My Top 6 Foods for Cancer Prevention
Cancer – this term seems to be all too common today.
According to the National Cancer Institute, 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some time in their life. While survival rates are expected to increase due to advances in medicine, more than 600,000 will die each year in the United States alone from cancer. (“Cancer Statistics,” 2018)
So how can you be proactive in preventing cancer?
Nutrition is the backbone to the prevention of most diseases we know today, including cancer. Here are 6 foods that you can easily include in your diet to help in the prevention of cancer and many other chronic conditions. Besides...they all taste so good too!
This is both preventative and therapeutic! I considered this a powerhouse food that is abundant in nutrients. When it comes to cancer - sulforaphane is the focus. Broccoli has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. It is suggested that just 3-5 servings per week can reduce cancer risks by 30-40%! (Tortorella, Royce, Licciardi, & Karagiannis, 2015) Studies have shown that sulforaphane is beneficial in reducing inflammation and can limit tumor growth by:
Inducing apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death. This has been shown in cervical, breast, prostate, bladder cancers and leukemia.
Inhibiting NFkB pathway. This is critical as NFkB plays an active role in cancer cell survival. (“Sulforaphane glucosinolate monograph,” 2010; Tortorella et al., 2015)
Broccoli Tip: If you are worried about this causing you unwanted gas, slightly steam before consuming. And don't forget to season with Himalayan Sea Salt to help the flavor "pop"
Blueberries are a delicious and nutritious food group that has been studied for multiple health concerns including CVD, diabetes, neurological health, one health, and cancer. Blueberries contain a phytochemical called anthocyanidins, which is what makes them so beneficial. Consuming blueberries on a daily basis may be beneficial in the prevention of cancer, but supplemental form (i.e. a powder form) may also provide therapy for those with cancer. It has been studied in breast, liver, colon, prostate, and oral cancers. Overall, blueberries may prevent cancer, inhibit the growth of cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence. (Davidson et al., 2018)
Blueberry Tip: These freeze easily! Get out in blueberry season and pick away, freezing them for later use.
Extra Virgin olive oil (EVOO) is recommended as part of a daily dietary intake for a variety of health concerns, most notably cardiovascular disease. However, it is also a recommended for choice for the prevention of cancer, particularly breast and digestive cancers. (Reboredo-Rodríguez et al., 2018) The reason why this food source may be so beneficial is due to its antioxidant effects and high polyphenol content. At present, 36 phenolic compounds have been identified in EVOO. (Reboredo-Rodríguez et al., 2018) it has many effects, including induce cellular death, suppressing NF-kb pathway and reducing the growth of cancer cells. (Just like broccoli does! So a win-win is to eat broccoli topped with EVOO!)
Olive Oil Tip: This is best used for salads and marinades and should only be used over low heat when cooking with it.
The terms turmeric and curcumin are often used interchangeably. Turmeric is the plant, while curcumin is the yellowish-orangish substance or compound of the plant that is known for many therapeutic benefits. Turmeric does contain other compounds that are beneficial as well, however, curcumin is used for both prevention and treatment of cancer. There are several proposed mechanism of why this is so beneficial (which is more than this blog post will cover), but can include its impact on limiting the number of cancer cells and reducing the rate of growth and metastasis (spreading). While it has been studied as a stand-alone option, it has also been used synergistically with other medications, resulting in greater improvement in outcomes. Since there are some interactions with chemotherapeutic drugs, it is best to speak to your nutritionist or health care provider before using this. (Unlu, Nayir, Kalenderoglu, Kirca, & Ozdogan, 2016)
Turmeric Tip: When using fresh turmeric root (YUM!), be sure to wear gloves to avoid the orange stain on your fingers and wipe off your cutting board and knife immediately.
