- 1. Beans
- 2. Broccoli and other vegetables
- 3. Carrots
- 4. Cayenne Peppers and Capsaicin
- 5. Garlic
- 6. Mushrooms
- 7. Raspberries
- 8. Resveratrol
- 9. Tomatoes
- 10. Turmeric
Top 10 Natural Cancer Killers
Some foods and spices contain compounds and properties that put them in the category of cancer fighting foods. That means you have an opportunity to fight cancer –prostate cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and more–every time you have a meal, snack, or beverage if you include some of these natural cancer killers in your daily diet. Research into the anticancer abilities of various foods and spices has revealed some have more potential to prevent or reduce the risk of certain cancers than others. With that in mind, here is our list of the top 10 cancer fighting foods.
Beans are one of the best sources of plant protein and provide an excellent amount of fiber, but they are also an important part of a nutritious diet because they have cancer fighting potential as well. A group of researchers at Colorado State University reported on the anticancer abilities of beans. They noted that unlike vegetables, in which the more colorful ones typically contain more phytonutrients and disease fighting power, they found that white kidney beans have greater impact on cancer cells than navy beans, and that more colorful beans have milder effects. In other research, the dietary habits of more than 490,000 people were followed and compared with their impact on risk of head and neck cancers, which include cancer of the mouth, throat, and larynx. Foods that were found to be especially protective against these cancers included beans, carrots, and tomatoes, among others. A Loma Linda University also reported that people who ate beans at least three times a week had a 33% reduced risk of colon polyps (which often lead to colon cancer). A cancer prevention diet should include a variety of beans, which can be enjoyed in soups, salads, casseroles, and even on their own.
2. Broccoli and other vegetables
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and kale, among others, contain several compounds shown to fight cancer. One is the chemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytonutrient that is a precursor to diindolylmethane (DIM), another indole and phytonutrient. Together, I3C and DIM promote metabolism of estrogen, a cancer-promoting hormone, into a safer version. Cruciferous vegetables, and especially broccoli sprouts, are also a source of the phytochemical sulforaphane, which has been shown to promote the production of enzymes that fight cancer-causing agents. Two more cancer-fighting compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in cruciferous vegetables as well. Lutein, for example, has demonstrated activity against prostate cancer and colon cancer. Be sure to include broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables as a regular part of a cancer prevention diet.
Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of various cancers, including prostate, mouth, throat, colon, stomach, and bladder. A study in Urology, for example, named carrots and cruciferous vegetables as agents associated with a reduced risk of bladder cancer. A National Cancer Institute study also named carrots as helping reduce the risk of mouth and throat cancers. In addition to beta-carotene, carrots also have a cancer fighting substance called falcarinol. A study of falcarinol and intestinal cancer cells showed that falcarinol inhibited proliferation of the cells. Some research (the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention trial) has indicated beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer, but the study involved beta-carotene supplementation, not eating carrots, and the higher risk was seen in smokers. To get the most benefit from this anticancer food, enjoy raw carrots because they retain more of their nutritional value than cooked carrots, although raw or cooked, carrots are an important part of any cancer prevention diet.
4. Cayenne Peppers and Capsaicin
Cayenne peppers provide capsaicin, a substance that has demonstrated its cancer fighting abilities in several areas. In one laboratory study from 2007, for example, capsaicin slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells and prompted apoptosis (cell suicide), while a subsequent study found similar results regarding apoptosis and prostate cancer cells. Lung cancer is common among men, and investigators at Marshall University in West Virginia recently reported that “capsaicin could be useful in the therapy of human SCLC [small cell lung cancer].” Capsaicin also appears to have a role in fighting stomach cancer, as a recent study found. When capsaicin was added to conventional medical treatment (the anticancer drug, cisplatin), the capsaicin prompted apoptosis of cisplatin-resistant stomach cancer cells.
