Reduce Your Cancer Risk by Eating These 15 Foods

shopping for cancer-fighting foods at the grocery store

Add some cancer-fighting foods to your grocery cart next time you’re shopping. | iStock.com

When you go to the grocery store, you probably have lots of priorities to balance. You need to find food that gives you energy. You probably want to do a better job of eating more healthy foods. (Think fresh vegetables, real fruit, beans, and whole grains.) Plus, you might want foods that can help while you lose weight or build muscle. And you probably wouldn’t mind stocking up on foods that can protect your body from disease. That’s why you should add some cancer-fighting foods to your grocery list.

Nobody wants to develop cancer. But it can be tough to figure out what you should do to prevent it. Fortunately, we can help. Each of the cancer-fighting foods that made our list — and your grocery list — has scientific evidence in its corner. Ready to stock up? Read on to check out the cancer-fighting foods you should add to your diet.

1. Broccoli

Broccoli boiling in a pot

Many health experts tell you to eat your broccoli, which is among the best cancer-fighting foods. | iStock.com

Did your mom ever tell you to eat your broccoli? She knew what she was doing. Broccoli contains antioxidants, vitamins, and anti-carcinogenic compounds. Specifically, broccoli contains glucosinolates. Glucosinolates get converted into other compounds, including isothiocyanates. And isothiocyanates reduce the risk of cancer, especially if you prepare your broccoli by steaming. That’s the best cooking method to leave the compounds intact.

Brassica vegetables — including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale — are most strongly associated with a decreased risk of lung, stomach, colon, and rectal cancer. That makes broccoli a pretty great addition to a grocery list studded with cancer-fighting foods.

Ready to give it a try? Check out these surprisingly delicious broccoli recipes

2. Brussels sprouts

knife trimming Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts might not taste delicious to everybody, but researchers cite them as cancer-fighting foods. | iStock.com

Researchers have found Brussels sprouts can reduce oxidative DNA damage. That means eating sprouts could decrease your cancer risk. Cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, arugula, bok choy, cauliflower, and kale, contain compounds, such as isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol. These compounds can protect against cancer in many organs.

Isothiocyanates might even stop some of the compounds in tobacco from causing lung tumors. And cruciferous vegetables might also reduce your risk for prostate cancer.

If you want to give them a fair chance, we think we’ve found the best way to eat Brussels sprouts

3. Citrus

citrus fruits are cancer-fighting foods

Citrus fruits can help prevent numerous kinds of cancer. | iStock.com

Many people hate broccoli and Brussels sprouts. But citrus fruits and juices are a lot easier to stomach. Citrus contains hesperidin, which researchers have determined is a powerful antioxidant and anti-cancer compound.

Researchers found citrus fruits can reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Citrus also helps fight esophageal cancer. And it reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer. Plus, citrus fruits might also play an important role alongside cancer therapies.

Everybody can eat a tangerine or drink a glass of orange juice in the morning. But if you want to up your game, try incorporating citrus into your dinner. 

4. Eggplant

Eggplant roasted on plate

Researchers have added eggplant to the list of foods that can help prevent cancer. | iStock.com/Olha_Afanasieva

Researchers have determined eggplant decreases tumor cell invasiveness. And others found the glycoalkaloids and metabolites in eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes inhibit the growth of colon and liver cancer cells. But you don’t need to go back to biology class to conclude that eggplant seems like a great addition to your diet.

Need a novel way to use the eggplant you picked up at the grocery store? Try some of these delicious eggplant recipes

5. Hummus

hummus in a bowl

One of many cancer-fighting foods researchers think you should add to your diet is hummus. | iStock.com

Hummus is a famously healthy food. (And it’s an almost guilt-free alternative to that French onion dip you’d otherwise be spreading on your chips.) It’s also one of our favorite cancer-fighting foods.

Researchers have found the butyrate in chickpeas, and therefore hummus, has anticancer properties. This compound can suppress cell proliferation. And it can also induce cell death. Furthermore, other bioactive compounds in hummus work in additional ways to reduce the risk of cancer. Chickpeas might inhibit breast and prostate cancer cell proliferation.

Hummus makes an easy (and tasty) snack. But if you want to incorporate it into your meals, try these great lunch recipes starring hummus.

6. Mushrooms

mushrooms

Consider switching your burger for a portobello steak. | iStock.com

Another of the cancer-fighting foods you should add to your grocery list? Mushrooms. They contain a variety of bioactive molecules, including anti-tumor agents. Some even work with anti-cancer drugs to treat resistant cancers.

Research has shown mushrooms can slow the growth of tumors. They can also regulate tumor genes. Plus, they can decrease the development of new blood vessels in tumors. And for people undergoing chemotherapy, mushrooms can boost the efficacy of the treatment and protect against bone marrow suppression.

Clearly, there are plenty of reasons to eat mushrooms. But if you need some extra incentive, these mushroom recipes taste amazing. 

7. Olives

olives and olive oil

Both olives and olive oil are cancer-fighting foods. | iStock.com

Olives feature prominently in the often-praised Mediterranean diet. So you probably aren’t surprised to learn they number among cancer-fighting foods. Researchers have found olives contain several compounds with an anti-cancer effect. Plus, olives and olive oil contain large amounts of antioxidants.

These health benefits are probably not so helpful if you don’t already cook with olives. For some suggestions, check out these nutritious recipes

8. Onions

cooking onions

Even if onions aren’t your favorite taste, you can probably put up with them to get their anti-cancer benefits. | iStock.com

Everybody knows that green vegetables count as health foods. But onions are one of the more surprising kinds of produce to make the list of cancer-fighting foods. Onions — and other allium vegetables, such as garlic — reduce the risk of several common cancers. In fact, researchers report that allium vegetables “have effects at each stage of carcinogenesis and affect many biologic processes that modify cancer risk.”