Chia seeds are a nutrient dense food providing protein, fats, carbohydrates and fiber, while also being a rich source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin A, ascorbic acid and other antioxidants. (Marcinek & Krejpcio, 2017) As a result chia seeds can be used therapeutically for many health concerns including cancer. Among its many benefits it has been shown to decrease body weight, oxidative stress, c-reactive protein, (an inflammatory marker), glucose and triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. This is important since all of these are connected through the mechanism of inflammation. Kaempferol is the flavonoid found in chia seeds that may be the connecting point on why it is protective against cancer. One study concluded that because of the benefits of kaempferol in cancer prevention , “...using kaempferol or kaempferol-rich foods are of pivotal importance before any public health recommendation...” (Imran et al., 2019)
Chia Seed Tip: Because these will "plump up" when exposed to water, be sure to consumed them shortly after adding them to a smoothie, salad or other food source. Chia Seeds making for a great pudding!
Despite the standard recommendation of consuming 2-3 servings of fish per week, the research on fish consumption and decreased cancer risk remains inconclusive. However, I am still recommending this as part of a cancer prevention protocol. Fish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids (yes, those fish oil supplements you have heard out or are already taking!), zinc, selenium, vitamin D, B vitamins and others nutrients. It is noted that individuals who consume fish, tend to consume other healthy foods, such as vegetables with it. It is uncertain if eating of fish is a direct benefit to health because of the fish or because of the red meat it may be replacing in the diet. (Engeset et al., 2015) Since there are concerns about environmental pollutants in fish, one should always choose wild-caught, instead of farm raised, fish. You can choose from low fat fish, such as haddock or cod or fatty fish, often classified as SMASH -- Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon, Herring.
Fish Tip: Simply broiling, baking or sautéing fish is an easy way to prepare a healthy meal when you are short on time. If it is frozen, it also thaws very quickly when placed in cold water.
Green Leafy Vegetables are a source of many nutrients including fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin K, carotenoids, and flavonoids. It is proposed that carotenoids can inhibit the growth of some cancer cells. (Yan, 2016)
Garlic belongs to the allium family that is typically used as flavoring in many recipes. Garlic in rich in flavonoids, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. (“ACRIs Foods that Fight Cancer-Garlic,” n.d.)
Some ideas on putting these foods together
These recipes can be found on our website
The Super Smoothie Recipe can be found with other helpful information in your
"5 Tips for Happy Hormones" Handout.
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ACRIs Foods that Fight Cancer-Garlic. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight- cancer/foodsthatfightcancer_garlic.html
Cancer Statistics. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics##targetText=Statistics at a Glance%3A The Burden of Cancer in the United States&targetText=The number of new cases,on 2011–2015 deaths).
Davidson, K. T., Zhu, Z., Balabanov, D., Zhao, L., Wakefield, M. R., Bai, Q., & Fang, Y. (2018). Beyond Conventional Medicine - a Look at Blueberry, a Cancer-Fighting Superfruit. Pathology and Oncology Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12253-017-0376-2
Engeset, D., Braaten, T., Teucher, B., Kühn, T., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. B., Leenders, M., … Lund, E. (2015). Fish consumption and mortality in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. European Journal of Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-014-9966-4
Imran, M., Salehi, B., Sharifi-Rad, J., Gondal, T. A., Saeed, F., Imran, A., … Estevinho, L. M. (2019). Kaempferol: A key emphasis to its anticancer potential. Molecules. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24122277
Marcinek, K., & Krejpcio, Z. (2017). Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica): health promoting properties and therapeutic applications – a review. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny.
Reboredo-Rodríguez, P., Varela-López, A., Forbes-Hernández, T. Y., Gasparrini, M., Afrin, S., Cianciosi, D., … Giampieri, F. (2018). Phenolic compounds isolated from olive oil as nutraceutical tools for the prevention and management of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19082305
Sulforaphane glucosinolate monograph. (2010). Alternative Medicine Review.
Tortorella, S. M., Royce, S. G., Licciardi, P. V., & Karagiannis, T. C. (2015). Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition. Antioxidants and Redox Signaling. https://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2014.6097
Unlu, A., Nayir, E., Kalenderoglu, M. D., Kirca, O., & Ozdogan, M. (2016). Curcumin (Turmeric) and cancer. Journal of B.U.ON.
Yan, L. (2016). Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. Retrieved from https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/