An estimated one in three cases of cancer is linked with the food that we eat – but that doesn’t mean we should be fearful of food. Instead of stressing about foods to “avoid forever,” let’s talk about what we can add to reduce cancer risk.
Including plenty of whole foods rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and immune-boosting compounds is one of the best ways that we can help reduce our risk for cancer and other serious chronic diseases.
Let’s dive into some of my favorite foods that help most with cancer prevention and management – and, of course, let’s talk recipes, so you can know exactly how to work more of these powerful plants into your life.
Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.) have been heavily studied for their high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients that help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. (Free radical damage can lead to cancer growth when left unchecked.) Including berries in your diet not only reduces colon cancer risk but also helps prevent the proliferation and spread of cancer cells.
Ground flaxseeds and flax oil are not only potent plant-based sources of alpha-linolenic acid, (an omega-3 fatty acid) but also contain fiber and lignans, which are linked with lower inflammation levels and reduced cancer risk. Flax lignans also prevent pre-cancerous lesions from turning into cancer and help prevent the growth and spread of preexisting cancer cells.
Kale and other cruciferous vegetables are widely studied for their anti-cancer potential. Eating cruciferous veggies is linked with lower colorectal, breast, lung, and prostate cancer risk. This protection is thought to be due in part to organosulfur compounds called isothiocyanates. These phytonutrients are not only linked with cancer prevention, but have also been shown to help support phase II detoxification, prevent cancer progression, and induce cancer cell death.
Despite the myths surrounding soy consumption, tofu, tempeh, miso, and edamame certainly deserve a spot on this list. Soy foods (look for minimally processed and organic) contain phytonutrients that are especially beneficial for hormone-sensitive cancers, like breast and prostate. Soy isoflavones have also been shown to inhibit angiogenesis, a key step in the growth, invasion, and metastasis of cancer cells.
With the popularity of this blue green algae on the rise, spirulina is being studied more and more for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential anti-cancer benefits. Spirulina seems to be especially beneficial for the liver and may help prevent liver carcinogenesis. Spirulina has also demonstrated potent antioxidant activity, which can help reduce damage to and death of our healthy cells.
As a spice packing major anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, turmeric is known for its anti-cancer effects. Like spirulina, turmeric also seems to be especially protective of the liver. It also has been shown to prevent the spread of cancer cells while also helping chemotherapy drugs work better. Turmeric may also help our bodies get rid of excess heavy metals, further reducing potential for oxidative stress.
With their high levels of beta-glucans, mushrooms are often studied for their potential immune system and anti-cancer benefits. Mushrooms support specific immune system cells, such as macrophages and natural killer cells, which in turn work to fight off cancer cells. Including mushrooms in our diets reduces breast cancer risk and may also help lower cancer-promoting inflammation.
Along with onions, garlic belongs to the Allium family of plants, which are studied for their potential anti-cancer and detoxification-supporting effects. Sulfur-containing compounds found within garlic inhibit carcinogenic activity, display anti-microbial properties, and have demonstrated potent antioxidant properties.
Green tea, especially the milled whole green tea leaves known as matcha, is a rich source of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a phytonutrient and antioxidant studied for its anti-cancer benefits. EGCG is linked with lower cancer risk and has also been shown to induce cancer cell death and inhibit the growth, spread, and metastasis of preexisting cancer cells.
Adding even a few of these deliciously nutritious foods to your diet can play a big role in maintaining wellness and preventing serious diseases like cancer. (Plus I’ll take any excuse to eat more blueberries, tempeh, and garlic.) 😉
HOW MANY OF THESE ANTI-CANCER FOODS ARE CURRENTLY IN YOUR DIET?
PS: To learn more about working with me privately to develop an individualized cancer prevention and/or management plan, click here.
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