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Global Network

Fall Foods That Fight Cancer

Root Veggies in a BasketTreat yourself to autumn's plentiful cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables. Here are five popular and versatile kinds and their protective benefits.

Autumn brings a bumper crop to farmer's markets and grocery stores. For the greatest protection from cancer, serve up a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plant foods. Each nourishes you with different health boosters that work together to fend off cancer and other diseases.

Fall Favorites

Apples. Taste and convenience make the apple one of America's favorite fruits. Drop one in your lunch sack or tote bag for a nutritious, delicious snack. For less than 100 calories, a medium apple gives you 4 grams of fiber and more than 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. According to AICR's expert report, foods containing vitamin C probably reduce the risk of esophageal cancer, and there is convincing evidence that dietary fiber lowers risk of colorectal cancer.

Apples also contain several phytochemicals, including quercetin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Lab research suggests that compounds in apples might suppress the growth of breast cancer and reduce the risk for lung and colon cancers.

  • Add chopped apples to chicken salad, green salads, whole-grain stuffing and oatmeal.
  • For an instant, cheap and tasty snack, dip apple slices into low-fat vanilla yogurt or spread them with peanut butter.


Budget Tip

If you buy a bag of fresh cranberries and can't finish them right away, pop them in the freezer and use small amounts as needed over the next couple of months.

These tart red gems are a Thanksgiving favorite, but don't restrict them to holidays. Take advantage of their good nutrition and high antioxidant power throughout the fall and winter. In addition to fiber and vitamin C, cranberries contain flavonols, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and other cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Research suggests that people who eat foods that are rich in these phytochemicals have lower levels of harmful inflammation. In laboratory studies, cranberry extracts and cranberry phytochemicals seem to halt several types of cancer.

  • Balance the mouth-puckering tartness of fresh, chopped cranberries by mixing them with naturally sweet fruits like apples and oranges for creative salsas and salads.
  • Toss dried cranberries into pancake and muffin batter or oatmeal.
  • Mix dried cranberries into salads, oatmeal, whole-grain stuffing and pilafs.

Parsnips and Rutabagas

They may not be the prettiest vegetables at the market, but don't let that fool you into thinking they lack flavor or nutrition. Both parsnips and rutabagas provide vitamin C. Parsnips are a good source of folate and fiber, too.

  • Peel, trim and enjoy them boiled and mashed, roasted or in a stew.
  • Cook them with other root vegetables. Mash parsnips with white and sweet potatoes, or roast rutabagas or parsnips in the oven with carrots and beets.

Winter Squash

You'll commonly see acorn and butternut squashes in the grocery store. They're jam-packed with vitamin C, cancer-preventive fiber and the mineral potassium, which promotes healthy bones and blood pressure levels. Winter squash provides carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect our eyes from ultraviolet damage, plus beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A.

AICR's expert report found that foods containing beta-carotene probably lower the risk of esophageal cancer and that diets rich in carotenoids probably reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and lung.

  • Toss cubed squash with olive oil and seasonings (such as Italian herbs, paprika or cinnamon) for roasting.
  • Fill the cavities of halved acorn squash with apples, raisins and cinnamon then bake at 400 degrees for an hour.
  • Use puréed butternut squash (or buy it frozen) mixed with an equal amount of fat-free, reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth for a warming, nutritious soup.

Other hearty fall vegetables to try are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms and sweet potatoes. For delicious recipes, visit the AICR Test Kitchen.

Root Vegetable and Dried Fruit Bake

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups peeled parsnips, chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 2 cups peeled butternut squash, chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried apples, chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. 100 percent orange juice
  • Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon


  • 1¼ tsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, toss parsnips, squash, cranberries and apples with canola oil and orange juice. Season with salt and cinnamon; transfer to 9-inch, lightly sprayed baking or casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake until vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 50-60 minutes.

While vegetables roast, melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and ginger. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes; add brown sugar and cinnamon. Continue to cook, stirring, for another minute.

When casserole is ready, remove foil and sprinkle with walnut-ginger topping. Return to oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until walnuts are toasted. Toss well before serving to combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 160 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrates,
2 g protein, 4 g fiber, 20 mg sodium.


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Ann Wrenshall Worley

Ann Wrenshall Worley

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