Top 24 Cancer Fighting Foods
Whether you are looking to eat a healthy, anti-cancer diet for cancer prevention or to naturally treat the cancer you have been diagnosed with, it is never too late to start enjoying these 24 cancer fighting foods every day.
In this article, we discuss the benefits of each of these foods and herbs and also go through the best ways to use these in your daily diet to get the appropriate cancer protection we all need.
1. Green Tea:
EGCG (epigallaocatechin-3-gallate) is the primary polyphenol found in green tea. This antioxidant contributes to a number of health benefits such as cancer prevention and treatment. Green tea interferes with cancer cell signaling pathways reducing inflammation, cancer cell survival strategies, the ability for metastasis and it promotes cancer cell apoptosis (“cell death”) (1). (2)
Quercetin is another dietary antioxidant contained in green tea with anticancer activity. Quercetin has been shown to stimulate other antioxidant powerhouses glutathione and super oxide dismutase (SOD) which fight against free radical damage and cancer growth (3).
How To Use:
Drink green tea daily for its powerful chemopreventive properties to reduce your risk of colon, breast, lung and even prostate cancer. Add green tea as a base for your smoothies or add matcha green tea powder to sweeten your beverages naturally.
Avoid steeping your green tea in boiling water as the intense heat will destroy the tea’s natural health attributing compounds called catechins. Instead, bring water to a boil and allow it to cool a few minutes before brewing.
Plant extracts contain a combination of phenolic compounds that protect the skin from damage, aging and can even be used to aid in wound and burn healing. Anthocyanins found in blackberries are especially useful for protecting skin against ultraviolet ray damage during sun exposure. Blackberry juice extract has been shown to induce apoptosis in abnormal skin cells thus preventing skin cancer (8).
How To Use:
Always buy organic berries and consider buying local when available. Add as a natural sweetener in smoothies, juices and add to your water with lemon for a healthy beverage.
Adding raspberries into your diet is another excellent way to build up your quercetin levels. Quercetin reduces inflammation and also helps regulate immune response therefore acting like a natural antihistamine agent (4). This sweet and sometimes tart fruit contains vitamin C, fiber, potassium, biotin, vitamin K and manganese.
Raspberries also contain powerful anthocyanins as do other members of the berry family. Anthocyanins trigger apoptosis in cancer cells and equip the body to treat breast cancer, colorectal cancer and even stimulate dysfunction in leukemia cells preventing their uncontrollable ability to metastasize (5).
How To Use:
Pop this nutrient dense food into smoothies, yogurt parfaits, or snack on a handful for a healthy dessert. Raspberries have a short growing season in the U.S. so be sure to freeze berries to enjoy their benefits year round.
Blueberries contain an array of anthocyanins which complement their purple and blue pigmentation. As mentioned above, anthocyanins inhibit DNA damage, decrease inflammation and slow cancer growth. Blueberries also contain a plethora of bioavailable compounds like vitamins, flavonoids and stilbenes which have been shown to provide significant protection against colorectal cancer. (24)
How To Use:
Avoid heating blueberries or any other of the berries as heat degrades the anthocyanins reducing their antioxidant potential. Add blueberries to smoothies, snack for dessert or use in homemade sweet sauces like barbeque as a substitute for sugar.
Lemons are an excellent low-carb fruit choice you can consume daily. Lemons contain enzymes that increase nutrient absorption and stimulate the healthy function of the stomach, intestines, liver and even lungs (25, 26).
How To Use:
One of the best ways to alkalize your body and support natural detoxification processes is to juice lemon into your water and consume a glass immediately upon waking up. Add lemon to brighten the flavor of any dish.
Onions belong to the alium family and are packed with sulfur containing amino acids. Onions contain the super antioxidant quercetin and assist in eliminating excess estrogen from the body through boosting liver detoxification.
Allicin is one of the onion’s most abundant sulfur compound effective in destroying bacteria, viruses, fungi and cancer development. Onions further exhibit carminative herb properties with digestive health benefits. (27)
How To Use:
Eat a variety of types of onions to receive all of the nutritional benefits. Top on chili, add to salads and slaws or create a rich bone broth based onion soup.
Kale belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family. This dark leafy green has recently picked up trend for healthy snacks, juice and smoothie shops in the most recent few years for good reason. Kale is loaded with health boosting vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron.
