Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plant foods that may help prevent diseases such as cancer. There is no one food that can fight cancer, but eating a diet high in plants and phytochemicals can help reduce your risk. Some potential benefits of phytochemicals include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Preventing damage to your DNA
- Repairing your DNA
- Strengthening your immune system
- Regulating your hormones
- Preventing damaged cells from reproducing
Berries are naturally sweet but low in sugar. Berries contain a lot of different phytochemicals that can help protect your body from cell damage that leads to cancer. Berries are a delicious way to add phytochemicals to your diet. Enjoy some in a smoothie or sprinkle some in your salad. Some of the phytochemicals found in berries are:
- Anthocyanins (found in blue and purple berries), which are phytochemicals that help reduce inflammation and protect your brain
- Ellagic acid, which has anti-tumor properties and helps neutralize substances that cause cancer
- Pterostilbene, which is a powerful antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation
Kale is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Kale contains lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamins C, E, and K. These are vitamins and phytochemicals that help your body absorb iron. They also bind to bad cholesterol to help your body get rid of it. Kale also contains the phytochemical glucosinolate which can cause cell death in tumors.
Onions belong to the allium family of vegetables, which includes garlic and leeks as well. Alliums, along with cruciferous vegetables, are among the two best cancer-fighting vegetable families. Dioxin is a type of cancer-causing toxin found in cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, cooked meat, fish, and dairy. One tablespoon of raw, red onions contains phytonutrients that have been shown to cut dioxin toxicity in half.
Legumes such as lentils contain fiber, resistant starch, and phenolic compounds that promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Lentils are also a great source of fiber, which may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Additionally, foods like lentils that are high in fiber can help control your weight. Excess weight increases your risk of at least 12 different types of cancer.
Turmeric is an Indian spice often used in curry dishes. Tumeric's bright yellow color comes from curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant. More than 5000 articles have been published in medical journals about tumeric. Curcumin has been shown to kill tumor cells in a variety of ways. Most substances that prevent cancer either stop cancer from forming in the first place or prevent it from spreading. Tumeric does both.
A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, cauliflower has been well studied for its cancer-fighting potential. Cauliflower contains the following beneficial compounds:
- Indole-3 carbinol, which reduces hormone-sensitive cancers
- Sulforaphane, which deactivates cancer-causing compounds
- Fiber, which helps prevent cancer
The red pigment in beets comes from betacyanin. This phytochemical could protect against the development of cancer cells. It also may help reduce inflammation that can lead to cancer. Beets also contain 4 grams of fiber per cup, which can help lower your cancer risk. Beets can be cooked and enjoyed in a variety of ways, including steamed, pickled, roasted, boiled, or raw.
There is a persistent myth that soy products increase the risk of developing cancer, but that's not true. Isoflavones actually suppress tumors. Isoflavones may also be able to turn on genes that slow the growth of cancer cells and cause them to self-destruct. In studies of what people eat, there is no link to increased cancer among people who eat soy. There may be some link between eating soy and a decreased risk of breast cancer and of lung cancer in people in nonsmokers.
10. Whole Grains
Whole grain kernels contain the bran, germ, and endosperm, unlike refined grains, which only contain the starchy endosperm. Whole grains contain phytochemicals and essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and copper. A meta-analysis of the diets of 786,000 people found that eating 7 grams of whole grains was associated with a 20 percent decrease in the risk of dying from cancer. Whole grains are also high in fiber, which has been linked to lower rates of cancer.
Spinach is loaded with nutrients that offer numerous health benefits. It's rich in the following compounds: