10 Cancer-Fighting Foods

Eating healthy foods is not only beneficial to stay fit. 

It is also required to help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. 

According to studies, what we eat also influences cancer prevalence in the gastrointestinal tract and other body parts. 

Thus, nutrition is an excellent cancer prevention strategy.

But if you already have a high risk or were diagnosed with a type of cancer, what foods are there to fight the tumor? 

In this article, you will find the top 10 cancer fighting foods you want to include in your diet to inhibit tumor growth and increase life expectancy, along with medical therapy.

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10 cancer-fighting foods

Fighting cancer with nutrition is not only a matter of incorporating one or two foods. It would be best to lead a healthy dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet

This particular diet is known to reduce cancer incidence. It also fights cancer and improves survival rates (1).

However, if we could recommend ten foods to fight cancer along with medical treatment, they would be:

1. Garlic

This spice is valuable against different types of cancer. It has phytonutrients with chemopreventive roles to help cancer patients recover faster. 

It interferes with several stages of cancer development and inhibits tumor growth. The phytochemicals display cytotoxic activity against cancer but spare normal cells. 

Thus, it is highly selective and has been found beneficial in animal trials and in vitro studies of sarcoma, bladder tumors, colorectal cancer, among others (2).

2. Green tea

This beverage is by far the most widely studied in the herbal department. It improves cardiovascular risk, but tea polyphenols also have anti-cancer effects by influencing tumor growth, triggering cellular death in cancer cells, and inhibiting androgen receptor signaling in prostate cancer

The antioxidants in green tea prevent DNA damage in cancer and the destruction of healthy cells, especially in inflamed tissues (3). 

3. Turmeric

This spice is popular in Asian foods. It displays a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Considering that inflammation is essential for cancer growth, turmeric is a potential therapy against cancer. 

It has been studied in colon cancer with excellent results. Besides displaying anti-tumor activity, it is also known to prevent metastasis. 

It is a chemotherapeutic agent that reduces the spread of cancer to other tissues, improving the survival rate of patients with advanced cancer. 

Turmeric can be a potent ally in cases of stomach cancer as it fights cancer while reducing inflammation. It is also an excellent ally in esophageal cancer (4).

4. Olive oil

This is one of the main components of the Mediterranean diet, which has been found beneficial for cancer patients. This type of oil has monounsaturated fatty acids, terpenoids, and flavonoids that reduce cancer risk, promote apoptosis, modulate the cell cycle, and regulate the formation of blood vessels. 

Consuming this type of healthy oil reduces inflammation and may even change the epigenetic patterns of cancer. 

It is essential to highlight that olive oil should be used as a seasoning in salads and other foods. Using this oil for fried foods will take away the benefits reported in the scientific literature (5).

5. Cruciferous vegetables

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables may also modulate how cancer cells function. 

They have substances with anti-cancer effects known as isothiocyanates which trigger apoptosis, regulate proliferation, and help control the cell cycle. They are potentially helpful in combination with chemotherapeutic agents and may work synergistically to eradicate cancer cells. 

Studies show that cruciferous vegetables improve the prognosis in patients with bladder cancer, and they are potential therapeutic agents in other types of cancer as well (6).

6. Leafy greens

These plant foods also display important cancer-fighting properties, especially in patients with low folic acid levels. 

Additional to providing a source of vitamins and minerals necessary to fight cancer, dark green leafy vegetables also have high betacarotene levels. They increase the antioxidant profile in patients with chronic diseases and relieve inflammation (7).

7. Walnuts

There’s an exciting study about walnuts and their effect on breast cancer gene expression. According to this study, 456 genes changed inside the tumor, and the only difference was the introduction of walnuts in the diet. 

Such genes promoted apoptosis to fight cancer, caused cell migration and proliferation inhibition, and prevented the onset of metastasis. 

Similarly, other nuts can also display similar effects. Most of them are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory substance that is also useful against different types of cancer (8).

8. Flaxseed

This plant-based food contains lignans, important polyphenols that prevent cancer through diverse mechanisms. Flaxseeds change the cell cycle, influence cell growth, and differentiation, and increase apoptosis rate. 

An interesting effect is a reduction of angiogenesis or blood vessel formation. When the tumor does not have enough blood vessels, cancer cells do not have enough nutrients to keep growing (9).

9. Fatty fish

This type of fish contains abundant omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Omega 3 is an inflammatory fatty acid, and studies show that it increases cancer response to chemotherapy. 