Kale is a rich source of sulforophane. Sulforophane is a type of isothiocyanate also found in broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. These powerful cancer fighting compounds inhibit cancer cell activation, enhance natural detoxification processes, and boost immunity. Sulforophane has been shown to prevent tumor growth associated with cancer of the prostate, colon, spleen, stomach and breast. (6)
How To Use:
For optimal absorption of its trace minerals and antioxidants, consume kale with a healthy fat source like grass fed butter, coconut oil or grass-fed cheese. Avoid eating it raw as it’s hard to digest fibers can creative digestive disturbances.
Consider juicing kale or adding it to your smoothies. Roast your own kale chips in coconut oil with your favorite seasonings for a healthy chip loaded with nutritional benefits.
8. Green Leafy Vegetables:
Green Leafy veggies are packed with body building nutrients including a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One of the world’s greatest known life giving compound known as chlorophyll is also contained in dark green leafy vegetables. Chlorophyl helps purify the blood, rebuild new blood cells, eliminate toxins and stimulate intestinal support. (28)
How To Use:
Enjoy a variety of green leafy vegetables by purchasing foods in season at your local farmer’s market. Sautee turnip greens and swiss chard for a colorful side dish or add spinach to soups and stews. Use an array of salad greens including iceberg lettuces, arugula, and spring mixes to add diversity to your lunch salads. Add dark leafy greens to your juice and smoothies.
Turmeric contains the most abundant flavonoid in nature called curcumin. This powerful antioxidant helps regulate abnormal immune function, reduces inflammation and defends against infection and cancer. In fact, pharmaceutical companies attempt to mimic the same physiological pathways turmeric has on the body in drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. (29)
How To Use:
Also known as golden milk, turmeric can be consumed as a warm beverage in teas and broths. Try adding turmeric into intense flavor dishes like chilis, stews and use as a marinade in chicken and other meat dishes.
Artichoke belongs to a classification of bitter herbs called cholagogues. Bitter herbs stimulate kidney function, cleanse the digestive system, gallbladder, urinary tract and blood. Artichokes have been used in alternative medicine since the 17th century to prevent cardiovascular disease and lower blood sugar. (30)
How To Use:
Reap the full benefits of the bitter herb by juicing both the artichoke leaves and stem. Otherwise, eat steamed artichoke with lemon and olive oil or prepare in a hummus or dip.
The sulfur compound allicin is also found in garlic. Along with its protection against invasive substances, allicin reduces damage to the vascular system by inhibiting inflammation and also lowering cholesterol. Garlic has been shown to stabilize blood glucose levels, protect against cancer and bacteria as well enhance detoxification pathways. (31)
How To Use:
Add garlic to a wide variety of foods especially other sulfur containing foods. Adding garlic boost the antioxidant protection of any meal and can act as a powerful oral and colon probiotic. Be sure to crush or break garlic before consumption to activate the allinase enzyme which releases the compound allicin.
One of the most popular known sources of the bioactive compound lycopene. Lycopene is contained in red fleshed fruits and veggies and is a powerful anticancer nutrient. Lycopene stimulates apoptosis in cancer cells, causes cancer cell dysfunction by disturbing cellular communication. Lycopene has been shown effective at preventing prostate cancer, lung, colon and cervix cancer.
How To Use:
Lycopene increases in bioavailability when combined with a dairy such as grass-fed cheese and when eaten cooked. Enjoy tomatoes and its nutrients to their fullest in homemade pasta sauce and marinara. Blister skins of local and organic tomatoes before preparing salsas or add into soups and bone broths.
13. Olive Oil:
Plant phenols serve many protective abilities for the human body. They exhibit anti-inflammatory responses, antimicrobial benefits, antioxidant support, antiaging properties and anti-carcinogenic activity. Olive oil contains naturally occurring caffeic acid. Caffeic acid is naturally produced in olive oil that provides protection against UV induced free radical damage, skin injury and pathogens. (8)
How To Use:
UV radiation is the primary cause of non-melanoma skin cancers and sunburn. Use olive oil to protect your skin before and after sun exposure. You can also use olive oil daily for a natural skin moisturizer.
14. Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate, 70% or greater cacao, is a healthy treat that also contains a variety of flavonoids (8). Dark chocolate is also an excellent source of magnesium many of us are deficient in today. Magnesium improves nerve function by relaxing nerves, reducing irritation and excitability as well as relieving muscle tension.
How To Use:
Combine dark chocolate as a substitute for sugars in with trail mix composed of nuts, seeds, cinnamon and organic dried fruit. Prepare your own homemade hot cocoa or authentic mole sauce.
Consuming herbs high in antioxidants is one of the easiest and cost effective things you can do to benefit your health daily. Herbs like oregano are packed with nutrition and are also powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Oregano is one of the most common spices and is a member of the Labiatae family. The antioxidant activity studied in oregano stems from its rich content of phenolic acids and flavonoids.
Oregano contains volatile oils which stimulate natural detoxification processes of the liver assisting in the elimination of excess compounds like estrogen from the body. Oregano, like other estrogen removing herbs, is beneficial to preventing against the development of estrogen receptor positive cancer cells commonly associated with prostate, breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. (10)
How To Use:
Oil of oregano is one of the best anti-bacterial agents to boost the immune system by killing off bacteria (9). Be sure that if you take oil of oregano as a supplement you take it apart from your probiotic as oil of oregano will destroy the good bacteria from the probiotic.
Ginger is a powerful superfood containing volatile oils that provide anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties (33). Ginger is supported in research to stimulate digestion, aid in pain relief and boost the body’s supply of glutathione. Its active components 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol provide cancer protection shown to prevent gastrointestinal and liver cancer (34, 35).
How To Use:
Make your own fermented ginger ale recipe for an antioxidant rich tonic or steep for a hot brewed tea. Add ginger to soups, stews, marinades, dressings, salads, slaws.
Cauliflower is packed with vitamins C, K, B-12, and folate. Unlike synthetic folic acid, naturally occurring folate found in cauliflower benefits DNA repair, inhibits malignant tumor formation and lowers homocysteine levels associated with improved cardiovascular function. (22, 23)
How To Use:
Try a new take on gluten free pizza with a cauliflower crust or cauliflower tortilla. Grind cauliflower and serve as a substitute for a rice dish or steam and puree into a creamy bean-free hummus. Be sure to introduce colorful cauliflowers such as orange and purple cauliflower into your meals for a variety of benefits from different phytochemical nutrients.
18. Brussel Sprouts:
This cruciferous vegetables often gets a bad rap for its pungent smell when cooked but it is loaded in nutrients vitamin A, B-6, C, K as well as folate, potassium and manganese. Brussel sprouts aids in collagen formation, reducing wrinkles, support the immune system and improve your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
How To Use:
Sauté or roast smothered in coconut oil or grass fed butter and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar for a crunchy side dish. Shave Brussel sprouts and add to slaws and salads. Steam Brussel sprouts for a softer taste or create into a puree with added pepper, pink salt and turmeric for a hummus like snack.
Hass avocado is the most popular type of avocado cultivated in the world and easily available year round. Avocados are high in phytochemicals, vital nutrients such as: (15)
- Vitamins C, E, K, B-6
- 71% Monounsaturated fatty acids
- Dietary fiber
Clinical trials have shown that avocados benefit cardiovascular health by reducing total cholesterol in diabetics, do not contribute to weight gain, and improve blood lipid levels. Individuals who eat avocados are also associated with consuming high dietary fibers and vitamins and minerals often deficient in the average diet. (15, 16)
How To Use:
Avocado is a helpful ingredient that can serve a variety of purposes in the kitchen. Use half an avocado to add a thick and creamy texture to your vegetable smoothies, experiment with different flavors of guacamole, top your Sunday brunch omelet with veggies and avocado, and prepare a creamy avocado salad dressing or hummus.
20. Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, biotin, manganese and phytosterols otherwise known as heart healthy fats. In fact, the AMA or American Heart Association calls nuts “petite powerhouses of taste and nutrition” (11).
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium and sunflower seeds also contain this potent immune boosting mineral. Eat cashews for the highest consumption of B-vitamins and hazelnuts for folate if you are pregnant. Amongst the tree nuts, pistachios have the highest concentration of phytosterols and almonds are best associated with lowering total cholesterol. Add variety with pumpkin, chia and flaxseeds to your diet for added omega-3 fatty acids to support brain function (14). (13)
How To Use:
Soaking nuts and seeds before consumption will help remove the anti-nutrients these foods contain which interfere with the absorption nutrients into the body. Store nuts and seeds in the fridge or freezer as the oils released can cause them to easily go rancid. Eat unprocessed nuts with no added sugars, salts and consume them unpeeled. One study found that 50% of the antioxidants of a nut are located in the outer soft shell (12).
