The World Health Organisation predicts that about 40 percent of new cancer cases per year can be prevented by simple changes in our lifestyle, and particularly by increasing activity and improving our diet.
Also, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is the specialized cancer agency of the WHO, estimates that 5 to 12 percent of all cancers can be prevented by increasing fruit and vegetable intake alone.
What’s so important about fruits & vegetables?
There are many reasons why vegetables and fruits reduce cancer risk. As well as containing vitamins and minerals, which help keep the body healthy and strengthen our immune system, they also help the detoxification processes of the body and are good sources of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that are biologically active compounds in the human body. They have been extensively studied and found to protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.
So which are the 5 top cancer fighting fruit and vegetables?
Broccoli belongs to the family of “cruciferous” vegetables. They are considered to be “the super-veggies,” as the substances they contain are among the most important anticancer substances among all fruits and vegetables.
An observational study in Chinese women found that the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables cut the risk of developing breast cancer in half. Other studies reported that eating cruciferous vegetables three times a week was associated with halving the risk of colon cancer and that high intakes of the same vegetables also reduced the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Over the years researchers have identified numerous substances in cruciferous vegetables that have shown great anticancer potential. Sulforaphane, which is mostly found in broccoli, has been found to destroy many types of cancer cells by triggering apoptosis (cancer cell death). It can also help in cancer prevention by enhancing the body’s ability to neutralize and excrete carcinogenic substances by boosting the effects of various detoxifying enzymes.
Berries have long been known to stand out for their anticancer potential. They are effective in blocking both the initiation and progression stages of tumour development.
Berries are very rich in phytonutrients. Due to their exceptionally high content of phenolic and flavanoid compounds, berries have an antioxidant power that is superior to most other foods.
According to scientists at the American Institute of Cancer Research “Research is providing new evidence that berries not only contain strong antioxidants that help to prevent cell damage that precedes cancer: they also appear to affect genes that are associated with inflammation and the growth of cancer”.
Blueberries are particularly high in anthocyanins, the colour pigments responsible for the berries’ intense blue colour. Raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and pomegranates are rich in ellagic acid. Ellagic acid was found to reduce the effect of estrogen in promoting the growth of breast cancer cells and lab studies showed that it can slow the growth of tumours caused by certain carcinogens.
Berries are low in fructose and have a low glycemic index, which means they do not cause a sharp increase in blood glucose levels. They can be used in juices or smoothies for cancer prevention and treatment.
3. Green Vegetables
In recent years scientists have made huge discoveries about how our diet and the availability of certain nutrients can affect the way our genes are expressed and behave. Folate is an example of how a nutrient can have epigenetic changes that affect a person’s risk of developing cancer.
Green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, okra and Brussels sprouts are rich sources of folate. Folate is one of the B-complex vitamins that has a significant role in DNA repair. Folate deficiency has been linked with accelerated DNA damage and an increased risk of developing several cancers including colon, breast, ovary, pancreas, brain and lung cancer.
Mushrooms contain compounds that have been linked to lowering the risk of a range of cancers. They stimulate the immune system by increasing the number and activity of our immune cells.
In some studies women who ate mushrooms had up to 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms. Mushrooms are particularly effective in inhibiting the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancers.
The list of mushrooms with strong anticancer properties includes the oyster mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, reishi, shitake and maitake mushrooms.
Pomegranate is a fruit that grows mainly in the Mediterranean region. It has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been studied extensively for its anticancer properties.
Recent research has shown that pomegranate extracts selectively inhibit the growth of breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer cells in lab studies.
In a study by dr.Allan Pantuck at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that a glass of pomegranate juice per day inhibited the growth of cancer cells and induced cancer cell death in patients with early stage prostate cancer.
Take Home Message:
Give your body the tools it needs to fight cancer before it even begins by adding these top 5 anticancer fruit and vegetables to your diet!