Seven (Easy to Find) Foods That May Help Prevent Cancer
Reach for these super foods to supercharge your odds of staying ahead of cancer and maximizing your health.
Broccoli: Phytochemical Powerhouse
Eat your broccoli, mom always said. She was right. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, and cauliflower contain phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which produce protective enzymes that are released when you chew the raw veggie, rupturing the cell walls.
Your body also produces those enzymes in the intestines, Fahey explains, and when raw or cooked broccoli passes through, the enzymes are activated.
One of the most protective of these enzymes is sulforaphane. "Broccoli is the best source of this particular compound," says Fahey, who studies sulforaphane in broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Scientists are researching how sulforaphane might reduce cancer risk, from detoxifying harmful substances (such as smoke and other environmental pollutants) in the body to operating as a kind of antimicrobial agent by attacking the bacterium H. pylori.
Broccoli and its cousins are most protective against cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, according to a review of hundreds of clinical studies conducted for the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.
So do what mom always said. Steam broccoli and toss with garlic and olive oil for a healthy dish -- no greasy cheese sauce required. Or just nibble on some raw florets.
Tomatoes: Potential Weapon Against Prostate Cancer
The red coloring in tomatoes makes a juicy, ripe one hard to resist -- and makes them a potential weapon against prostate cancer. That red hue comes from a phytochemical called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which is most concentrated in tomatoes. Several studies suggest that a lycopene-rich diet is connected to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, researchers aren't yet sure if this is related directly to lycopene itself or some other compound.
In laboratory tests, lycopene has stopped other types of cancer cells from growing, including breast, lung, and endometrial (in the lining of the uterus). Researchers speculate that lycopene protects cells from damage that could lead to cancer by boosting the immune system. And they suspect lycopene stops the growth of tumors by interfering with abnormal cell growth, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
To get the most benefit from lycopene, eat cooked or processed tomatoes, including tomato juice and pizza sauce. Processing makes the cancer-fighting compounds more available to your body because heat breaks down the plant's cell walls. And including processed tomatoes in dishes with oil such as pizza and pasta with sauce boosts the availability of lycopene. Want more of this compound? Munch on some watermelon, pink grapefruit, or red bell peppers.