Try a new spin on dessert using nuts by soaking cashews before pureeing and using as a dairy free base for cheesecake or feta cheese. Create an immune boosting trail mix containing a heavy portion of pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts mixed in with organic dried fruit. Swap peanut butter for almond butter and use sunflower seeds and pine nuts in homemade pesto.
This nutritional powerhouse contributes to your daily nutrient intake of vitamins E, C, K and is also a good source of copper, fiber, potassium, chromium, folate, vitamin A and riboflavin. Broccoli has been shown to regulate enzymes that trigger apoptosis in cancer cells and assist in a variety of other chemoprevention activities due to its sulfur containing phytochemicals, glucosinolates. (32)
How To Use:
Replace your chips with broccoli for your dipping appetizers. As with cauliflower, mix crumbled broccoli to prepare a grain-free pizza crust. Snack on broccoli raw, add in salads or roast with other cruciferous vegetables tossed in garlic, turmeric, pepper, pink salt and coconut oil for a potent cancer fighting side dish at dinner.
Mushrooms contain bone fortifying nutrients to increase calcium absorption such phosphorous and other essential nutrients like vitamin D, thiamine, manganese, choline, riboflavin, copper and zinc. These nutrients enhance glutathione synthesis and the human body’s total antioxidant protection.
How To Use:
Prepare mushrooms in a hearty soup, stuffed peppers, or simply toast to perfection tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper for a hearty side dish. Swap your beef patty for a thick Portobello topped with avocado or make mini sized pizzas atop a Portobello mushroom base.
Be sure to avoid overcooking mushrooms as nutrition leaches out with time. For an extra health boost leave your mushrooms in direct sunlight, capsize up before you cook them to increase the vitamin D content of your mushrooms.
Ginseng is supported in thousands of research studies analyzing its role at protecting the body against cancer, insulin resistance, neurodegenerative disorders, and hypertension amongst other physiological processes (19). Specifically, ginseng is a powerful tool that enhances the immune system and has traditionally been used in alternative medicine to remedy health disorders.
Ginseng is composed of numerous chemical groups in the roots, stems, leaves and extracts which boost immune homeostasis and prevent against microbial infection. Some of these pharmacological agents include: (19, 20)
- Polyphenolic compounds: Powerful plant antioxidants
- Acidic polysaccharides: Specialized structures that play an important role in the function of connective tissue such as blood vessels, cartilage, bone, skin and spinal disks
- Polyacetylenes: Chemopreventive compounds also found in the roots and bulbs of celery, fennel, and parsley
- Tetracyclic triterpenoid saponins: also known as ginsenosides are a type of plant steroid occurring in medicinal plants
How To Use:
There are 3 primary types of ginseng all of which exhibit different medicinal effects: American ginseng and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) (21). The most popular way to consume ginseng is to prepare a home brewed tea made from fresh ground ginseng root or purchase the herb already ground.
Ask your doctor if ginseng is safe for your consumption to be sure there are no contraindications to any medical conditions you may have or medicines you are taking.
24. Broccoli and Kale Sprouts:
Adding cruciferous vegetables can attribute amazing health benefits to your body. However, consuming their sprouts can provide you with even greater concentrations of the same compounds. Compared to an entire head of broccoli, broccoli sprouts have up to 100 times more plant nutrients used by the body to synthesize isothiocyanates such as sulforophane mentioned earlier (7).
Some of these compounds act to decrease the body’s load of carcinogens it carries by stimulating detoxification enzymes. Unlike larger quantities of the whole cruciferous vegetable, small quantities of broccoli and kale sprouts can achieve equal health promoting activity.
How To Use:
Always purchase your sprouts organic. Pesticides have been shown to destroy the healthy cancer fighting compounds so highly concentrated (16). Use as a regular part of your diet in your wraps, salads, a garnish on stir fry or prepare a refreshing sprout style slaw with olive, lemon and garlic. Adding garlic to other sulfur containing foods increases the potential for sulforophane to be optimized (17).
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