You already know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for you. But when you're going through cancer treatment or trying to keep cancer from coming back, some fruits may be better than others.
The research on fruits and cancer isn’t perfect. There aren’t many studies, and the results are often inconsistent. No food, and certainly no one fruit, can prevent or fight cancer.
Still, certain types of fruits may have cancer-fighting qualities. Others can make it easier for you to cope with the side effects of treatments.
Fruit During Cancer Treatment
Fruit provides nutrients that you need during cancer treatment. Some fruits may also help ease discomfort. Experts recommend these, depending on how you feel:
- For nausea and vomiting: canned fruit, applesauce, peaches, and other soft fruit
- For constipation: raw fruits, dried fruits, prune juice
- For diarrhea: fruit juices, bananas, and apples as part of the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet
- For loss of appetite: high-calorie foods, including dried fruit and fruit smoothies
- For mouth sores: nectars, apple juice, canned fruit, applesauce
Citrus fruit, like grapefruits and oranges, may have a role in preventing certain cancers. One large study in Japan found that people who had citrus fruits or juices 3-4 days a week were less likely to get cancer than those who had them 2 or fewer days a week.
Though the research results aren't clear-cut, they show that citrus might help fend off several types of cancer:
- Cancers of the digestive tract, like colon cancer
- Cancers of the respiratory tract, like lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Nasopharyngeal cancer, a type of head and neck cancer
- Cutaneous melanoma, a type of skin cancer
Apples and Other 'White' Fruit
At least one meta-analysis -- a study that looks at lots of previous research on a subject -- linked apples with a reduced risk for cancer. The link seems strongest for lung cancer. But apples may also help protect against:
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Other cancers of the digestive tract
Another study found that eating white vegetables and fruits, like apples, pears, mushrooms, and onions, may help protect against colorectal cancer. (Apples and pears are considered white because of their flesh.)
The possible benefit from apples probably comes from two substances they contain: polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate, and quercetin, a plant pigment. Both may help fight cancer cells.
Green fruits may help protect against colorectal cancer, according to the same study that looked at white fruits and veggies. Green fruits include:
- Honeydew melon
- Green grapes
Other research also suggests kiwifruit may help prevent cancer. That's partly because of the fruit’s antioxidants, and partly because kiwifruit promotes a healthy gut.
Dried fruit like prunes and raisins can be a healthy choice. Research shows that regularly eating dried fruit may help ward off some types of cancer. It might also help keep cancer from getting worse.
Eating three to five servings of dried fruits a week may help prevent:
Other Fruits That May Fight Cancer
Researchers are studying a range of plant chemicals that may play a role in cancer prevention, including:
- Bromelain, an enzyme in pineapples
- Carotenoids, plant pigments often found in orange fruits
- Antioxidants in pomegranates
The research is in its early stages, so we really don't know yet if these plant chemicals have cancer benefits. But at the least, these fruits are high in fiber. Fiber can help reduce your risk of certain cancers and help you maintain a healthy weight.