Friday 1 May 2020

30 Cancer-Fighting Foods That Reduce Your Disease Risk, According to Science

Cruciferous veggies like broccoli are loaded with sulfur-containing chemicals called glucosinolates. During chewing and digestion, they get broken down into compounds like indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which have been shown to fight cell damage and inflammation and even block blood vessels from forming in tumors, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

They’re a top source of alpha-linoleic (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids, which are tied to lower breast cancer risk. Clinical trials have also found that flaxseeds have the potential to slow the growth of tumors in women who’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer. And here’s a tip: Choose ground flaxseeds over whole ones whenever possible—grinding the seeds makes their nutrients more bioavailable, research shows.

Green tea
Tea consumption is tied to a lower risk of colon, breast, ovarian, prostate, and lung cancer, says the NCI. And green tea is thought to pack an extra powerful punch. It’s loaded with polyphenols like epigallocatechin gallate and epicatechin gallate, which help protect cells from cancer-causing damage by neutralizing free radicals. “EGCG may also inhibit the growth of blood vessels that feed cancerous cells,” Dr. Mandal notes.

It’s another cruciferous vegetable, so you know these hearty leaves have good stuff going for them from a cancer prevention perspective. A single cup of chopped kale serves up more than a day’s worth of antioxidants like vitamins A and C, both of which can scrounge up free radicals and stop them from causing cell damage that could potentially lead to cancer.

Can having one a day really help keep the doctor away? Regular apple eaters have a lower risk for lung cancer as well as certain types of breast cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Just be sure to have the skin too. “The flavonoid quercitin has been associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, and the highest concentration is found in the skin,” says nutrition expert Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D.

Blueberries’ deep blue color comes from anthocyanins, powerful compounds that exert antioxidant activity. So it’s worth getting your fill: “Antioxidants function to inhibit the formation of free radicals, rapidly changing molecules that are damaging to DNA,” Dr. Mandal explains. And indeed, people who consume higher levels of anthocyanins have less inflammation and oxidative stress, says the AICR.

Broccoli’s paler cousin is also a cruciferous vegetable, and it boasts similar cancer-fighting abilities. So feel free to fill up, well, as often as you can. A Harvard study of some 124,000 adults found that women who gobbled up more than five servings of crucifers like cauliflower a week were less likely to get lung cancer compared to those who ate the veggies less frequently.

Being a regular garbanzo bean eater is tied to a lower risk for colorectal cancer, found a review of 14 studies. Beans are chock-full of fibers that get fermented by the good bacteria in our guts and transformed into inflammation-fighting short chain fatty acids. And these acids are thought to potentially have cancer-fighting effects, the AICR notes.

Like flaxseeds, walnuts are rich in ALA omega-3 fatty acids. But that’s not all. They also serve up antioxidant compounds like ellagitannins, melatonin, and gamma-tocopherol, which the AICR says could combat oxidative stress and inflammation. Just keep your portions in check, since walnuts are calorie-dense. A one-ounce, 150-calorie serving is all you need, says Palinski-Wade.

Black beans
Just like chickpeas, black beans are loaded with gut-friendly fibers that could play a role in staving off inflammation. But that’s not all. Thanks to their dark purple color, black beans are loaded with cancer-fighting flavonoids like anthocyanins. Tacos or black bean soup, anyone?

Population studies have tied higher garlic consumption to lower cancer rates, particularly when it comes to gastrointestinal cancers, according to one review. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that exert antimicrobial activity as well as inhibit cell-damaging carcinogens, the researchers note. To reap the biggest benefits, chop or crush your garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to your cooking. The brief rest helps the garlic produce more sulfur compounds, the AICR points out.

Oats are an easy, delicious source of whole grains, which may boast serious cancer-fighting abilities. People who get three servings of whole grains daily have a 15% lower cancer risk overall compared to those who get less, concluded one major study. The benefits are even more impressive when it comes to colorectal cancer in particular: Three daily servings of whole grains could slash your risk by as much as 17%, the AICR notes.

Their bright orange color is a clue that carrots are loaded with antioxidants, namely beta-carotene—which might have something to do with their cancer-fighting abilities. One analysis concluded that high carrot intake was tied to a 21% lower chance for breast cancer, while another concluded that carrot consumption could help stave off prostate cancer.

The juicy fruits are packed with the antioxidant resveratrol, which research suggests could play a role in thwarting the development of stomach, breast, liver, and lymphatic cancers. One thing to keep in mind? When it comes to cancer prevention, whole grapes are probably a better choice than red wine. Even though vino’s got resveratrol too, alcohol consumption can up your cancer risk, the CDC says.

