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Top Cancer-Fighting Foods

Mounting evidence shows that the foods we eat weigh heavily in the war against cancer.

Cruciferous Vegetables continued...

In lab experiments, substances released during either cutting or chewing cruciferous vegetables produced a cancer-killing effect.

Cancer-Fighting Abilities

Recent studies on cruciferous vegetables show promising results against prostate and colon cancers. In mice grafted with human prostate tumors and then treated with one of these cancer-killing substances, tumors began to shrink to half their size after 31 days. In another experiment, mice engineered to be a model for an inherited colon polyp condition that is at high risk for developing into colon cancer were fed the antioxidant called sulforaphane, also released when chewing cruciferous vegetables. The mice developed about half as many polyps as expected.

How to Get Them

Swallowing them whole won't do. The protective effect of cruciferous vegetables seems to occur when they are cut or chewed. They're great in stir fry, as side dishes, or tossed into salads raw. Experiment with flavors like lemon or garlic. "Vegetables can be a fabulous-tasting centerpiece of cuisine," says Collins.

Curcumin

By sprinkling curcumin into your favorite dishes, you could be adding much more than a little zest to your meal -- you could add years to your life.

How It Works

Experts credit curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects for its ability to fight cancer. "Most diseases are caused by chronic inflammation that persists over long periods of time," says Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, a biochemist at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Recent studies have shown curcumin to interfere with cell-signaling pathways, thereby suppressing the transformation, proliferation, and invasion of cancerous cells.

Cancer-Fighting Abilities

Curcumin's protective effects may extend to bladder and gastrointestinal cancers. Some say they don't stop with these types of cancer. "Among all the cancers we and others have examined, no cancer yet has been found which is not affected by curcumin. This is expected, as inflammation is the mediator for most cancer," Aggarwal tells WebMD.

How to Get It

Curcumin flavors lots of popular Indian dishes, as it is the main ingredient in curry powder. It complements rice, chicken, vegetable, and lentils. Some chefs sprinkle the bright, yellow powder into recipes for a burst of color.

Ginger

This popular spice, long used to quell nausea, may soon be used to fight cancer, too.

How It Works

Working directly on cancer cells, researchers discovered ginger's ability to kill cancer cells in two ways. In apoptosis, the cancer cells essentially commit suicide without harming surrounding cells. In autophagy, "the cells are tricked into digesting themselves," explains J. Rebecca Liu, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who has been studying ginger's effects on ovarian cancercells. While this preliminary evidence shows promise, ginger's cancer-fighting effects must still be proven in animal and human trials.

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