Vitamin D from natural sources reduces the risk of colon cancer. Some studies in patients with lung cancer and cachexia showed that omega 3 oils could manage the wasting syndrome (weight loss, weakness, loss of appetite) common in cancer patients (10).

10. Whole grains

The dietary fiber in whole grains may prevent bowel cancer, even when patients consume red and processed meat with saturated fats. 

Studies in breast cancer show what whole grain does in cancerous cells. There’s an inhibition of proliferation and antigrowth signals triggered by whole grains. 

There’s also a modulation in the immune system, reducing inflammation and its effect on the proliferation of malignant cells. Whole grains may also target metastasis and reduce the migratory potential of these cells (11,12).

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This article has reviewed the importance of eating healthily in cancer patients to inhibit cancer growth and increase the survival rate. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent way to do that, and we have listed 10 cancer fighting foods that will help you achieve better results alongside cancer treatment.

Some nutrients found in a healthy diet may also be consumed in supplements. Talk to your doctor before using them to ensure that you’re a suitable candidate depending on the type of cancer you have and the therapy you’re currently receiving.

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  1. Mentella, M. C., Scaldaferri, F., Ricci, C., Gasbarrini, A., & Miggiano, G. A. D. (2019). Cancer and Mediterranean diet: a review. Nutrients, 11(9), 2059. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770822/ 
  2. Zhang, Y., Liu, X., Ruan, J., Zhuang, X., Zhang, X., & Li, Z. (2020). Phytochemicals of garlic: Promising candidates for cancer therapy. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 123, 109730. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31877551/ 
  3. Miyata, Y., Shida, Y., Hakariya, T., & Sakai, H. (2019). Anti-cancer effects of green tea polyphenols against prostate cancer. Molecules, 24(1), 193. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6337309/ 
  4. Li, M., Yue, G. G. L., Tsui, S. K. W., Fung, K. P., & Bik-San Lau, C. (2018). Turmeric extract, with absorbable curcumin, has potent anti-metastatic effect in vitro and in vivo. Phytomedicine, 46, 131-141.
  5. Farràs, M., Almanza-Aguilera, E., Hernáez, Á., Agustí, N., Julve, J., Fitó, M., & Castañer, O. (2021, August). Beneficial effects of olive oil and Mediterranean diet on cancer physio-pathology and incidence. In Seminars in Cancer Biology (Vol. 73, pp. 178-195). Academic Press.
  6. Mastuo, T., Miyata, Y., Yuno, T., Mukae, Y., Otsubo, A., Mitsunari, K., … & Sakai, H. (2020). Molecular mechanisms of the anti-cancer effects of isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables in bladder cancer. Molecules, 25(3), 575. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037050/ 
  7. Schultz, H., Ying, G. S., Dunaief, J. L., & Dunaief, D. M. (2019). Rising plasma beta-carotene is associated with diminishing c-reactive protein in patients consuming a dark green leafy vegetable–rich, low inflammatory foods everyday (LIFE) diet. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 1559827619894954. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1559827619894954 
  8. Hardman, W. E., Primerano, D. A., Legenza, M. T., Morgan, J., Fan, J., & Denvir, J. (2019). Dietary walnut altered gene expressions related to tumor growth, survival, and metastasis in breast cancer patients: A pilot clinical trial. Nutrition Research, 66, 82-94. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30979659/ 
  9. De Silva, S. F., & Alcorn, J. (2019). Flaxseed lignans as important dietary polyphenols for cancer prevention and treatment: chemistry, pharmacokinetics, and molecular targets. Pharmaceuticals, 12(2), 68. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630319/ 
  10. Vega, O. M., Abkenari, S., Tong, Z., Tedman, A., & Huerta-Yepez, S. (2021). Omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and lung cancer: nutrition or pharmacology?. Nutrition and cancer, 73(4), 541-561. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32393071/ 
  11. Maximova, K., Khodayari Moez, E., Dabravolskaj, J., Ferdinands, A. R., Dinu, I., Lo Siou, G., … & Veugelers, P. J. (2020). Co-consumption of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and fiber reduces the cancer risk of red and processed meat in a large prospective cohort of adults from Alberta’s Tomorrow Project. Nutrients, 12(8), 2265. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32751091/ 
  12. Xie, M., Liu, J., Tsao, R., Wang, Z., Sun, B., & Wang, J. (2019). Whole grain consumption for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Nutrients, 11(8), 1769. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723813/ 

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