Colleen Doyle a registered dietician and Managing Director of Nutrition and Physical Activity for the American Cancer Society shared with Guideposts.org the best foods for preventing all types of different cancers. The good news? Most of them are probably already in your kitchen.
Doyle says berries are a great substitute for a sweet treat but they also contain powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all contain something called polyphenols that counteract, reduce and repair damage to cells -- always a good thing when trying to prevent cancer.
Really any orange-colored fruit or vegetable like sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and mangoes are good, but carrots especially are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to protect cell membranes from damage.
Red is another good color to shoot for when choosing your veggies and fruits. Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, they all carry lycopene: an antioxidant that gives them their bright hue. Lycopene is also thought to be associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Besides being low in calories and packed with fiber and phytochemicals, beans are a great source of protein which make them a wonderful substitute for red meat. Doyle can't stress enough how important it is to look for "healthy, clean alternatives to red and processed meats."
A recent study by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that processed meats are definitely a carcinogen and red meats also may contain carcinogenic properties. Instead of that steak or piece of bacon, Doyle suggests eating chicken, turkey or a vegetarian meal loaded with beans. "You can get bags of red beans for just pennies at the store," Doyle says. "That’s just another way to get more nutrients, more fiber and also serve as a healthier alternative to red and processed meats."
Cruciferous vegetables -- think leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli and even cauliflower -- contain sulforaphane, a chemical that may reduce the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer. Doyle says the key thing everyone should remember is, though certain foods target specific areas, your cancer risk goes down if your diet is a healthy, balanced one.
"There’s not one food group that is going to reduce your risk of cancer," she says. "It’s the synergy of all of the nutrients you eat working together to help protect against cancer."
Garlic is handy herb to have around for seasoning other foods but the plant itself hold special properties. Some studies suggest that garlic reduces the risk of colon cancer. Doyle says spices like "garlic, pepper and ginger might really help fight different forms of cancer" and if adding some sautéed garlic to your vegetables makes you eat more of them – great!.
The key here, Doyle says, is the word "whole." Whole grains like whole wheat bread, pasta, cereal and rice tend to be higher in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than refined grains and some studies do suggest they play a role in reducing colon cancer risk.
There is not much evidence that including more fish in your diet reduces cancer risk, however eating red meats (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meats (bacon, ham, sausage, etc) increases the risk of colon cancer. So, to help reduce your cancer risk, Doyle suggests substituting fish for those red and processed meats (the healthy fats in choices like salmon may also help reduce your risk of heart disease).