On average, more than one in three people in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. However, many of these cases could be avoided, in particular by changing your diet.
Scientists have a good idea of which foods to avoid to reduce the risk of cancer, such as red and processed meats, fast food, processed foods, alcohol and sugary drinks. But knowing what to eat isn’t easy, says Johanna Lampe, a cancer prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.
Many nutrition studies rely on people accurately remembering what they ate up to a year ago, Ms.me Lamp. In addition, it is difficult to understand the influence of a single food on health when it is part of a broader diet, she adds, specifying that lifestyle, environment, Hormones and genes may also play a role.
No single food can prevent cancer, says Nigel Brockton, vice president for research at the American Institute of Cancer Research in Washington. But following a healthy diet does seem to reduce the risks, he said.
Here are some foods that experts say are worth adding to your plate.
Broccoli and its cruciferous cousins
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage are rich sources of isothiocyanates, plant compounds that help our cells eliminate toxins and repair themselves, which is crucial for prevention cancers, explains Mme Lamp.
Broccoli sprouts, for example, are rich in sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate that can strengthen our body’s natural defense lines against daily damage to cells, she says. This compound has been linked to protection against several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, bladder, and colorectal cancer.
Research suggests that consuming more than four or five servings of cruciferous vegetables per week is associated with a reduced risk of cancers and other chronic diseases.
Tomatoes and tomato products
Studies have long linked tomatoes to reduced risk of prostate cancer, thanks to their abundance of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.
But lycopene may be just one of many compounds in tomatoes that help fight prostate cancer, says Nancy Moran, an assistant professor of nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Limited research suggests that lycopene may also protect against other cancers, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Processing tomatoes, such as cutting or cooking them, allows us to absorb lycopene more easily than when we eat them raw, explained Ms.me Moran. Eating tomatoes with fat is also beneficial. Eating them cooked, for example in a sauce or with a healthy fat such as olive oil, can therefore enhance their health benefits.
Beans and other types of legumes
Common bean varieties, like black beans and kidney beans, and legumes, like chickpeas, dried peas, and lentils, aren’t just high in protein. They’re also great sources of fiber, which is crucial for gut and immune health, Brockton said.
Fiber is also linked to the prevention of colorectal cancer. Bacteria in our gut break down fiber into fuel for the cells lining the colon, which keeps them healthy and makes them less likely to turn into cancer cells, Brockton says.
According to Brockton, the protective benefits of fiber appear after a daily consumption of about 30 grams, the amount contained in about 500 ml of black beans.
Tree nuts, especially walnuts
Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, etc.) are rich in healthy fats, proteins and fiber, and studies have shown that their consumption tends to reduce the risks of various types of cancers, particularly those of the digestive system. .
Nuts, in particular, contain exceptionally high levels of plant compounds called ellagitannins, which are converted by our gut bacteria into metabolites that may reduce the ability of cancers to grow and multiply.
The Dr UConn Health gastroenterologist John Birk, who has performed colonoscopies on people participating in clinical trials on the colon health benefits of walnuts, says it was easy to spot a “nut colon.” The colon wall “looks healthier, it gives off a sort of shimmering reflection in the light of the endoscope,” he said.
Studies suggest that eating a handful of nuts a day is beneficial for your health.
Plump fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates and black raspberries are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C and flavonoids, which help protect cells against stress and DNA damage that can cause increase the risk of cancer. Plant compounds called anthocyanins, which give berries their pronounced color, are responsible for their anti-inflammatory power. But it’s important to reduce inflammation because it “is a major contributor to cancer,” Brockton said.
Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, a professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Maine, says a growing body of evidence suggests that certain compounds in berries may help reduce the ability of cancers to develop, grow and to multiply.
To get the most anti-inflammatory benefits, you should aim for half a cup to one cup of fresh or frozen (and ideally organic) berries per day, she says.
This Allium spicy has a high allicin content. It is this sulfur-containing compound that is responsible for garlic’s strong odor and its cancer-fighting abilities.
In a long-term study of more than 3,000 people living in a region of China known for high rates of stomach cancer, researchers found that for every kilogram of garlic consumed per year, participants had a higher risk reduced by 17% from developing the disease. That’s about five cloves of garlic per week, says Wen-Qing Li, a cancer researcher at Beijing University Cancer Hospital and one of the study’s authors.
According to Li, eating raw garlic – pressed into oil for a salad dressing or in guacamole, for example – helps “keep the flavors and chemicals inside.”
This article was originally published in the New York Times.