10 Foods Proven to Fight Cancer

A great deal of scientific studies have been conducted to show that many of the foods that we regularly keep in our pantry can effectively fight or prevent cancer. While those already diagnosed with cancer may not want to rely on a diet rich of such foods, it can be extremely beneficial alongside chemotherapy treatments to help alleviate some of the negative side-effects. Likewise, scientists may be able to use enzymes and minerals found in these foods down the road in treating cancer more safely. If you have a family history of certain cancers, eating these cancer-fighting foods may be the ticket to a long, healthy life.

  1. Ginger

    Ginger has long been praised as a cure for an upset stomach, but it also is receiving recent recognition for its cancer-fighting abilities. Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras, authors of Foods That Fight Cancer, cited a study in which ginger killed the cancerous cells of tumor-bearing mice. The ginger did so through apoptosis, in which the cancer cells destroyed themselves while salvaging healthy cells. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, creating a poor breeding ground for cancerous cells. Ginger also eradicates the cancer cells through autophagy, in which it tricks the cells into eating themselves. In another study, Ann Bode, Ph.D, assistant director of the Hormel Institute at the University of Minnesota dosed 20 mice with gingerol three times a week. The mice were simultaneously receiving injections of human colon tumor cells. The mice receiving the ginger supplement were able to combat the cancerous cells. While both studies were performed on mice exclusively, scientists have developed a patent for use on humans, and it’s easy to add ginger to your diet with a simple trip to the grocery store.

  2. Cabbage

    Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables have cancer-fighting components that make them especially effective in the treatment or prevention of breast cancer. According to U.S. News, researchers examined women in China who were diagnosed with breast cancer and found that 62% were less likely to die of breast cancer and 35% less likely to have a resurgence of the disease if they had a cruciferous vegetable-rich diet. Sarah Nechuta, a research fellow in the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center in Nashville, Tennesse attributes the vegetables’ bioactive compounds to their cancer-fighting abilities.

  3. Salmon

    Eating salmon once or twice a week for dinner may protect against advanced prostate cancer in men. The Omega-3 fatty acids within salmon contain cancer-fighting agents. John S. Witte, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, performed a study in which 466 men diagnosed with severe prostate cancer and 478 healthy men went on a special diet. The men who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids had a 63% reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer compared to men who consumed the least omega-3s in their diet. In another study, Professor AM El-Mowafy examined the positive effects of Docosahexanoic acid found in fish like salmon. DHA acts by reducing leukocytosis, systemic inflammation, and oxidative stress, which contribute to tumor growth. When DHA was given to mice with tumors, it had a chemo-preventative effect, and when used alongside a chemotherapy drug that has been shown to cause kidney damage, it eliminated the negative effects of the drug while amplifying its cancer-killing abilities.

  4. Mushrooms

    Dr. Nalini Chilkov wrote an article for the Huffington Post called Six Cancer-Fighting Medicinal Mushrooms, in which she profiled the Mannentake, Shitake, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Maitake, and Chaga mushroom. The polysaccharides and beta glucans present in all mushrooms are immune-boosting. The Mannentake, when paired with chemotherapy, helps prevent the negative side effects associated with the drugs and protects cellular DNA by enhancing antioxidant capacity. Shitake’s glucan, Active Hexose Correlated Compound, is often used as an alternative treatment for cancer in Japan. Likewise, it contains Lentinan, which may be used intravenously as a cancer drug. Turkey Tail mushrooms act as a biological response modifier, improving survival rates and fortifying the immune system. Cordyceps mushrooms stimulate virus-fighting T Cells and Natural Killer Cells. Maitake mushrooms have potential anti-metastatic properties. Lastly, Chaga mushrooms contain betulin, which promotes apoptosis.

  5. Avocados

    Steven M. D’Ambrosio, a member of the molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, has compiled research that shows Hass avocados to be effective in killing oral cancer cells. They can also prevent pre-cancerous cells from developing. The avocado’s cancer fighting properties likely come from its phytonutrients or phytochemicals. The phytochemicals increase reactive oxygen within cells, causing cell death in cancerous cells without harming healthy cells.

  6. Tofu

    Tofu is not just for vegetarians looking for a weak meat substitute. Tofu is an extremely versatile food, taking on the flavors of whatever you desire to cook it in. It also may help spurn away cancer. Colleen Pierre of the Sun Sentinel writes that the phytoestrogens found in tofu are what give it its cancer-fighting effects. Estrogen, while necessary for reproduction, can cause breast cancer. However, phytoestrogens found in tofu compete with naturally occurring estrogen, lowering the risk. According to the Cancer Cure Foundation, soy products such as tofu contain the isoflavone genistein, a cancer cell inhibitor. Genistein prevents the epithelial cells and new blood vessels that tumors need to persist.

  7. Brazil Nuts

    Brazil nuts contain a mineral called selenium made up of selenoproteins, which carry out cell maturation, hormone production, muscle metabolism and energy production. They are also strong antioxidants. In terms of cancer, selenium may regulate cell proliferation, stopping the tumors that form as a result of uncontrolled cell division. In a 2002 study for Cancer Research, the development of synthetically produced prostate cancer cells was slowed with the administration of selenium. Selenium also activates apoptosis. While Brazil nuts may be beneficial for fighting cancer, they must be consumed in moderation, as too much selenium can cause selenium toxicity. In extreme cases, this can damage the nervous system.

  8. Blueberries

    ABC News covered a recent study in which blueberries have been shown to fight triple-negative breast cancer, an extremely aggressive form of breast cancer. Given that triple-negative tumors are not caused by estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 proteins, they are unresponsive to most treatments that have been developed for breast cancer. When laboratory-conceived cancer cells were given droplets of blueberry extract, the tumor growth was halted. The blueberry’s heavy dose of phytochemicals is likely the culprit. Human clinical trials have yet to be done, but researchers estimate that it will take around two cups of blueberries per day to reap the preventative benefits.

  9. Garlic

    According to the National Cancer Institute’s website, garlic may reduce the risk for stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast cancers. Garlic contains arginine, oligosaccharides, flavonoids, and selenium, all of which give it its super food powers. These enzymes give garlic antibacterial properties and allow it to block cancer-causing substances from forming tumors, reduce cell proliferation, repair DNA, and promote cell death in cancerous cells. Numerous studies have supported this evidence. In one study, 5,000 Chinese men and women who were at high risk for developing stomach cancer were given allitridum daily and selenium every other day, both of which are found in garlic. A separate group was given a placebo, and both groups were dosed for five years. After five years, the group that received allitridum and selenium had lowered their risk for all tumors by 33%, while they lowered their risk for stomach cancer in specific by 52%.

  10. Oatmeal

    Oatmeal is rich in antioxidants, so it’s no surprise that eating it lessens the risk of cancer by neutralizing your body’s toxins and eliminating free radicals. Oatmeal contains high amounts of fiber, which can prevent colorectal cancer by shortening the amount of time that carcinogenic waste is in your intestines. Likewise, fiber releases a substance called butyrate when broken down, which may stop tumors from growing in the colon and rectum. Eating a fiber rich diet may quell breast cancer because the fiber binds with estrogen, which is then eliminated through the digestive tract.