By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You’ve probably noticed tons of pink everything commemorating the month: pink ribbons, NFL players wearing pink, signs and banners for walks and charity events and more.
While there’s a lot of awareness and information about what you can do to help lower your risk for breast cancer (amongst other types of cancers), I often find I’m curious about specific foods that you can eat to help promote overall wellness and help with cancer prevention. To help you identify foods that contain various anti-cancer properties — while sticking to the theme of everything pink in the month of October — I’ve highlighted some of my favorite pinkish produce that contain anti-cancer properties and ways for you to include them.
Red cabbage is a delicious, fresh and crunchy veggie that’s also loaded with healthy properties including fiber and loads of nutrients. One of the key anti-cancer nutrients is one called Indole-3-carbinol, which may help to prevent cancer and help to promote detoxifying enzymes in the gut and liver. Some research suggests that it may help to slow cancer growth in some animals. Try this Beet and Red Cabbage Slaw with Garlic Aoili.
Also known as the wolfberry, goji berries contain properties that may help to prevent cells from cancer by boosting immune function in the body. Goji berries have long been used to treat inflammation in the body and help to treat aches and pains in the body too. Use goji berries in your smoothie or on your oats or in your trail mix. Try this Go-Go Goji Berry Smoothie.
Pomegranates are a tasty and fresh fruit that contain a ton of healthy nutrients. Specifically pomegranates contain plant-based chemicals called ellagitannins that may help to prevent growth of certain types of cancer cells, including breast cancer cells. Pomegranates also contain many antioxidants that help the cells to repair from damage, as well as the the anti-inflammatory compound anthocyanin that may also help the body heal from damage at a cellular level. Try this Avocado Pomegranate and Pine Nut Salad.
Beets often get a bad wrap because they’re supposed to be higher in sugar, but this really isn’t the case. Beets are actually a powerhouse when it comes to nutrients. They’re loaded with healthy electrolytes that help to promote hydration and fluid balance, and beet juice has been found to help promote athletic endurance. Additionally, beets are a source of anti-inflammatory anthocyanin that some studies suggest may help slow tumor growth. Beets also contain betalains that may help to suppress cancer cell growth and promote cardiovascular health too. Try this delicious Beet Burger.
Radishes are often forgotten in a list of foods that are good for us. They’re part of the cruciferous vegetable family and contain loads of healthy properties. Radishes contain properties that help to promote release of toxins from the body and liver. Additionally like cabbage, radishes contain indole-3-carbinol that may help to deactivate estrogen and thereby help to reduce breast cancer (and other hormonal cancers). Try this tasty Radish and Pear Juice.
Carrots, like beets, often get a bad wrap for being apparently higher in sugar. It’s a reputation they don’t deserve since carrots are a great source of key nutrients. Carrots are a source of the powerful antioxidant and cancer-preventing nutrient, beta carotene, and the purple varieties are also a source of anti-inflammatory anthocyanin as well. All varieties of carrots are healthful, but you get an extra boost of anti-inflammatory nutrients from the purple varieties. Try this tasty Roasted Carrots and Avocado Salad.