6 Powerful Anti-Cancer Plant Foods

By: Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to talk about powerful, anti-cancer foods and ways to add them to your food and juices.

There are three main factors when it comes to cancer prevention:

  • healthy weight
  • regular exercise
  • healthy diet

Let’s focus on the healthy diet.
When it comes to plant-based foods, we often look to many of the well-known anti-cancer foods like berries, ginger, turmeric, pomegranate, tomatoes and others; however, there are many other less well-known plant-based foods that are also cancer preventive. These 6 foods/food groups contain powerful anti-cancer nutrients that you should be including.

1. Walnuts
Studies are still being conducted, but current research indicates that compounds found in walnuts including flavonoids (a family of nutrients that contain antioxidants), ellagic acid and alpha-linolenic acid may be beneficial in slowing growth of breast and prostate cancers. Additionally, walnuts contain plant-based essential amino acids from alpha-linolenic acid that may help to fight inflammation.

How to use: Grab a handful of walnuts as a healthy snack or sprinkle on your morning oatmeal or hot cereal and you can even make an easy nut butter by swapping walnuts for almonds in this easy recipe.

2. Squash
There are many different types of squash including winter, butternut and acorn. Most squash contains nutrients including fiber, beta-carotene, carotenoids and vitamins A and C. Research suggests including a good source of fiber (25+ grams per day) may help to prevent colorectal cancers, while including foods like squash that are rich in beta carotene and carotenoids may help to prevent cancers such as those of the mouth/throat, esophagus, stomach, and kidneys.

How to use: Squash can be used in many delicious ways including soup, as a healthy side to your meal like spaghetti squash, and even roasted squash for a main dish.

3. Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds contain a nutrient called lignan, which research suggests may help to slow breast cancer tumor growth (research has been conducted in animals and still needs to be proven in humans). Flaxseed also contains a good source of fiber that maybe beneficial in preventing colorectal cancer, and it’s a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that can be converted to anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in the body.

How to use: Flaxseed must be ground in order for our bodies to use it properly; once ground flaxseed makes for a great addition to a smoothie like this Blueberry Mango Superfood Smoothie or to make Flax crackers, or even to make a delicious meal such as cauliflower pizza.

4. Garlic
Garlic not only has a powerful flavor, but also contains powerful anti-cancer nutrients. Garlic is part of the allium vegetable family that contains a number of anti-cancer compounds including allicin and others. Research suggests that nutrients found many of the allium-family vegetables including garlic may be efficacious in slowing tumor growth in the prostate, bladder, lung, breast, esophagus, and colon. Garlic also contains a compound called diallyl disulfide that has been found to be potentially cancer-preventive in areas including skin, lung and also colon. 

How to use: Don’t be afraid of garlic breath! The benefits of garlic far outweigh the risk for bad breath so use this powerful cancer-fighting vegetable in stews, sautéed vegetables, salads, raw lasagna, and one of our favorites…Zucchini Macadamia Pesto Roll Ups!

5. Cruciferous Vegetables
It’s no secret that cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage) provide anti-cancer nutrients. Most cruciferous vegetables contain manganese, an important compound that acts as a part of one of the body’s major antioxidants called Superoxide Dismutase. Cruciferous vegetables also contain compounds called glucosinolates isothiocyanates and indoles that have been found to be anti-inflammatory and may work to stimulate genes that suppress tumor growth. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables are a good source of fiber, which has also been shown to be cancer-preventive, specifically for colon cancer.

How to use: Cruciferous vegetables are versatile and can be consumed cooked or raw- and are delicious in juices.

6. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers have a powerful flavor, and now new research is suggesting that they may contain powerful anti-cancer properties. Chili peppers contain a nutrient called capsacin that preliminary research suggests may be potentially anti-inflammatory, and may also be beneficial in stopping or slowing tumor growth. In addition to its potential benefit in cancer prevention, capsacin may also help to boost metabolism.

How to use: Sprinkle some dried chili powder in your soup or juice or add fresh chili or other hot peppers to a healthy pizza, stir fry or soup, or even a smoothie. 

If you or someone you know has cancer, here are tips for eating and drinking juice while undergoing cancer treatment.
Proper nutrition and inclusion of healthful foods may benefit symptom management, treatment-related fatigue, and weight maintenance. For example, including natural remedies to help ease nausea (lemon and ginger) or help to relieve constipation (senna-tea and fluids/electrolytes) among other things, in conjunction with the plan prescribed by the doctor can be helpful in many cases.

Lastly, it’s very important to note that while undergoing any type of cancer treatment it is not advised to take part in any all-juice plan, but instead adding juices on top of healty meals and snacks may help to provide extra nutrients and calories; it’s important to remember to wash produce extremely well.

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Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

Isabel is a Registered Dietitian, wellness expert and fitness coach. Isabel has her own nutrition and wellness practice based in New York City, Isabel Smith Nutrition, but she works with clients and corporations both nationwide and worldwide in a variety of areas including skin health, weight loss, gastrointestinal issues and allergies, sports nutrition, general wellness and more. As a Guided Reboot coach, Isabel has helped hundreds juice their way to better health. When she isn’t helping clients achieve optimal nutrition and wellness, she can be found trying and creating new juices and making other healthy recipes, running, cooking, spinning, practicing yoga, and enjoying time with her two Yorkshire terriers. Isabel is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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