A recent study found that people who eat certain types of foods are less likely to develop cancer. Specifically, those who ate foods high in antioxidants or phytochemical compounds had lower rates of developing cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, lung, and stomach cancer.
The findings come from a large prospective cohort study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed data from nearly half a million adults over 20 years. They looked specifically at diet and cancer incidence among men and women.
Researchers say it’s important to note that while some foods might help protect against cancer, others could actually cause it. For example, eating too much red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer. On the other hand, fruit and vegetable consumption reduces the risk of several kinds of cancer.
Foods That Reduce The Risk of Cancer
Here are 18 foods that may reduce your risk of cancer.
1. Dark green leafy vegetables
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach contain lots of fiber and vitamins A, E, and K. They’re also full of folate, potassium, and vitamin B6. Studies show that people who consume more dark green leafy vegetables tend to live longer.
One Harvard University analysis found that every additional cup per day of dark green leafy vegetables was associated with a 7% reduction in mortality.
Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables around the world. But did you know it could protect us from cancer? A recent study found that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, may help fight against prostate cancer. Researchers say there is still much work to do before we know if broccoli prevents cancer in humans.
Carrots are one of those foods you either love or hate. They’re delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow. But did you know that carrots might protect against some cancer forms? And that eating them could reduce your risk of developing cancer altogether?
The evidence behind carrots’ health benefits is growing. A recent study found that people who eat lots of carrots tend to have lower rates of several kinds of cancer. Researchers believe that carotenoids—a group of antioxidants found in colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots—may play a role.
In fact, there are over 60 different types of carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and others. These compounds give fruits and veggies their color, and scientists think they may offer protection against diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cataracts, and even cancer.
Beans are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. They’re also rich in antioxidants, which may protect against colon cancer. But it’s still too early to say whether beans actually prevent colorectal tumors.
The research is promising, though. A study published in January 2018 found that women who ate about one cup of cooked kidney beans each day had half the risk of developing breast cancer over 10 years. Another study published in August 2017 showed similar benefits for men.
In addition to preventing cancer, beans are also associated with lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. And according to a report from the World Cancer Research Fund International, diets rich in plant foods like beans and legumes reduce the risk of several types of cancer.
Cinnamon is known for its many healthy properties, including being anti-inflammatory, reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and even preventing diabetes. But scientists are just beginning to understand how it works.
A study published in 2017 found that cinnamon could inhibit tumor growth in mice. Another study suggested that cinnamon might help reduce inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. And another study showed that cinnamon helped lower blood sugar in rats with type 2 diabetes.
But while many studies show promising results, there have been few human clinical trials, according to Dr. Shilpa Kulkarni, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “We don’t know whether cinnamon is safe enough to use long term,” she told Business Insider. “There are some potential side effects.”
The most common side effect associated with cinnamon is gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea. Other possible side effects include headaches, dizziness, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, and flatulence.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil contains many nutrients that are good for you. It helps keep blood pressure down and supports heart health. In addition, people who eat lots of it tend to live longer. And there isn’t enough evidence yet that suggests that eating olive oil could help prevent cancer. But there are some studies showing that olive oil might improve cognitive function, lower cholesterol levels, and even improve sleep quality.
7. Citrus Fruits
Eating citrus fruits like lemons and oranges may lower your risk of developing cancer. A review of 11 studies found that consuming citrus fruit lowered the risk of stomach cancer by up to 50%. This could be because of the compounds called flavonoids present in citrus fruits. These are antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that cause cell damage and can lead to cancer.
Flavonoids are also believed to play a role in preventing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. They may even help fight depression and anxiety.
Flaxseed is a great food source. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibers. Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of lignans, plant compounds that help reduce the risk of colon cancer and heart disease. They also contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which converts into omega-3 fats in the body. ALA is considered essential because it cannot be synthesized by humans.
In addition to being healthy, flax seeds are easy to use. You can grind them up yourself, add them to smoothies, sprinkle them over cereal, make cookies, muffins, bread, crackers, etc., or even mix them into salad dressings.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits grown worldwide. They are eaten raw or cooked into dishes like salsa and pasta sauce. In addition to being delicious, tomatoes are packed full of nutrients including vitamins A, B6, K, folate, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and iron.
Lycopene is found in many foods, such as watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit, and salmon. This antioxidant helps protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause cell damage. Because of this, lycopene may help prevent some types of cancers, such as breast, colon, and lung cancer.
Garlic contains compounds that have shown promise against cancer cell growth in multiple laboratory tests. But there are still many unanswered questions about whether it can help prevent cancer or treat existing tumors.
While some people believe garlic helps ward off colds, flu, and even heart disease, others think it might do harm. If you’re considering adding garlic to your diet, here are some things to keep in mind:
• Garlic is one of the most commonly used spices in food around the world. It’s found in everything from pizza toppings to salad dressings to Chinese takeout.
• There are different types of garlic, including green garlic, black garlic, and red garlic. All three contain different amounts of healthful nutrients and antioxidants. Green garlic is milder than regular garlic, while black garlic is stronger. Red garlic is like a cross between the two.
• You’ll find garlic bulbs in grocery stores, specialty markets and online retailers. Look for ones that feel firm and heavy for their size; avoid those that look dry or shriveled. Store them in a cool, dark place where temperatures don’t exceed 50 degrees F.
• To prepare garlic for cooking or use in recipes, cut off the root end and peel away the papery skin. Then chop or mince the cloves.
• For best flavor, cook garlic slowly over low heat for up to 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to develop fully.
11. Fatty Fish
Eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines may help prevent certain types of cancer. A study published in Cancer Prevention Research found that people who ate one serving per week of fatty fish had lower rates of breast cancer compared to those who didn’t eat it. Other studies have shown similar findings.
The study authors suggest that omega-3 fats in fatty fish are responsible for the protective effect against breast cancer. Omega-3 fats are essential nutrients because our bodies cannot produce them; we must obtain them from food sources. They’re especially important during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. In addition to being good for heart health, omega-3 fats are linked to brain development and growth, vision, skin health, joint function, and immune system health.
In addition to eating fatty fish, researchers recommend limiting the consumption of processed meats, red meat, fried foods, and sugary beverages. These items contain high amounts of saturated fat, which increases the risk of developing cancer.
Berries are rich in antioxidants. In fact, strawberries blackberries, blueberries, and cranberries are among the most powerful sources of antioxidants known. Studies show that eating strawberries lowers the risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer and breast cancer. Strawberries contain many antioxidants, including anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, kaempferol, catechin, and resveratrol. These compounds have been shown to inhibit tumor growth in animal studies.
They also contain vitamins A, B6, and C. Vitamin C helps strengthen bones and prevent tooth decay. Fiber keeps you full longer and reduces cholesterol levels. Strawberries are high in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, sodium, chloride, sulfur, phosphorous, bromine, iodine, and protein.
The USDA recommends consuming three servings per week. One serving is about one cup of raw fruit. You could eat half a cup of sliced strawberries every day. Or try it with yogurt or ice cream.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants found in spinach that protect against macular degeneration and cataracts. They also reduce the risk of certain cancers such as breast, prostate, lung, colon, and ovarian.
Folate is another nutrient found in spinach that helps prevent congenital disabilities. Folate deficiency during pregnancy increases the chances of neural tube defects like spina bifida. Fiber is also essential because it keeps you full longer and reduces cholesterol levels.
Raw spinach is best because cooking destroys some of the nutrients. Cooking spinach releases oxalic acid into the water, which makes it unpalatable. Cooked spinach contains about half the amount of lutein compared to raw spinach.
14. Green Tea
Green tea may help prevent certain types of cancers. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that women who drank three cups of green tea daily had lower rates of breast cancer compared to those who didn’t drink it. Other studies have shown similar findings.
Researchers believe that compounds called polyphenols in green tea may play a role in preventing cancer. One compound, in particular, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), appears to inhibit tumor growth. EGCG is present in greater concentrations in black tea than in green tea.
However, there are some differences between the two teas. For example, black tea contains caffeine while green tea doesn’t. In addition, black tea contains tannins, which may make it harder for people to absorb EGCG.
15. Whole Grains
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate more whole grains had lower rates of colorectal cancer. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 2 million adults over 10 years and found that those who consumed one serving per day of whole grains—like oats, brown rice, wheat bran, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, corn, and amaranth—had a 19% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to those who didn’t eat any whole grains.
The researchers noted that while previous studies have linked whole grains to lower risks of certain cancers, including colon cancer, it’s been difficult to pinpoint exactly why. However, they suggest that fiber, antioxidants like lignans and phytochemicals, and compounds called phenolic acids might play a role.
In addition to lowering the risk of colorectal tumors, eating whole grains could help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and even depression.
Resveratrol is one of many compounds found in grapes. This phytochemical helps fight cancer cells while protecting healthy ones. In fact, it appears to do both simultaneously. Researchers discovered that resveratrol inhibits telomerase, an enzyme responsible for maintaining chromosome length. Telomeres shorten during cell division, causing chromosomes to become unstable and potentially leading to cancerous mutations. However, resveratrol seems to protect against those mutations by inhibiting telomerase.
Red grape skins are a great source of resveratrol. One study showed that consuming just three servings per week lowered the risk of breast cancer by 25 percent. A glass of red wine a day could reduce the risk of colon cancer. Studies show that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of colon cancer, but drinking too much increases the risk of developing colon cancer. Moderate drinking is defined as up to 14 drinks per week for men and seven drinks per week for women.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that people who ate walnuts had lower blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity compared to those who did not eat nuts.
Researchers say that walnut consumption lowers blood pressure because it contains high amounts of potassium and magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate muscle contraction and relaxation and potassium regulate nerve impulses. In addition, walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E, folate, copper, manganese, selenium, zinc, and phytosterols.
According to the American Heart Association, walnuts are one of the best foods you can consume to fight cardiovascular diseases. A diet rich in walnuts can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and improve blood flow.
In another study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that women who consumed walnuts every day lowered their risk of developing breast cancer by 50 percent. They theorize that this is due to the fact that walnuts contain antioxidants such as ellagic acid and alpha-tocopherol, both of which protect against DNA damage.
The same group of scientists discovered that walnuts contain compounds called lignans that help lower cholesterol levels. Lignans are plant chemicals that act like hormones and help keep our bodies healthy. One type of lignan, enterodiol, acts like estrogen and reduces the amount of “bad” cholesterol in the body. Another type, enterolactone, acts like progesterone and prevents cell division, which makes tumors less likely to grow.
Eating legumes lowers the risk of cancer because it helps reduce inflammation. Inflammation is associated with increased cell growth and proliferation, both of which increase the likelihood of developing cancer.
Fruit and vegetables contain many nutrients such as fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron, selenium, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, calcium, iodine, and protein. These nutrients work together to promote health and fight disease.
There is strong evidence of reduced risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colorectal, breast, endometrium, ovary, kidney, pancreas, bladder, prostate, gallbladder, thyroid, myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In Conclusion, eating fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you have an inherited genetic mutation or a family history of cancer, then you should talk to your doctor before changing your diet.
Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.