January 8th, 2018 | Updated on August 23rd, 2022
The average American eats about 1,100 meals every year. Unfortunately, much of what they eat is drawn from the Standard American Diet (SAD): foods that are high in animal products, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates.
This kind of diet is destructive and dangerous, increasing your risk of cancer, leading to weight gain, and contributing to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In short, this nutritionally deficient diet is — pardon the pun — a recipe for disaster.
To reduce your risk of cancer, look no further than your fridge. “All the studies on cancer and nutrition point to eating plant-based foods for their phytonutrients and other special compounds,” says Richard Béliveau, PhD, chair in the prevention and treatment of cancer at the University of Québec at Montreal and author of Foods to Fight Cancer.
Aim for five to nine daily servings of all kinds of fruits and vegetables—especially these six superstars.
Vegetables in the cabbage family, also known as cole crops and cruciferous vegetables, contain indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Broccoli may also ward off colon and rectal cancer, thanks to an enzyme called glucoraphanin that is especially abundant in broccoli sprouts.
All berries are packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients. But black raspberries, in particular, contain very high concentrations of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which slow down the growth of premalignant cells and keep new blood vessels from forming (and potentially feeding a cancerous tumor), according to Gary D. Stoner, PhD, a professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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.
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are two of the most nutrient-dense seeds in the world. They provide fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and a range of important minerals. Hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also beneficial and full of healthy fatty acids, as are walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds. Their health benefits and are best sprouted and can be used easily in smoothies, baked goods and with yogurt. Aim for two tablespoons daily.
Walnuts Their phytosterols have been shown to block estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, possibly slowing the cells’ growth, says Elaine Hardman, PhD, associate professor at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia.
It’s a good thing most of us can’t imagine cooking without at least one of the allium vegetables. Not only do they boost our bodies’ immunity to cancer, they also help destroy cancerous cells. Research has linked consumption of allium vegetables, especially garlic, to a reduced risk of stomach, colon, and prostate cancers in particular.
A study out of Michigan State University found that black and navy beans significantly reduced colon cancer incidence in rats, in part because a diet rich in the legumes increased levels of the fatty acid butyrate, which in high concentrations has protective effects against cancer growth. Another study, in the journal Crop Science, found dried beans particularly effective in preventing breast cancer in rats.