Most people are aware that a healthy diet is good for overall wellness. Many may not know, however, that certain foods can also help ward off cancer.
Cancer-fighting foods pump essential vitamins and minerals into your system while also helping prevent future ailments, including cancer.
“Nutrition is a tool that works both directly and indirectly to fight cancer,” says Matthew McCurdy, MD, PhD, DABR, board-certified radiation oncologist at Austin Cancer Center. “Strong evidence shows that if you eat a variety of foods, mainly a plant-based diet that includes whole grains and proteins, you may lower your risk for many cancers. Plus, these foods help fight obesity, a risk factor that can make you more susceptible to at least 10 common cancers.”
The Favored Five
While a number of foods are important to a cancer-fighting diet plan, Dr. McCurdy highly recommends these five tools:
- The Mediterranean Diet. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine article reports that incorporating olive oil, fish, and beans into their diets helped women in a large-scale Spanish study decrease their breast cancer risk. Scientists theorize that a shortage of folate, a vitamin found in these foods that plays a role in DNA production, increases the body’s susceptibility to cancer.
“In addition to slashing the risk of heart disease and dementia, the Mediterranean Diet may help prevent breast cancer and other cancers,” Dr. McCurdy says.
- Dark, Leafy Greens. Kale, mustard greens, spinach, and other greens pack a nutritious punch with high levels of folate, fiber, and carotenoids — all of which could play a role in cancer prevention, research has shown. The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests these nutrients may even help curb the growth of existing cancer cells.
- Vitamin D. While sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, certain foods — such as fatty fish and sun-exposed mushrooms — can also be rich in the nutrient. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D may help fight chronic inflammation, a possible cancer trigger.
“Americans may find it difficult to get enough vitamin D from foods,” Dr. McCurdy says. “If there is a deficiency, supplements can help.”
- Cruciferous Vegetables. The National Cancer Institute reports that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage contain anti-inflammatory compounds that are thought to help prevent cancer.
- Tea. Rich in antioxidants — substances that can protect cells from possible damage — brewed tea, especially green and black tea, may help prevent cancer, studies suggest.
“Research indicates that tea has a beneficial antioxidant called kaempferol that, when consumed in large doses, or multiple cups of tea, can help reduce the risk for ovarian cancer,” Dr. McCurdy says. “Tea also is a healthy substitute for other higher-calorie beverages.”
To learn more about cancer prevention, call Austin Cancer Center at (512) 508-8511. Is your lifestyle geared toward cancer prevention? Take our Austin Wellness Quiz to find out.