What to eat to Reduce the Risk of Cancer?

October 8, 2022 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team

Updated Version - July 28, 2023

The risk of developing cancer can be reduced if you consume foods that have anticancer properties. This article lists the best cancer fighting foods.


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Best foods for Reducing the Risk of Cancer

Many foods contain naturally occurring compounds that have anti-cancer properties. Let's take a look at some of the best foods that can reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Apples

    The phytochemicals inside apples have many preventive effects against various types of cancer. These effects include regulation of proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and anti-inflammatory activities. Consumption of apple reduces the risk of cancer.

  • Carrots

    Carrots contain several essential nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin A, and antioxidants. Carrots also contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which is responsible for its distinct orange color. Recent studies have found that beta-carotene plays a vital role in supporting the immune system and may prevent certain types of cancer.

  • Berries

    Berries such as blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates and raspberries are relatively low in natural sugar, Berries have an abundance of blue-purple pigments called anthocyanins that reduce inflammation and protect the brain from oxidation. Berries also contain ellagic acid, which neutralizes carcinogens and has anti-tumor benefits. Blueberries contain pterostilbene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation.

  • Edible Nuts

    Nuts contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. The anti-inflammatory compound provides dual protection – reduces the formation of free radicals and puts the brakes on cell signals that support and promote cancer growth. Research has shown that certain types of nuts such as Brazil nuts and walnuts may reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Turmeric

    Turmeric is a golden-yellow-colored seasoning used in many Indian dishes. It contains polyphenol curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which helps to fight cancer. Curcumin appears to reduce tumor reproduction and induce tumor cell death.

  • Spinach and other Green Leafy Vegetables

    Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients whether eaten raw, juiced, or lightly cooked. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, antioxidants and fiber. It contains carotenoids, which support eye health. It has folate, which aids DNA formation and repair. Several studies suggest that phytochemicals glycoglycerolipids and carotenoids fight cancer, especially of prostate, breast, and stomach. Spinach and arugula also contain nitrates that produce nitric oxide and nourish the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables

    Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale, contain chemicals called glucosinolates that fight cancer in several ways. These chemicals include indole-3 carbinol, which reduces hormone-sensitive cancers; sulforaphane, which deactivates carcinogens; and fiber, which is a cancer preventive.

  • Garlic and Onion

    Garlic has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory benefits as well as cancer-fighting properties. Onions provide all the same benefits. It contains molecules containing quercetin and sulfur that inhibit certain carcinogens and induce apoptosis, a process that kills abnormal cells.

  • Fatty fish

    Oily fish including swordfish, salmon, mackerel, and canned fish such as sardines, salmon, and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest eating fish and omega-3 fatty acids may protect against cancer.

Helpful Information

What dietary changes can I make to reduce my cancer risk?

To reduce your cancer risk, opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit consumption of processed foods, red meats, and alcohol. Also, maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active can significantly lower your risk of various types of cancer.

How do fruits and vegetables help reduce cancer risk?

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and antioxidants, which have been linked to cancer prevention. They help protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can provide a wide range of these protective substances.

Why should I limit processed and red meats to reduce cancer risk?

Processed and red meats can increase your risk of certain types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. This is thought to be due to the high levels of saturated fats, as well as certain carcinogenic chemicals that can form during processing or cooking.

What role does fiber play in cancer prevention?

Dietary fiber aids digestion, helps maintain a healthy weight, and can lower the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer. It helps move food through your digestive system, reducing the chance of harmful substances lingering and causing damage.

How does alcohol consumption relate to cancer risk?

Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, mouth, throat, esophageal, and liver cancer. It is advisable to limit alcohol intake as much as possible.

Can eating fish reduce the risk of cancer?

Eating fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can contribute to a heart-healthy diet. While more research is needed, some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Does obesity increase cancer risk and can diet help?

Yes, obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity can significantly lower your cancer risk.

How do antioxidants help reduce cancer risk?

Antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing cell damage that can lead to cancer. Foods high in antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

What is the role of dairy in cancer risk?

The relationship between dairy and cancer is complex and depends on the type of cancer. Some studies suggest that dairy may reduce the risk of certain cancers, like colorectal cancer, but increase the risk of others, such as prostate cancer. As research is ongoing, it's best to consume dairy in moderation.

Does eating organic reduce cancer risk?

While organic foods reduce exposure to pesticides, current evidence does not conclusively show that an organic diet reduces cancer risk more than a diet of conventionally grown foods. However, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is beneficial.

How does sugar intake relate to cancer risk?

While sugar itself does not cause cancer, a diet high in sugar can lead to obesity, which is a significant risk factor for cancer. Try to limit your consumption of sugary drinks and high-sugar foods.

Can green tea help prevent cancer?

Green tea is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which may help prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer. More research is needed, but enjoying a cup of green tea can be part of a healthy diet.

How does a plant-based diet reduce cancer risk?

A plant-based diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, provides various antioxidants and nutrients that may help protect against cancer. Additionally, plant-based diets are typically low in saturated fat and high in fiber, supporting a healthy weight.

What role does sodium play in cancer risk?

High sodium intake can increase the risk of stomach cancer. This could be due to the damage caused to the lining of the stomach, potentially leading to cancer over time. Limiting intake of high-sodium foods, like processed foods and certain restaurant dishes, can help reduce this risk.

What foods should I avoid to reduce cancer risk?

To reduce cancer risk, it's best to limit intake of processed meats, high-sugar foods and drinks, high-sodium foods, alcohol, and highly processed foods. Instead, opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

How does cooking method impact cancer risk?

Some cooking methods, like grilling and frying, can produce certain chemicals that may increase cancer risk. Consider alternative methods like baking, boiling, or steaming.

Does soy intake impact cancer risk?

Contrary to some beliefs, eating a moderate amount of soy foods does not increase risk of breast cancer or other cancers. Soy foods like tofu and soy milk are a good source of lean protein and can be a part of a healthy diet.

Can turmeric reduce cancer risk?

Turmeric, and its active component curcumin, have been studied for their potential anti-cancer properties.

Can diet help prevent skin cancer?

While protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer, a healthy diet can also contribute. Some evidence suggests diets rich in antioxidants, found in colorful fruits and vegetables, may provide some protection against skin cancer.

What is the overall best diet for cancer prevention?

The best diet for cancer prevention is a balanced, nutrient-rich diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low in processed foods, high-sugar foods, and alcohol. Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight also contribute significantly to cancer prevention.


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