People who take fish oil supplements four times a week are 63% less likely to develop colon cancer compared to those who don’t, found a study of nearly 70,000 older adults. And fatty fish like salmon offer similar benefits. “Consuming two to three servings per week may provide the same quantity of omega-3 fatty acids as supplemental fish oil and provide similar benefits against colon cancer,” Palinski-Wade says.

They might be a sweet treat—but they also pack a potent health punch: Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants like flavonoids and tannins. In addition to scavenging harmful free radicals, the compounds are thought to help protect against DNA damage and inhibit the growth of cancer cells, a recent review concluded.

Another colorful fruit, another cancer-fighting antioxidant. Tomatoes are a top source of lycopene, a type of carotenoid thought to help reduce the risk for prostatebreast, and lung cancers. For the biggest antioxidant punch, pick tomato sauce or tomato paste over whole raw ‘maters. “Lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked,” Palinski-Wade says.

The nutty whole grain is packed with protein and fiber to keep you satisfied, but that’s not all. Whole grains like quinoa are thought to play a key role in keeping insulin levels steady and staving off inflammation, which could contribute to a lower cancer risk, the AICR notes.

Like strawberries and blueberries, cherries are chock-full of protective phytochemicals. “These biologically active compounds can target key areas in the development of cancerous cells,” Dr. Mandal notes. And indeed, eating them regularly can help lower markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, a major review found.

Here’s just one more reason to love your morning cuppa. Women who drank four cups of coffee daily were 20% less likely to develop endometrial cancer and 24% less likely to develop cancer overall after menopauseresearch shows. But you might want to steer clear of the cream and sugar. “Adding large amounts of either can offset coffee’s protective benefits,” Palinski-Wade says. “The best choice is flavoring coffee with a splash of milk and a non-calorie seasoning like cinnamon.”

Olive oil
Permission to add an extra drizzle to your cooking, granted. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, people who consume the most olive oil were less likely to develop breast or gastrointestinal cancer compared to those who rarely eat the stuff, a review of 19 studies found. Part of that may be thanks to olive oil’s healthy monounsaturated fats and phenolic antioxidant compounds, the authors say.

Chia seeds
Talk about small but mighty. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds delivers 5 grams of fiber. That’s important, since fiber encourages the growth of short-chain fatty acid in the gut that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, research shows. The seeds are also a top source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, offering 5 grams per serving.

Brown rice
Speaking of fiber, people who eat a fiber-rich diet are around 20% less likely to die from colon cancer compared to those who don’t get much roughage, a recent study found. And brown rice is just one more yummy way to get your fill, offering 3 grams per cooked cup.

An eight-ounce glass of low-fat milk delivers 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium, which could play a role in protecting against colon cancer. People who get more than 700 mg of calcium daily are up to 45% less likely to develop certain types of colon cancer compared to those who get 500 mg or fewer per day, found an analysis of some 135,000 people.

Soy foods
Consider replacing some of the beef or pork in your diet with soy-based proteins. While red meat consumption is tied to a higher risk of some cancers, soy foods serve up antioxidant compounds like isoflavones, which studies tie to lower rates of endometrial cancer. “Whole, unprocessed soy like edamame along with fermented soy foods [like miso or tempeh] may be the best choices,” says Palinski-Wade. “Highly processed soy products [like soy burgers or bars] don’t seem to offer the same protective benefits.”

Plain yogurt
People who ate three to four ounces of yogurt daily were nearly 20% less likely to develop lung cancer compared to non-yogurt eaters, a recent study found. Experts suspect that the benefit could at least partly come from yogurt’s probiotics, which might reduce cancer-causing inflammation by promoting a healthier microbiome.

Believe it or not, artichokes are loaded with antioxidants like polyphenols, which research suggests could play a valuable role in breast cancer prevention. They’re also one of the most fiber-packed veggies out there—a half cup of cooked artichoke hearts serves up 7 grams. And a recent study found that people who get the most fiber are 17% less likely to develop lung cancer compared to those who get the least.

Not only is barley a fiber-rich whole grain, offering 6 grams per cooked cup, but it’s also a top source of a beta-glucans, a special type of fiber with a bevy of potential health benefits. When it comes to cancer prevention, some studies have found that beta-glucans may exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activity.

Sweet potatoes
Women with high blood levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene are up to 28% less likely to get breast cancer compared to those with low levels, found a major 20-year study. And sweet potatoes are loaded with the stuff: Just one has some 700% of the amount you should get in a day.

The golden-hued spice contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant compound that could help prevent cancer or slow its growth, Mayo Clinic experts say. “The potent antioxidant activity might fight against cell damage, which may prevent mutations that could lead to cancerous changes in cells,” Palinski-Wade explains. “Since there are very few side effects of including turmeric in your diet, adding a spoonful to your cooking daily may only help to improve your overall health.”

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