Eat to Beat Cancer
Add these superfoods and drinks to your regular diet to reduce your risk
En español l Apples contain at least two kinds of cancer-inhibiting compounds: flavonoids and phenolic acids. Together they may protect against damage to cells that can trigger malignancies; they may also prevent emerging cancer cells from dividing any further. If apples aren't your favorite food, try citrus fruits and berries.
According to a recent Harvard study, a serving of nuts a day (roughly a handful) helps ward off deaths from both heart disease and cancer. "People who ate a serving of nuts five or more times a week saw an 11 percent reduction in deaths due to cancer," says Ying Bao, an epidemiologist who led the study.
Beans and Lentils
Loaded with fiber, beans and lentils contain antioxidants, phytochemicals and folate, which protect colon cells while stimulating bowel function. Soybeans, in particular, contain genistein, a powerful compound that scientists are investigating as a possible treatment for prostate, lung and colorectal cancer.
Tea and Coffee
Ingredients in tea and coffee may protect against a variety of cancers. The antioxidants in coffee seem to be especially effective against endometrial cancer. And green tea seems protective against prostate cancer. But make sure to let it cool a bit before drinking: Very hot beverages may increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
Laboratory studies have found that curcumin — the main ingredient in the spice turmeric, which gives curry its characteristic yellow color and sizzle — can fight against cancerous changes in healthy cells as well as slow the growth of malignant cells. Some evidence suggests that curcumin may also offer protection against brain tumors.
Teeming with the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes may block cancer by, among other things, stopping malignant cells from multiplying and by causing them to destroy themselves. Although tomatoes in almost all forms are full of nutrition, lycopene is more easily available to the body in cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce.
Garlic and Onions
The compounds that give garlic and onions their strong flavor appear to stave off cancer by neutralizing carcinogenic substances and speeding the repair of damaged DNA. Like many cancer-fighting foods, garlic seems especially effective against digestive-tract cancers, including those of the esophagus and colon.
The calcium in dairy products may neutralize potential carcinogens, particularly those found in processed meats. Not all studies agree that milk lowers cancer risk. But recent reports do show that milk drinkers are less likely to become obese. And there is evidence that maintaining a healthy weight protects against cancer.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are packed with sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting substance so potent that researchers are testing it as a drug. "Sulforaphane is delivered to almost every tissue in the body," says Trygve O. Tollefsbol, a professor in the biology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Leafy greens — including arugula, kale, spinach and romaine — abound in antioxidants called carotenoids, which in laboratory studies have been shown to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancer cells, including skin, lung, stomach and certain kinds of breast cancer. Spinach may even block carcinogens from cooked meat.
Red grapes (and red wine) are loaded with resveratrol, which inhibits cancer-cell growth and causes cancer cells to self-destruct. According to recent findings, resveratrol remains effective — and may be more powerful — after it's metabolized by the body. The compound is found in peanuts, cranberries and blueberries, too.
For years, we've been urged to eat three to five servings of whole grains a day. There's good reason: They are linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer, a 2013 Danish study of 108,000 people has found. What's more, whole grains offer protection against other chronic conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
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