Want to lower your cancer risk? What you put on your plate matters

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and like with many other cancers, what you eat can minimize your risk of contracting the disease.  While  a miracle food does not exist, there is strong evidence that supports a healthy plant-based diet helps lower the risk for many cancers, including colorectal cancer.

The foods in this list contain individual minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals (compounds found in plants) that work together to provide cancer protection. Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories, and can help us get to or maintain a healthy weight, thus lowering our cancer risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends filling at least 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, which are all cancer fighting foods.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Berries – Berries contain vitamin C, which has been shown to protect against cancer of the esophagus. Berries are also a good source of fiber, which can decrease risk of colorectal cancer. Strawberries and raspberries contain high levels of the phytochemical ellagic acid, which can prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus, and breast.
  • Garlic – Who doesn’t love garlic? Garlic is part of the allium family, which includes onion, scallions, leeks and chives. Vegetables belonging to the allium family have been shown to protect against stomach and colorectal cancer. Components of garlic have been shown to slow or stop the growth of tumors in prostate, bladder, colon, and stomach tissue.
  • Soy – Although there is some conflicting information regarding soy due to estrogen-like compounds it contains, soy is a staple food in many cultures around the world that have very low cancer rates. Not only is soy one of the few plant foods that contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need to make protein, but it is also a wonderful source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Soy also contains a variety of phytochemicals and compounds that protect against a variety of cancers and can cancer cells from spreading.
  • Spinach – Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and romaine lettuce, are great sources of fiber, folate, and carotenoids (nutritive chemicals that give plants color). Research shows that carotenoids prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants and removing dangerous free radicals before they can harm the body. Carotenoids have been shown to prevent the growth of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung cancer, and stomach cancer.

To see the complete list of cancer fighting foods, click here.

Photo credit: jayneandd

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