Super Foods to Lower the Risk of Cancer
Reprinted from the Community Connections Newsletter, Spring, 2010
A smart, varied, plant-based diet offers a host of health benefits — including lowering one’s risk of developing cancer.
"There is evidence that the minerals, vitamins and chemicals in plant-based foods interact to give you protective benefits," says Tinrin Chew, R.D., C.S.O., an oncology dietitian with the Alta Bates Summit Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We also know that excess body fat is a risk factor for cancer, and a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains not only helps keep the weight off but also protects against cancer." The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says that the average adult should have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18.5 to 24.9.
Here are 11 super foods (and food groups) that the AICR identifies as top cancer busters.
Packed with phytochemicals that may prevent cells from damage that can lead to cancer, beans are good sources of fiber, which may fend off colorectal cancer. Among the most common varieties of beans are red beans, kidney beans, black beans, lentils and peas.
These tasty fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C and fiber, which may protect against esophageal cancer and colorectal cancer, respectively. Strawberries and raspberries contain ellagic acid, which has been shown to protect against many cancers, and blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants.
These veggies — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, among others — contain several components linked to reduced cancer risk and help regulate defensive bodily enzymes.
Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables
Rich in fiber, folate and carotenoids, which may inhibit the growth of cancer cells, this class of veggies includes spinach, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard.
Flaxseed is the top dietary source for lignans, thought to mimic the action of estrogen in the body and possibly protect against certain cancers. Found most commonly in the form of flour, meal or oil, flaxseed is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which helps protect against heart disease and some cancers.
When consumed on a regular basis, garlic, a member of the allium family of vegetables, seems to reduce the risk of colorectal and stomach cancer. In fact, all the allium veggies (including onions, scallions, leeks and chives) contain organosulfur compounds, thought to have positive anti-cancer effects.
Grapes and Grape Juice
The skin of the grape contains resveratrol, a phytochemical that may inhibit the growth of tumors. Go for red and purple grapes, which contain more resveratrol than green grapes, grape jam and raisins.
Both black and green tea contain healthful antioxidants, but green tea is especially rich in a class of flavonoids called catechins, which appear to have beneficial anti-cancer properties.
Soy appears to have several cancer-fighting attributes, including an ability to mimic and counteract some of the body’s hormonal activity. It is commonly found in tofu, soybeans, miso and soy milk.
Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red hue, has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer. There is also evidence that when tomatoes are consumed in processed form (such as tomato sauce, juice or paste), lycopene’s protective effects are increased.
Whole grains,which contain hundreds of natural plant compounds, are believed to inhibit cellular damage and reduce cancer risk. Choose brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain oats or kasha as healthier alternatives to refined grains like white rice.