Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, but research has shown that a large percentage of cancers are preventable and caused by environment and lifestyle. Lifestyle factors that can lead to cancer include cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, physical inactivity, and diet. While some factors like environmental pollution and stress may be more difficult to control, what you eat and don’t eat is mainly up to you.
To help prevent cancer from developing, it’s important for your diet to be mostly plant-based and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, seeds, and nuts. Consume healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and fatty fish. Reduce or eliminate processed meats like salami, hot dogs and bacon, fried foods, refined carbs, and foods with added sugar, as well as excess sodium. Do make sure you regularly eat plenty of the following cancer-fighting foods:
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, turnips, and radishes. They are high in compounds like sulforaphane and glucosinolates that are especially effective at protecting against cancer.
- Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mangoes, and winter squashes. Their color come from antioxidant carotenoids, especially alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, that help get rid of cancer-causing free radicals as well as facilitating communication between cells to control cell growth and encouraging abnormal cells to self-destruct.
- Tomatoes and watermelon, which are rich in lycopene, are really powerful in fighting cancers of the stomach, prostate, and lungs, as well as reducing the risk of colorectal and breast cancers.
- Berries are rich in antioxidant anthocyanins that help prevent damage from free radicals. They are also high in ellagic acid and vitamin C which help stop tumors from developing.
- Legumes like beans, peas and lentils are very high in fiber which feeds the good bacteria in your gut and keep the cells lining your digestive tract healthy to reduce your risk of cancer. They also contain phenolic compounds that reduce inflammation and prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells.
- Tree nuts like cashews, almonds, and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids as well as fiber and they help prevent the growth of tumors. Seeds like chia seeds, flaxseed and hemp seeds offer similar benefits.
- Alliums like onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots have cancer-preventing sulfur compounds. Onions are an especially good source of the antioxidant quercetin.
- Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, especially EGCG, that protect against a variety of cancers.
Anti-cancer eating is one of the main components of an anti-cancer lifestyle. The bigger picture is that eating this way reaps rewards beyond preventing cancer to reducing your overall risk of disease. Embrace it and eat your way to better health.