Garlic does more than keep vampires away—the popular herb also contains allium compounds that enhance the activity of immune system cells designed to fight cancer. These compounds, called dialyl sultides, may block carcinogens from getting into cells and also slow the development of tumors. People who regularly eat raw or cooked garlic may enjoy about half the risk of stomach cancer and two-thirds the risk of colorectal cancer when compared with people who eat little or no garlic, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A number of subsequent studies in both the laboratory and in animals have also indicated that garlic components have cancer-fighting properties. In a new study (February 2012) from China, researchers found evidence that a compound derived from garlic called S-allylcysteine showed some anticancer effects against human prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. Garlic is a versatile herb that can easily be incorporated into a cancer fighting diet.
A number of different mushrooms, including shiitake, reishi, coriolus versicolor, and maitake, have demonstrated cancer-fighting properties. The anticancer abilities are attributed to polysaccharides, including beta glucan, which enhance the immune system and strengthen it against cancer. Mushrooms also contain complex protein/sugar molecules called lectin, which have an ability to prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Another compound in mushrooms is ergosterol peroxide, which can inhibit the growth or prostate cancer cells and prompt apoptosis, according to a study reported in Chemico Biological Interactions. In a recent Korean study, scientists noted that the yamabushitake mushroom demonstrated potential against human leukemia. Use of a shiitake extract in cancer patients produced promising results. The researchers found that patients with gastrointestinal cancer or breast cancer who took the mushroom extract along with chemotherapy experienced better quality of life and improved immune function.
Raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients called anthocyanins, which may protect against cancer. In a study published in Cancer Research, rats given a diet containing 5% to 10% black raspberries had a 43% to 62% decrease in the number of esophageal tumors. In subsequent studies, black raspberry extracts inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells and also demonstrated activity against esophageal cancer in rats. In a recent Ohio State University study, black raspberry powder was given to patients who had colorectal cancer. The investigators found evidence that black raspberries had a positive impact on biomarkers of colorectal cancer, enough for them to conclude that additional studies of black raspberries “for the prevention of colorectal cancer in humans now appear warranted.” Raspberries may be an important part of a cancer prevention diet.
Resveratrol is a phytonutrient and potent antioxidant that is usually associated with grapes and red wine, but it also is the source of an important health benefit: it helps fight cancer. For example, a study conducted by investigators at the US Department of Agriculture found that resveratrol slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells, while scientists at New York Medical College discovered that two different analogues of resveratrol have an impact on different states of prostate cancer cells. Studies with resveratrol have also provided positive results concerning colon cancer. A new study from Italy reported evidence that resveratrol and its anti-inflammatory properties may prove helpful in fighting this deadly form of cancer, and Japanese researchers have also offered new research findings showing that resveratrol prompted apoptosis in human colon cancer cells.
Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene, a phytonutrient and antioxidant that is especially concentrated in tomatoes that are cooked or processed, as in tomato sauce or tomato juice. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between tomatoes and lycopene and the fight against cancer, and one of the largest ones involved nearly 48,000 men. In that study, the researchers found that men who consumed the most tomatoes and tomato products had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer and a 53% reduced risk of getting aggressive prostate cancer. In a follow-up to this study published 7 years later, the investigators confirmed that “frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.” A recent review in Current Medicinal Chemistry reports on the impact of lycopene on cancer in general, and how its potent antioxidant properties help it prevent cell damage and inhibit cell growth. In addition, some case-control studies have shown that greater consumption of tomatoes and lycopene is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer. All of these findings suggest tomatoes are an important part of a cancer fighting diet.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is considered an anticancer food and spice because it possesses a variety of important cancer fighting properties. In the January 2012 issue of Frontiers of Bioscience, for example, the authors remarked that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, “appears to involve a blend of anti-carcinogenic, pro-apoptotic, anti-angiogenic, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory and antioxidant activities.” In other words, curcumin seems to fight cancer from multiple fronts. Some of those fronts have been demonstrated in studies like one published in 2010, in which the investigators evaluated the benefits of turmeric and found that it inhibited the growth of both human and animal prostate cancer cell lines. A number of studies show that curcumin may prove to a powerful anticancer food against colon cancer, and there are also data suggesting that curcumin used along with chemotherapy is “a superior strategy for treatment of gastrointestinal cancer,” according to a 2009 report in Nutrition and Cancer. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, unless you have inflammatory bowel disease, the best way to reap the benefits of turmeric is by adding it to your diet.