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What Foods Have Cancer Fighting Benefits and Phytonutrient Rich?

Updated on June 6, 2011

Healthy Eating Can Give You an Edge

Did you know that eating the right kinds of foods gives you the best chance at reducing your risks of cancer? That's right. Certain foods can be of great benefit in keeping cancer away. Phytonutrient-rich foods to be exact. These plant-based foods have compounds needed for good nutrition and fighting disease like cancer. If you were to take a look at people in other countries that have healthier eating habits than we do in the US, like China, you would find that they have way less instances of typical cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate and colon.

Common Cancers Risk Reduced with Less Fat

These are common cancers here in the US. One of the key reasons is the amount of fat in the typical US diet. Many of us are consuming an average of 40% fat in the calories take in daily. That is not good! It is thought that the risk of cancer increases manifold with higher percentages of fat in the diet. It is also believed that keeping your fat intake down to about 15% of your diet is best, but any reduction from what the typical 40% in America is a step in the right direction. Plus, the fat you do consume should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Good Dietary Fat Has Health Advantages

A few sources of good dietary fat to eat include olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, salmon and cod fish. Canola and olive oil can be used for cooking, baking, and sauteing . You would really lose lots of nutritional value if you heat the flaxseed oil. Not a good thing to do. It tastes kind of lemony and is great in salads though.

Saturated fats like those found in meats, palm kernel oil, and whole milk are said to weaken the immune system, which in turn would allow tumors to grow.

Is Fiber in the Diet all that Important?

Yes. Fiber is another important factor in lowering risk for cancer, in particular colon cancer. It is recommended to eat 20 to 40 grams of fiber daily. I know that sounds like a lot, but variety is the key. You could have insoluble fiber like wheat or soluble fiber like oat bran. A good mix in a day might include 2 to 3 cups of brown rice, oatmeal, or other high-fiber cereal. You would need about a cup to 1-1/2 cups of beans, and 4 to 5 cups of fresh vegetables.

No Candy, Cakes, or Sweets Containing Refined Sugar

Now for those of us with a sweet tooth, here is the heartbreaker. It is recommended to avoid all candy, cakes, and sweets that contain refined sugar. Why? It is believed that refined sugar suppresses the immune system and puts people at higher risk for cancer.

What is Better to Eat?

Here are some foods rich in phytonutrients, in other words, cancer-fighting foods:

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are thought to regulate hormone levels in women in a way that lowers risk of breast cancer. So when your mother made you eat these vegetables as a child she was really helping you live longer, even though neither you nor she might have realized it then. Who knew? The same compounds found in these veggies also help to protect cellular DNA against attacks by carcinogens (cancer-causing agents like tobacco).

Eat plenty of citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes. These fruits have more than 50 different kinds of phytonutrients that block carcinogens from entering cells in your body.

Blackberries, grapes, plums, apples, and currents have quercetin and saponins, which are called flavonoids, and they help neutralize carcinogens, stop tumor growth, and protect cells against free radicals (extremely reactive molecules produced during normal life processes but that can turn cells malignant). These free radicals are deactivated by antioxidants. For more information about free radicals and antioxidants, please click on the link below.  

Tomatoes have lycopene and glutamic acid, which are rich sources of phytonutrients too. These are good in the fight against stomach and prostate cancer.

Onions, garlic, leeks and shallots do more than add savory flavor to your foods, they boost the action of cells in your immune system called natural-killer cells, which destroys tumor cells and flushes them out from the body. That's a very good thing!

Then there are carotenoids that protect cells against oxidation. Again, this is a normal life process like what happens to an opened banana, but you and I both know that can get ugly if left out too long. So the dark green, yellow, and red vegetables come in handy to do the job of breaking down cancer-causing chemicals we encounter in everyday life.

Detailed Medical Explanation of Natural Killer Cells

Is It Worth the Effort to Get Phytonutrients?

In summary, there is no magic bullet for 100% insurance against cancer. That's because some things regarding health and cancers may be genetic or otherwise beyond our control. So that is to say that following any healthful tips mentioned here would not eliminate all risks of cancer. Yet eating healthier by making better food choices has been indicated to reduce cancer risks. It's not always the most convenient thing to do. It might not even be the thing we always want to do, but our bodies will thank us with better odds of fighting cancer. These are practical tips involving a normal healthy diet that is rich in phytonutrients.

Disclaimer: This article was written for information purposes and not intended to represent medical therapy or to suggest any treatment options, which should be discussed with your healthcare provider.


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    • Francesca27 profile image

      Francesca27 6 years ago from Hub Page

      Very useful information. Thanks.

    • Cassidella profile image

      Cassidella 6 years ago

      Thanks Pamela for your comment. Most of us want optimal health and that can be a challenge in itself, but eating more phytonutrient-rich foods can be a big help.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I think this hub is so important to achieve optimal health. You did a great job of writing an attractive hub. Rated up.