Up to one-third of all cancers could be prevented if people adopted healthier lifestyles, including eating healthier foods. For even better odds, choose these seven specific foods that have been proven to prevent cancer…
It’s high in anticarcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates. Raw cabbage, particularly when it is fermented as sauerkraut, also is a good source of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a substance that promotes the elimination of carcinogens from the body.
The Polish Women’s Health Study, which looked at hundreds of Polish women in the US, found that those who had eaten four or more servings per week of raw, lightly cooked or fermented cabbage during adolescence were 72% less likely to develop breast cancer than women who had eaten only one-and-a-half servings per week. High consumption of cabbage during adulthood also provided significant protection even if little cabbage was eaten at a young age.
Recommended: Three or more one-half-cup servings per week of cabbage, cooked or raw.
Alternatives: Any cruciferous vegetable, including brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and broccoli. A recent study found that men who ate at least three servings per week of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables were 41% less likely to get prostate cancer than men who ate less than one serving per week. Kimchi, a Korean pickled dish that is similar to sauerkraut, also is a good choice.
Little seeds with a nutty flavor, flaxseeds contain lignans, compounds that act like a weak form of estrogen. One study found that women with high levels of enterolactone (linked to a high intake of lignans) had a 58% lower risk for breast cancer. Flaxseeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to inhibit colon cancer in both men and women.
Recommended: One to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily. You can sprinkle it on cereal or yogurt or add it to soups or stews.
Alternatives: Two or more servings per week of cold-water fish, such as mackerel or salmon, provide cancer-fighting amounts of omega-3s. For more lignans: Eat walnuts, and cook with canola oil.
The common white button mushroom found in supermarkets contains anticancer compounds. Scientists who compared vegetable extracts in the lab found that an extract made from white button mushrooms was the most effective at blocking aromatase, an enzyme that promotes breast cancer. Button mushrooms also appear to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells.
Recommended: One-half cup of button mushrooms, three or four times per week.
Alternatives: Porcinis or chanterelles, wild mushrooms with a nuttier taste.
A Spanish laboratory study found that two compounds in olives — maslinic acid and oleanolic acid — inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and promote apoptosis, the death of these cells. Other studies suggest that people who eat olives as part of a classic Mediterranean diet have lower rates of a variety of cancers, including colon cancer.
Recommended: Eight olives a day, green or black.
Alternatives: One to two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil daily. Drizzle it on salad or vegetables to enhance absorption of their healthy nutrients.
When researchers compared the 10 vegetables most frequently consumed in the US, onions had the third-highest level of phenolic compounds, which are thought to be among the most potent anticancer substances found in foods.
In a Finnish study, men who frequently ate onions, apples and other foods high in quercetin (a phenolic compound) were 60% less likely to develop lung cancer than men who ate smaller amounts. Quercetin also appears to reduce the risk for liver and colon cancers.
Recommended: One-half cup of onions, cooked or raw, three times per week. Yellow and red onions contain the most cancer-preventing substances.
Alternatives: Apples, capers and green and black tea, all of which are high in quercetin. Garlic, a botanical relative of onions, provides many of the same active ingredients.
Pumpkin, like all winter squash, is extremely high in carotenoids, including beta-carotene. A long-running Japanese study that looked at more than 57,000 participants found that people who ate the most pumpkin had lower rates of gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancers. There also is some evidence that pumpkin seeds can help reduce the risk for prostate cancer.
Recommended: Three or more one-half-cup servings per week. Pumpkin can be baked like any winter squash. (To learn how to make Baby Roasted Pumpkins with Pink Potatoes, go to BottomLineInc.com/recipes/baby-roasted-pumpkins-with-pink-potatoes.)
Alternatives: Carrots, broccoli and all of the winter squashes, including acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.
All of the foods that end with “erry” — including cherry, blueberry and strawberry — contain anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer. Raspberries are higher in fiber than most berries and are an excellent source of ellagic acid and selenium, both of which protect against a variety of cancers.
Recent studies have shown that raspberries (or raspberry extract) inhibit both oral and liver cancer cells. The responses in these studies were dose-dependent — the more raspberry extract used, the greater the effect.
Recommended: One-and-a-half cups of raspberries, two or three times per week.
Alternative: Cherries (and cherry juice) contain about as much ellagic acid as raspberries. Frozen berries and cherries, which contain less water, provide a higher concentration of protective compounds than fresh ones.