Anti-cancer foods are foods that have been shown to prevent or reduce the incidence of various cancers. Many anti-cancer foods also prevent cardiovascular disease. Cancer prevention is mostly mediated by the reduction of oxidative damage to cells and the detoxification of carcinogenic chemicals. The best of these foods can be divided into a number of food groups.
The Allium family
The allium family consists of garlic, onions, leeks, chives and shallots. The phytochemicals in these foods, especially allicin, block the liver from creating carcinogens. They reduce the formation of nitrosamines from nitrites and nitrates ingested from smoked and cured meats and other natural sources.
Many vegetables of the mustard family, particularly the brassica family, contain both indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane which become converted into cancer-killing enzymes in the liver. Broccoli sprouts are the best source of sulforaphane. Vegetables in this family include broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, collard greens, cabage, kale, kohlabi, rutabaga and turnip. Cooking can reduce the amount of sulforaphane up to 90%.
Berries, Pomegranate, Cherries and Red/Purple Grapes
In addition to being great sources for vitamin C, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, red and purple grapes and pomegranate contain the phytochemicals ellagic acid, resveratrol and anthocyanins which provide anti-cancer benefits.
A variety of teas, including white tea, oolong tea, black tea and green tea contain antioxidants, EGCG (and other catechins) and polyphenols. EGCG is the most touted of the catechins and is present in larger amounts in green tea compared to black tea, which has more caffeine. White tea contains the highest level of antioxidants among the teas.
The lycopenes found in tomatoes and tomato products are associated with reduced cancers of the prostate and may lower blood pressure.
Ginger, Chilli, Cilantro, Tumeric
Legumes, Seeds and Nuts
These food items contain a variety of anti-cancer phytochemicals. Peanuts contain the super antioxidant resveratrol, which is the basis of health benefits from red wine, pomegranates and grape skins. Black beans can provide antocyanins, also found in blueberries, while other beans, such as soy, contain phytoestrogens which protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Flaxseed and walnuts contain lignan.
Red, Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables which are yellow, orange or red, such as yellow and orange peppers, corn, sweet potatoes, yams and melon squash, contain carotenes (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene), luteine, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin.