Most people don’t like to talk about the “c” word, cancer, because it can be very scary to think about. However, the fact is that cancer is a big concern, and unfortunately, it touches many people’s lives. Most of us probably know someone that has or is dealing with cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, in the United States in 2018, it’s estimated that over 1,700,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is also one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The most frequently diagnosed types of cancer include breast, lung, and prostate cancer. Colon cancer and skin cancer are also common. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1,670 people die from cancer every day. The statistics are grimm, but there is something you can do, starting today, that can help decrease your cancer risk.
Certain risk factors for cancer, such as gender and family history, are out of your control. But the good news is that
diet is one factor you do have control over. Certain foods help protect against cancer, while other foods may be associated with an increased risk of the disease.
Top 10 Cancer-Fighting Foods
Eating one specific food won’t necessarily be the key to preventing cancer, but cultivating the right eating habits may help decrease your chances of developing certain types of cancer. Below are some of the best foods for fighting cancer:
- Broccoli: Broccoli is abundant in the dietary compound sulforaphane, which is thought to be beneficial in fighting cancer. In one study, daily intake of sulforaphane inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells. (1)
- Strawberries: Strawberries are rich in antioxidants, which decrease cancer-causing free radicals. Several studies have indicated cancer-fighting benefits of berries. One study involved 25 adults with colon cancer. The participants were given bilberry extract for one week. The growth of cancer cells was reduced by 7 percent. If you’re not a fan of strawberries, other dark-colored berries including blueberries and black raspberries have similar benefits. (2)
- Chili peppers: Chili peppers contain carotenoids, which give certain veggies their yellow, orange or red color. Carotenoids have been studied and are thought to have some cancer-protecting properties by inhibiting cancer cell growth and improving the immune system response.
- Black Beans: Beans are a cancer-fighting food due to their high fiber content. One animal study divided up rats into three groups. One group was fed navy beans daily. One group was fed black beans daily. A third control group was not fed beans. After one month, administration of colon cancer was initiated through two injections of cancer cells one week apart. After 31 weeks, the rats fed beans had a significantly lower incidence of colon cancer than the control group. (3)
- Spinach: Spinach often makes the list of top foods for a healthy diet. Spinach and other greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, and mustard greens contain beta-carotene and lutein, which are thought to protect against cancers such as breast, stomach, and lung.
- Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits, such as oranges, are high in vitamin C and hesperidin. Hesperidin is a flavanone, which is also found in grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Some research has indicated that hesperidin may cut off the blood supply to tumors. In this research, 14 studies were analyzed, which found a high intake of citrus fruits resulted in a 28 percent reduction in stomach cancer. (4)
- Green Tea: Green tea has several health benefits due to its antioxidants. One chemical found in green tea called epigallocatechin-3 gallate is thought to reduce the growth of urokinase, which is an enzyme vital for cancer cell growth. Green tea also comes in a supplement.
- Carrots: Carrots contain phytochemicals which protect against cancer. Carrots also contain beta-carotene, which has been studied for its health benefits. In one study, a meta-analysis was conducted involving multiple studies. The results indicated that daily carrot consumption might decrease the risk of prostate cancer. (5)
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which is a carotenoid with cancer-fighting properties. Research, which involved an analysis of 21 case-control studies, indicated that men that ate high amounts of tomato products had a lower rate of prostate cancer. (6)
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice, which comes from a plant related to the ginger family. Curcumin is the bright yellow substance in turmeric that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which plays a role in fighting cancer. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, studies involving rats exposed to cancer-causing substances that were treated with turmeric were protected from skin, stomach, and colon cancer. You can also get curcumin in supplement form, such as Curcumin Ultimate.
Top 5 Cancer-Causing Foods to Avoid
Just as certain foods may help decrease your cancer risk, there are also foods that may increase your chances of developing the disease. Below are five of the top foods to stay away from:
- Processed Meats: Processed meats, such as deli meats, bacon, and sausage, contain certain preservatives or flavoring that are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Researchers looked at 800 studies to determine that eating processed meat every day increases a person’s chances of colon cancer by about 18 percent.
- Charred Foods: According to the National Cancer Institute, eating charred meat may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer. When meats, such as beef and chicken, are cooked at high temperatures and charred, chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. PAHs may alter DNA, which could lead to cancer. (7)
- Soda: Soda either contains sugar or artificial sweeteners. Both ingredients are unhealthy and may increase your risk of cancer. Sugary soda can also lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for a variety of cancers including colon cancer. Soda also often contains caramel coloring, which is also linked to cancer.
- Microwave popcorn: Chemicals that line microwave popcorn bags including perfluorooctanoic acid are classified as a likely carcinogen.
- Food additives: Food additives are usually bad news when it comes to your health, and that includes your risk of cancer. Additives, such as artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives, are linked to several types of cancer.
Other Ways to Fight Cancer
Eating a healthy diet including the cancer-fighting foods listed above is a great way to decrease your cancer risk. But your overall health habits offer you the best protection against cancer. In addition to diet, consider the following ways to fight cancer:
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise or physical activity is associated with a lower risk of breast, colon, and endometrial cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer. It may also increase a person’s risk of oral and throat cancer. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.
- Protect yourself against UV rays: Exposure to UV rays from the sun increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Always apply sunscreen when spending time outdoors during the day.
- Avoid toxins in household chemicals and cosmetics: Several types of toxins in cosmetics and household cleaners are linked to an increased risk of cancer. Look for products with natural ingredients.
Optimal Hormone Balance Helps Protect Against Cancer
Take our symptom checker to find out if you have symptoms of hormone decline and imbalance. Discover what can be the underlying cause so that you can take action to protect your health today.
- Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells
- Pilot study of oral anthocyanins for colorectal cancer chemoprevention
- Consumption of Black Beans and Navy Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) Reduced Azoxymethane-Induced Colon Cancer in Rats
- Citrus fruit intake and stomach cancer risk: a quantitative systematic review
- Dietary carrot consumption and the risk of prostate cancer
- The Role of Tomato Products and Lycopene in the Prevention of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies
- Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk