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September 1, 2023 | 4 minute read

What are the Top 10 Cancer-Fighting Foods?

Key Takeaways:

  • The best diet for cancer-prevention is a plant-based eating pattern.
  • No single food can prevent cure or treat cancer, so the pattern matters more than any single food.
  • Top 10 cancer prevention foods to include in a plant-based diet include leafy greens, beans, nuts and whole grain, plus beverages such as coffee and tea.

No single food can prevent cancer by itself, but dietary patterns than include an array of nourishing foods can certainly help reduce cancer risk. Research shows that a plant-based diet helps lower cancer risk, so it’s not surprise that all 10 foods on this list come from plants!

What kind of diet helps prevent cancer?

Research shows that eating mostly plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans, plays a big role in preventing cancer and contributing to a healthier life. That’s because plant-based foods are high in fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals (natural substances) that may help prevent cancer.

One of the 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations from AICR is to eat a diet that’s rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Independent studies show that the more closely you follow AICR recommendations (which also include advice to be physically active and cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food), the more you reduce risk of developing cancer.

Plant-based diet for cancer prevention

Here is a list of top cancer-fighting foods that can be included in your cancer prevention diet:

  1. Leafy greens: Carotenoids found in leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale act as antioxidants and boost the body’s own defenses. You can also try romaine, arugula, Swiss chard and collards. Enjoy this recipe for Warm kale salad.
  2. Whole grains: Whole grains such as oats, barley and quinoa provide fiber, which can help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. They also help stop free radical damage (that’s a good thing, since free radicals can increase cancer risk).
  3. Soy foods: Limited but suggestive evidence supports the potential for greater overall breast cancer survival and perhaps decreased breast cancer recurrence in women who eat soy-based foods, such as tofu and edamame. Try this Scrambled turmeric tofu with greens.
  4. Walnuts: All nuts contain beneficial cancer-fighting nutrients. Walnuts have been specifically researched because they contain ellagitannins, melatonin and gamma- tocopherol, which help reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and gene expression that can lead to certain cancers.
  5. Pulses: Beans and lentils contain fiber, resistant starch and phenolic compounds, which may support the growth of health promoting gut bacteria. Research is ongoing on how these contribute to cancer risk reduction. Use chickpeas or another favorite bean in this Moroccan chickpea sorghum bowl recipe.
  6. Citrus fruits: Lemons, oranges and other citrus fruits provide phytochemicals and vitamins that act as antioxidants and help protect against cell damage. Enjoy the refreshing citrus flavors in this Quinoa citrus avocado salad.
  7. Berries: The phytochemicals and nutrients in berries show potential anti-cancer effects in laboratory studies. For example, blueberries increase antioxidant activity in the blood and may help prevent DNA damage.
  8. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower: Glucosinolates in these vegetables may help thwart the development and progression of certain cancers. Try this Creamy broccoli apple salad
  9. Coffee: Phytochemicals in coffee are linked to a lower risk of developing endometrial and liver cancers.
  10. Tea: Limited evidence suggests that tea may decrease the risk of bladder cancer. This refers specifically to black or green tea, not to herbal teas such as peppermint or camomile.

A combination of these foods that prevent cancer can form a dietary pattern that’s nutritious and delicious. There is no single food that can cure, treat or prevent cancer—it’s the whole dietary pattern that matters most.

You can read more about Foods that Fight Cancer here.

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