colorectal cancer more than those who only got in 200 mcg per day.
According to a study, 20 patients suffering from colonic adenoma polyps (gland-like growth on the mucous membrane of the intestine) were treated with folic acid. It was observed that folic acid could reverse DNA hypomethylation (a feature of carcinogenesis in the body that indicates tumor progression)in 7 of 12 patients who had only one polyp.
If you overdose on alcohol, it is especially important for you to have a lot of this nutrient as drinking it substantially increases the cancer risk of a low-folate diet.
Carrots and the juice from them may offer hope for those grappling with the devastating effects of leukemia. One study found that the falcarinol and falcarindiol-3 acetate, the polyacetylenes in carrots, help increase the death of cancerous cells. And it seems like there are benefits to eating all kinds of carrots, including the black ones. Black carrot tissue extracts showed promising anticancer activity in one study, leading the researchers to conclude that the vegetable had potential to treat brain cancer without causing damage to the surrounding tissue.
15. Bright Red, Purple, And Blue Foods
Fighting cancer with food is possible if you have the right ones by your side. Opt for fruits and vegetables which are bright red, purple, and blue in color as they are rich in the flavonoid anthocyanin. This would include purple grapes, cherries, apples, red cabbage, all berries, eggplant, red wine, plums, pomegranates, red onion, figs, kidney beans, black beans, and blackcurrant. There are scores of studies that show the cancer-fighting potential of foods with anthocyanins. It has been found to be useful against esophageal, skin and lung cancers in animals.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.