Can the Foods You Eat Lower Your Cancer Risk?
While family history can heighten your risk for cancer, studies have shown that your diet can play a role in preventing certain types. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil can reduce your risk for a variety of common cancers, such as colorectal, breast and stomach. These beneficial foods are higher in antioxidants and carotenoids, both of which help protect against the development of cancer cells.
A recent study in Science Daily indicates that a poor diet is linked to many cancers, including colorectal, breast, stomach, kidney, liver and mouth. Sometimes food is truly the best medicine. And when it comes to preventing cancer, some foods pack more punch than others. Here are some of our favorite foods most noteworthy for lowering your cancer risk.
Apples provide fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to your diet. They are especially high in the cancer-fighting antioxidant, Quercetin. Most of the antioxidant properties and fiber are found in the peel. So don’t peel an apple before eating it. Try baked apples with a bit of cinnamon for an old-fashioned dessert.
Beets are a beneficial root vegetable high in fiber, vitamins, carotenoids and antioxidants. In particular, beets contain Betalain, a powerful antioxidant that helps suppress tumors. Roast or steam beets to bring out their robust, earthy flavor.
Blueberries are considered a superfood. High in a variety of powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients, they are also rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Try adding them to oatmeal, smoothies or simply snack on this delicious fruit.
Broccoli is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Like other cruciferous vegetables – such as cabbage, kale and collards – broccoli is noted for containing cancer-suppressing indole alkaloids. Toss raw broccoli into your salad for added crunch or steam some for dinner.
Legumes, such as lentils, are a good source of protein and fiber. Fiber helps reduce cancer risk, especially colorectal and stomach cancers, by keeping food moving properly through your digestive system. Lentils are also especially high in anti-cancer phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Make a hearty lentil soup or lentil salad for lunch.
An excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, potassium and carotenoids, the tomato is a much-loved vegetable that is great for you. The primary antioxidant is Lycopene, which also gives tomatoes their red color. Make a sauce, salsa or soup and enjoy their health benefits.
Another superfood, sweet potatoes are bursting with fiber, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, carotenoids and antioxidants. With their natural sweetness, they are perfect either baked or roasted. Or try a sweet potato puree.
Nuts are another cancer-fighting superstar, and walnuts are one of the best. Walnuts contain high amounts of antioxidant properties as well as omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, manganese, copper and melatonin. A versatile addition to other foods, chop some walnuts and add to a green salad, vegetable dish or fruit salad.
Wild salmon – as opposed to farmed salmon – is fish caught in its natural environment. Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, that anti-inflammation and cancer-fighting powerhouse. If you can’t find wild salmon, try shrimp, flounder, mackerel or haddock. And make sure it’s wild-caught.
Integrating cancer-fighting foods into your diet
Changing your diet – as well as adopting healthy habits such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding cigarettes – can have a profound influence on your health. In addition, try to limit sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
When shopping for food, organic is best. According to the American Medical Association, organic food plays a greater role in lowering cancer risk than non-organic foods. Visiting your local farmers’ market is a great way to get seasonal fresh food, talk with farmers and learn how your food is raised. Even better, start your own garden. This can be a rewarding and fun project for you and your family.
And don’t forget to look for the local meat, egg and fish vendors while at your farmers’ market. Buy grass-fed meat, pastured eggs and sustainably caught fish to further support your healthy diet.
When preparing food, fresh and simple is better. Try to avoid deep frying, heavy sauces and too much sugar. Does seared salmon with blackberry-date chutney or beet salad with peaches and walnuts sound tempting? The American Institute of Cancer Research offers an inspiring selection of recipes to help you incorporate cancer-preventing foods in your meals.
On a final note, the best approach to behavior change, including adjusting your diet, is to start with small changes and increase over time. This makes it easier for you and your family. A commitment to eating healthier foods and reducing your risk of cancer can improve your sense of well-being and longevity.