Cancer Fighting Foods: Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs Contain Powerful Antioxidants
According to the National Cancer Institute, up to a third of all cancers are linked to diet. These include an increased risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, throat, esophagus, stomach, bowels or intestines and pancreas. Food choices may also be a factor in the risk for cancers of the breast, lungs, prostate, cervix and bladder. Foods can be both protective and harmful to the body. Cancer-fighting foods are usually rich in antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants include substances such as phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that protect the cells from damage caused by free radicals and toxins in the body. Free radicals are unstable byproducts of natural reactions in the body such as metabolism. They may also be formed and accumulate in the body from the environment, such as from smoking, pesticides, pollution, radiation and even processed foods. They react with cells and molecules of the body, including DNA, damaging them.
Antioxidants help to clean up free radicals in the body and prevent or reduce their harmful effects. These cleansing molecules are found in many foods, particularly in fruits and vegetables. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a lifestyle choice that can help to reduce the risk of cancer as well as other diseases such diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Preventing obesity and maintaining a healthy body weight also decreases the risk for cancer.
Cancer Fighting Foods
An easy way to find which foods are packed with antioxidants is to look for deeply colored vegetables and fruits. Other foods such as cabbage and grains which may not be brightly colored also contain cancer-fighting molecules. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition (133:1286-1290) showed that herbs common in cooking and those used for their medicinal properties are also very high in antioxidants.
Foods that have powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant properties include:
- Brussels sprouts
- alfalfa sprouts
- aubergine or eggplant
Tumeric is a common spice used in South Asian cooking which has long been used as a potent healing herb. It contains the active ingredient, curcumin, which has potent liver protective, detoxifying, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Other benefits of turmeric include lowering of cholesterol, improvement of fat metabolism and improvement of digestion.
Eating a variety of healthy foods helps to increase the body’s absorption of the nutrients it needs. Supplements are useful when a diet may be temporarily lacking in the right foods, but it is a much poorer source of disease battling substances than natural foods. The cancer-fighting abilities of fruits and vegetables are unmatched by any supplements or medications; aim for up to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Foods high in fiber help to keep the digestive system healthy and reduce cancers of the bowels and stomach.