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10 Must-Know, Cancer-Fighting Foods

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Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the easiest, most important ways to promote good health and protect against cancer. But, because no one food alone can effectively reduce your risk for developing cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eating a variety of cancer-fighting plant foods (in addition to getting regular exercise) to ensure the most protection.

1. Cruciferous Veggies

How it Works

Various components of cruciferous vegetables, including their fiber, carotenoids, vitamins C, E and K and minerals, are thought to stop the growth of certain cancer cells.

Healthy Tip

Among others, cruciferous veggies include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. Stir-fry these veggies together for a delicious and nutritious meal.

2. Sweet Potatoes

How it Works

Sweet potatoes are packed with molecules called lutein and carotenoids that work to starve cancer cells. According to experts, eating a cup of sweet potatoes each week could potentially reduce your risk of lung, skin and prostate cancer. 

Healthy Tip

Substitute sweet potatoes for regular white potatoes when making potato-based dishes, such as French fries, mashed potatoes and oven-roasted potatoes. Keep the skin on for extra fiber.

3. Berries

How it Works

As one of the best cancer-fighting foods, berries contain strong antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage that precedes cancer. Some research suggests that berries may affect genes that are linked to inflammation and cancer growth. 

Healthy Tip

Try eating four to five servings of canned, frozen or fresh fruit each week by sprinkling berries on cereal, making smoothies or serving as a snack or side dish. 

4. Grapefruit

How it Works

Pink and red grapefruit are rich in cancer-fighting nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene and dietary fibers. There is evidence that dietary fiber can act in several ways to reduce cancer risk factors by promoting weight control. 

Healthy Tip

Grapefruit can interfere with the activity of some medications. If you are taking either prescribed or over-the-counter medications, consult your doctor about any dietary restrictions.

5. Tomatoes

How it Works

Lycopene, a phytochemical that causes tomatoes to be red, has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. The anti-cancer potential of tomatoes may extend to the reduced risk of other forms of cancer, including breast, lung and abdominal.

Healthy Tip

The processing of tomato products is thought to release the tomato's natural compounds more effectively. Incorporate processed tomato products into your diet, such as tomato sauce, paste or juice.

6. Beans

How it Works

Dry beans and peas contain high levels of fiber, protein and folate, a vitamin B. Playing an important role in healthy cell division and repair of damaged cells, folate-rich foods are thought to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Healthy Tip

You may prepare beans “from scratch” by following directions on the package, or use canned beans. (Rinsing canned beans reduces the sodium by 40 percent.) Add beans and peas to your favorite soups, stews, casseroles or side dish, and freeze the leftovers for later.

7. Nuts

How it Works

A recent Harvard study found that regular nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer or heart disease. The study cited peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and tree nuts as beneficial sources for cancer-fighting nutrients.

Healthy Tip

Try snacking on a 1/3 cup of unsalted nuts or sprinkling chopped nuts on a salad for extra crunch.

8. Tea

How it Works

Tea has been regarded as an aid to good health throughout history, but only recently has it been suggested to fight cancer. Tea leaves contain antioxidants called polyphenol compounds, especially catechins, that may be linked to cancer prevention. 

Healthy Tip

Though tea may be good for your health, sugary tea products, such as sweetened ice tea, may be counterproductive. Instead, consider drinking unsweetened ice tea or regular hot tea to reap its full benefits.

9. Turmeric

How it Works

In addition to working as an anti-inflammatory, some experts believe curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, works to interfere with cell-signaling pathways, which suppresses the transformation, proliferation and invasion of cancerous cells.

Healthy Tip

Many popular Indian dishes contain the spice turmeric. To experience the health benefits curcumin, dine out at a local Indian restaurant for a special occasion or try your hand at cooking your own Indian cuisine.

10. Ginger

How it Works

Used as a remedy for stomach and motion sickness linked to some cancer treatments, recent studies of ginger have also showed that the root may have some effect in slowing or preventing tumor growth.

Healthy Tip

Grate ginger into your favorite pan-cooked dishes for a burst of flavor and cancer-fighting potential.

Want to Learn More about Cancer-Fighting Foods & Lifestyle?

Whether you have a family history of the disease, or are currently facing a life-changing diagnosis, certain lifestyle factors, including your diet, may make a big impact in your fight against cancer. In addition to our leading Cancer Center in Dubuque, UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital is home to registered dietitians that work with you to assess nutritional needs and make recommendations in regards to diet, exercise and other treatment plans. Please call us at (563) 589-2324 or contact us online to learn more.