New studies focused on the benefits of using food as medicine have made fascinating discoveries in the last decade. The results from prestigious labs all over the world show us that not only can you improve your general health to prevent disease… you can actively fight disease… with food.
In fact, there are cancer-fighting foods specifically.
You read that right. There are natural foods available in your local market that target and destroy cancer cells and cancer-causing cells.
All cruciferous veggies (think cauliflower, cabbage, kale) contain cancer-fighting properties, but broccoli is the only one with a sizable amount of sulforaphane, a particularly potent compound that boosts the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals, says Jed Fahey, ScD. A recent University of Michigan study on mice found that sulforaphane also targets cancer stem cells—those that aid in tumor growth.
Helps fight: breast, liver, lung, prostate, skin, stomach, and bladder cancers
Your Rx: The more broccoli, the better, research suggests—so add it wherever you can, from salads to omelets to the top of your pizza.
It’s lycopene, a free radical-fighting antioxidant, which puts tomatoes on the list. Studies have found that lycopene, when consumed along with oil, wards off a number of cancers including pancreatic, breast, and prostate. Thanks to yet another antioxidant, vitamin c, tomatoes pack a double dose of powerful cancer-fighting punch.
Onions, along with leeks, garlic, chives, shallots, and scallions, make up the allium family of vegetables, which play a powerful role in fighting cancer, as well as being anti-diabetic and having beneficial effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems.
Allium vegetables are known for their characteristic organosulfur compounds, which are released when onions are chopped, crushed, or chewed. Studies have found that increased consumption of allium vegetables is associated with lower risk of gastric and prostate cancers because they contain compounds that detoxify carcinogens, halt cancer cell growth, and block angiogenesis.
White, cremini, Portobello, oyster, shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms all have anti-cancer properties. Some are anti-inflammatory; others stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage, slow cancer cell growth, cause programmed cancer cell death, and inhibit angiogenesis.
Mushrooms contain aromatase inhibitors, which can limit the production of estrogen and protect breast tissue from excess estrogen stimulation. There are other anti-cancer compounds in mushrooms that collectively account for their powerful effects against breast cancer.
Note that mushrooms should always be cooked before you eat them: they contain small amounts of a mild toxin called agaritine, which is greatly reduced in the cooking process.
Wheatgrass is considered a detoxifying medical herb. Health benefits include improving red blood cell count and neutralizing environmental pollutants within the body. Wheatgrass also demonstrates benefits in cancer prevention. You can use wheatgrass by juicing it daily in 2oz shots.
Maca Root is a superfood and a Peruvian herb that is said to balance the endocrine hormones and be beneficial for breast and prostate cancer, the immune system, memory, and sexual and adrenal function. Maca belongs to the mustard family [and] has been used by native Peruvians as both a food and medicine.” According to the Department of Biological and Physiological Sciences in Lima,“maca has great potential as an adaptogen and the treatment of some tumor entities.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants known as lignans, flax seed helps keep healthy cells from becoming cancerous. Omega-3s have been shown to be particularly effective in combating colon cancer, and provide numerous other health benefits as well, from improved brain function to decreased risk of heart disease.
How it helps:Garlic contains unique antioxidant phytochemicals called allyl sulfides that “seem to intervene in several steps of the cancer process,” says Karen Collins, R.D., C.D.N., nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. A 2007 study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that these compounds inhibit colon tumor formation and cell growth.
Cancers it may fight:Stomach, esophageal, breast, lung and colon
Get your fill:Sauté veggies in a clove or two of garlic or add it to homemade salad dressings, dips, pasta sauces and soups.
Also, add garlic salt or powder to ground beef while making burgers or sprinkle it on pizza.
This well-loved vegetable is a wonderful source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that aids in preventing cell damage and may slow the growth of cancer cells. They contain falcarinol and falcarindiol – natural pesticides in the vegetable that scientists believe are the reason for their cancer-fighting abilities. Of course, they’re good for your vision, skin, and as a natural detoxifier as well.