Looking for that one food that will keep you cancer-free? Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. But certain foods can help reduce your chances of developing cancer – especially when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Erma Levy, research dietitian in Behavioral Science at MD Anderson, shares her list of foods that women should include in their diet to lower their cancer risks. “But that doesn’t mean you should eat these foods and nothing else,” Levy says.
She recommends a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (like beans or lentils) to give your body the range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs. Eating a variety of healthy foods also helps prevent weight gain and can lower body fat.
“Excess body weight increases the amount of hormones in your body,” Levy says. “And when those extra hormones go unused, they can promote cancer cell growth, increasing a women’s risk of breast and uterine cancers.”
Here are six foods you should include in a healthy diet.
Lentils are small beans rich in dietary fiber. Fiber may reduce your chances of colorectal cancer. “Fiber helps your gut produce chemicals that may stop tumor cells from forming,” Levy says.
Fiber also keeps you full longer, helping you maintain a healthy weight. And, it can help lower cholesterol as part of a low-fat diet, as well as blood sugar levels. Other great fiber sources are beans, whole-wheat pasta, barley and brown rice.
Garlic is loaded with manganese, vitamins B6 and C, and selenium. Some research suggests these nutrients can fend off the cancer cell growth in your intestines. The pungent vegetable, great as a seasoning, also may help lower your risk of stomach, colon and breast cancers.
Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, are some of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They’re bursting with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that reduce your risks of many different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Eating lots of leafy greens also can help you maintain a lean body weight and reduce your chances for heart disease and diabetes.
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a natural chemical found in plants. This chemical is a powerful antioxidant that may lower breast, lung and stomach cancer risks. Other fruits with lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit and most fruits with red flesh.
Grapes are sweet and juicy berries that contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which may block the formation of breast, liver, stomach and lymphatic system cancers. A grape’s skin has the most resveratrol, so leave the skin intact. Red and purple grapes have more resveratrol than green grapes.
Onions contain an antioxidant called quercetin. “It may help fight cancer by lowering inflammation in your body,” Levy says. Some studies show yellow onions and shallots may be particularly good at protecting you from liver and colon cancers.
Eat a healthy variety
“Including these foods in your diet , along with other fruits, vegetables and whole grains, is a great way to help reduce your risk of some cancers,” Levy says. But don’t stop there.
Here are some more tips to maintain a healthy diet:
- Eat vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors
- Choose whole grains
- Include plant-based proteins
- Limit red meat
- Avoid processed meat
- Limit salt
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid sugary beverages and energy-dense foods