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Reduce your cancer risk by keeping these foods in your diet

March 7, 2010 12:36 am


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THE RIGHT foods can help you feel good now and reduce risks of cancer in the future.

Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are all anti-cancer foods. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with those foods at every meal.

"Choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat," says the AICR.

Here are my top 10 choices for nutrient-rich foods that are high in natural cancer-fighting phytochemicals:

1. Beans. They're a magical fruit. Women who ate the most beans had a 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer, according to one study.

Any kind of beans will do: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, etc. Consider adding beans to chili, to minestrone soup and as a topping for salads.

Soybeans also fall into this category--so enjoy soy milk, veggie burgers, soy nuts, edamame, tofu and tempeh. Soy has been shown to reduce risk of hormonal cancers such as breast cancer, and a Chinese study released in February showed soy foods don't interfere with chemotherapy--soy seems safe for breast cancer survivors, too.

Soy foods were linked to 30 percent to 40 percent lower rates of ovarian and endometrial cancers in a Korean study.

Eating more soy reduced prostate cancer growth in a small study in California.

2. Berries. They're rich in vitamin C and fiber, both of which reduce cancer risks. Strawberries are especially rich in ellagic acid, while blueberries contain anthocyanosides, and red grapes have resveratrol, all powerful antioxidants.

3. Cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables--including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale--are also linked to lower cancer rates.

Along with having fiber and vitamin C, these veggies contain cancer-fighting isothiocyanates.

One study showed yellow vegetables and cruciferous veggies were linked to longer survival for women who had ovarian cancer. Other studies suggest benefits for preventing lung cancer and stomach cancer. Cabbage eaters had a 50 percent lower risk of colon cancer in an Indian study.

4. Dark-green leafy vegetables. These vegetables, including spinach, lettuce and other greens, are packed with heart-healthy potassium and magnesium. They're also rich in cancer-fighting agents such fiber, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Women who ate more of these veggies had 50 percent lower rates of cervical cancer than women who ate few greens.

When it comes to colon cancer, some people may be genetically susceptible, especially when they eat meat. Luckily, those same folks seem less likely to develop cancer if they eat lots of carotenes (found in orange and dark green veggies) and natural vitamin E, found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and other oils, according to British researchers.

5. Fish. Fresh fish is associated with a 40 percent to 70 percent lower risk of colon cancer, according to Indian researchers. It's also linked to reduced risks of prostate and breast cancer.

6. Garlic. Stinky but healthy, allium vegetables such as garlic, onions, scallions, leeks and chives are linked to lower rates of stomach and colon cancer. Plus, these veggies enhance the flavor of other foods.

7. Green Tea. This kind of tea contains more cancer-fighting catechins than black tea.

8. Mushrooms.Cooked mushrooms have compounds that help stimulate the immune system. Chinese women who consumed the most cooked mushrooms had a 64 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

9. Tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Women who ate more lycopene-rich foods had half the risk of cervical cancer in one study.

10. Turmeric. Turmeric, the spice that makes curry powder yellow, is a powerful antioxidant and is being studied for cancer-fighting properties.


Don't worry if your favorite fruits and veggies aren't on the list. All fruits and vegetables, and the fiber they contain, have shown anti-cancer links in multiple studies.

For example, women who ate the most fiber had a 40 percent lower risk of endometrial cancer and a 70 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

And men and women who ate the most foods with quercetin--an antioxidant found in apples and many other fruits and vegetables--had 50 percent lower rates of colon cancer, according to Scottish scientists.


Eating red meat, especially cured and processed meats like bacon and sausage, was associated with shorter survival time in Illinois women with ovarian cancer, in a study released this month. And eating meat was associated with a 250 percent higher risk of colon cancer in an Indian study.

Saturated fat was linked to pancreatic cancer risk by Minnesota researchers.

Excessive alcohol is associated with risks of several cancers, so try to limit alcohol to one drink per day--if you drink at all.

Excessive calories and high blood sugar are also linked to increased cancer risk, so try to eat in moderation.

Eating well now can help you live long into the future.

Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin and welcomes reader questions via her Web site,, or mailed to: Nutrition, The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401.

Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin.

Jenny's Super Curry Salad

Makes 12 -cup servings

Cook's note: This salad combines several cancer-fighting foods--broccoli, garlic, raisins and curry--into a delicious dish that can be served warm or cold.

You can make variations by substituting cauliflower for broccoli and using dried cranberries instead of raisins, or a chopped scallion instead of garlic powder.

5 cups broccoli, chopped cup water cup low-fat plain yogurt teaspoon garlic powder teaspoon curry powder (more if you like) cup raisins cup almonds, chopped


1. Steam broccoli in 1 cup water.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, garlic powder and curry powder.

3. Toss broccoli with dressing.

4. Top with raisins and almonds, and serve.

Nutrient analysis per serving:

96 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat, less than 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 64 milligrams calcium, 1 milligram iron, 19 milligrams sodium, 276 milligrams potassium, 572 units vitamin A, 35 milligrams vitamin C

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.