All of those sound like great reasons to eat onions. But what do you do if you hate onions? Tone down the flavor of raw onions by steaming or roasting them. Or get the hang of caramelizing onions while you grow accustomed to the flavor.

9. Sweet potatoes

Oven roasted sweet potatoes with thyme

Sweet potatoes offer an easy way to sneak some cancer-fighting foods onto your family’s dinner table. | iStock.com/HausOnThePrairie

Need a good reason to eat sweet potatoes on days other than Thanksgiving? Here’s a good one. Researchers count sweet potatoes among cancer-fighting foods. Sweet potato protein stops colon cancer cells from proliferating and metastasizing. Compounds found in sweet potato peels can prevent the development of several types of cancer. Plus, sweet potatoes have antioxidant effects that might help prevent breast cancer.

And it’s not just the typical, orange-hued sweet potato that can prevent cancer. Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes can also protect against colorectal cancer. Furthermore, they contain compounds that could induce apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells. Finally, sweet potato leaves might help prevent lung cancer.

Never cooked sweet potatoes outside of Thanksgiving? We’ve got your back. Try these great recipes starring sweet potatoes

10. Tea

Tea with lemon and honey

Prefer some cancer-fighting foods you can slurp? Your morning cup of tea packs some serious anti-cancer effects. | iStock.com/villagemoon

Not all cancer-fighting foods are solid. Some of them, such as tea, are actually drinks. The polyphenols in tea act as strong antioxidants. They seem to prevent tumors from forming. In fact, moderate tea consumption reduces the risk of breast cancer. Plus, green tea contains a compound that decreases a tumor’s ability to invade tissue and develop new blood vessels. (Both processes are essential to tumor growth and metastasis.)

That means tea might help prevent the metastasis of several types of cancer. Plus, increased consumption of green tea might reduce the incidence and delay the onset of cancer.

Not ready to ditch your coffee quite yet? Check out tea’s other health benefits. And while you mull those over, don’t miss this comparison of coffee versus tea.  

11. Tofu

tofu

Researchers say tofu can help prevent cancer. Ready to give it a try? | iStock.com

Even if you don’t love tofu, you should probably try to eat it more often. Researchers have determined that the phytochemicals in soy (and other legumes) can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Others posit that tofu consumption might decrease the risk of breast cancer. And tofu offers health benefits even if you don’t have a uterus. Tofu and other soy products might protect against prostate cancer, thanks to the isoflavone in soy.

That all sounds pretty convincing. But what if you don’t really like tofu? You just have to figure out which texture you like. And then find the perfect recipe to flavor it. You can start with these delicious tofu recipes

12. Whole grains

cooked brown rice in a blue bowl

Whole grains, including brown rice, are obviously nutritious. But they also act as cancer-fighting foods. | iStock.com

You’ve probably heard that whole grains are great for you. But do you know what these cancer-fighting foods really are? Whole grains are simply grains that include the germ, endosperm, and bran — as opposed to refined grains, which just include the endosperm. Some common whole grains include oats, brown rice, and quinoa. Fortunately, those are all products you can find easily at the grocery store.

Whole grains seem to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. They also might decrease the incidence of other cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic, breast, and endometrial.

Need more information on the healthiest whole grains? You can’t go wrong with these 10 grains.

13. Avocado

Sliced avocado

Avocados are delicious cancer-fighting foods. | iStock.com/MSPhotographic

We all love avocado toast. And oncologists — in addition to all of your Instagram followers — would likely approve of this photogenic breakfast. Avocados contain carotenoids and tocopherols that inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. And the phytochemicals contained in an avocado can induce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth, and induce apoptosis in both precancerous and cancer cell lines. Plus, avocado might help prevent cancer of larynx, pharynx, oral cavity, breast, and prostate.

Of course, the avocado isn’t the only item in the produce aisle that contains numerous bioactive carotenoids. But those compounds are more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream when you eat an avocado because the avocado contains a significant amount of monounsaturated fat.

Ready to give an avocado a try? You might just love these stuffed avocado recipes, which make a healthy, delicious meal.

14. Artichokes

grilled artichokes

Artichokes — and the polyphenols found in them — seem to have anti-cancer benefits. | iStock.com

Another produce aisle item to add to the list of cancer-fighting foods? The artichoke. The polyphenols found in this vegetable inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Plus, the compounds inhibit the invasive behavior of the cancer cell line. And polyphenolic extracts from the edible part of an artichoke show antioxidative capabilities that protect liver cells from oxidative stress. (Need a reminder? Oxidative stress is closely linked with chronic inflammation and cancer.)

Additionally, researchers note artichokes “could be a promising dietary tool either in cancer chemoprevention and/or in cancer treatment as a unconventional, adjuvant therapy.”

We’ve all had artichoke leaves dipped in butter. But if you want a healthier way to prepare these cancer-fighting veggies, try these delicious recipes

15. Blueberries

blueberries in a ceramic dish

Blueberries also have anticancer effects. | iStock.com

You don’t have to love green vegetables to add more cancer-fighting foods to your diet. Blueberries are a great source of phenolic compounds, which are known for their high antioxidant capacity. And studies show blueberries might be effective anti-cancer agents.

Blueberries and the compounds found in them prevent carcinogenesis, or the formation of cancer, in a variety of ways. They inhibit the production of inflammatory molecules. Plus, they reduce oxidative stress. They also inhibit cancer cell proliferation. And they increase apoptosis, or natural cell death.

The healthiest way to eat blueberries is fresh, straight from your garden or from the carton. But if you want to bake with them, you can whip up the occasional indulgence with these classic recipes.

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