Healthy fruit snacks on a white plate

Can Foods Protect You Against Cancer?

You don’t have to watch much TV to see the latest miracle supplement promising all sorts of health benefits. But if you pause the feed and read the incredibly small type on the bottom of the screen, without exception it says, “Statements not evaluated by the FDA.” This, of course, means there is no science behind the health claims, so who knows if they really work? You surely can spend lots of money trying to find out, and you’ll have a cupboard filled with two-thirds full bottles of all of these things.

But there is science behind various foods and the way they protect you from cancer. So, let’s leave the infomercials to the modern day snake oil peddlers; we’ll stick to the science of eating well and hopefully fending off breast and other forms of cancer.


“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” indeed appears to be true. Apples contain polyphenols, plant-based compounds that are shown to prevent inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and infections. Research points to possible anticancer and tumor-fighting properties. Polyphenols inhibit a protein called glucose transporter 2, which aids advanced-stage cell growth in certain cancers.


Berries are yummy and full of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They also have awesome antioxidant properties. Specific studies show that blackberries contain a compound called anthocyanin, which lowers biomarkers for colon cancer. Another study seems to point to the anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries and that they appear to prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.

Cruciferous vegetables

You’ve probably never heard that word “cruciferous.” It is a certain family of vegetables. And it’s a family you want to marry into! Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, even turnips and mustard. They have lots of vitamin C and K along with manganese.

For cancer resistance, these vegetables contain sulforaphane, a plant compound with anticancer properties. Sulforaphane has been shown to significantly inhibit cancer cell growth. Another study shows that sulforaphane, in combination with genistein (found in soybeans), can significantly inhibit breast cancer tumor development.

Three to five servings of cruciferous vegetables every week are recommended.


When you were busy pushing your mushy overcooked carrots around your plate as a kid your mom probably said, “You know Billy eats his carrots and he doesn’t need glasses. Hmm.” Yes, everyone has always touted carrots and their vision-boosting benefits.

There actually is more science behind their cancer-fighting powers.

Carrots are full of vitamin A and K, and other antioxidants. They also are high in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene makes carrots orange, but it also plays a vital role in supporting the immune system and may help prevent certain types of cancer. In fact, a recent review of eight studies showed links between beta-carotene and reduced risk for both breast cancer and prostate cancer. Doing your best Bugs Bunny impression also resulted in a 26 percent lower risk for developing stomach cancer. What’s up, Doc?!!

Fatty Fish

While most of us don’t relish the prospect of eating fistfuls of anchovies, we can do salmon! Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and, ugh, anchovies, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and vitamin B.

A number of studies have linked diets high in fatty fish to lower rates of colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. One study with 68,000 people found that those who consumed fish oil supplements at least four times per week were 63 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who did not.


Various studies have shown that all nuts have cancer-preventing properties, but walnuts stand out. That’s because they contain a substance called pedunculagin, which the body metabolizes into urolithins. Stay with me. Urolithins are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and may play a role in preventing breast cancer.


Legumes are kind of like quantum physics, not always well understood. They are simply the fruits or seeds of plants in the legume family. Legumes are beans, pea, and lentils. They are high in fiber, which helps keep your colon happy and cancer free.

They also seem to help with breast cancer. A study showed a link between diets high in bean fiber and a 20 percent decrease in the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

If you would like to follow any of the links to the numerous studies cited here, you can find them all in this Medical News Today story.

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