This is a great question and I am here to tell you not all cancers are created equal and not all cancers are food-related but will eating a healthy diet help you with your fight against or prevention of cancer? Absolutely!
If you don’t know my story, a very brief background is my grandmother, great grandmother, mother, and two of my partners have had cancer. In my twenties, I started volunteering at a pediatric cancer camp and I now work as a social worker therapist at a cancer center in Colorado. I would like to disclaim that I am not a nutritionist and this blog is written entirely from personal experience, observation, and research that I have compiled in hopes to eliminate confusion around foods and cancer. You should ALWAYS consult your medical providers before making diet changes, especially while undergoing cancer treatment, and even more importantly as Dr. Mamak Shakib has taught me, consult what agrees with your own reasoning and your own common sense.
What Are Cancer-Fighting Foods?
Cancer-fighting foods can be used when you already have a cancer diagnosis and you are trying to help your treatment or prognosis improve. They can be used for healing after a diagnosis and treatment. They can also be used in hopes of preventing cancer altogether. Cancer is completely non-discriminatory and unfortunately, anyone can get it, all ages, sizes, races, socio-economic statuses, it doesn’t matter. There is no clear indication that eating any certain diet will prevent or cure cancer all on its own, however, will having a good baseline of nutrition or changing your diet to be more in line with your diagnosis help your situation? In my mind, absolutely which is why I am choosing to share with you some cancer-fighting foods that can help you along your journey.
What Are Cancer-Preventing Foods?
According to WebMD the list of accessible foods that potentially aid in preventing cancer are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals (also known as phytonutrients). This list of cancer-preventing foods and drinks includes but is not limited to:
- Garlic: Stinky Breath, but Super Healthy
- Broccoli: Phytochemical Powerhouse
- Tomatoes: Potential Weapon Against Prostate Cancer
- Strawberries: Rich in Antioxidants
- Carrots: Best Eaten Cooked
- Spinach: A Super Carotenoid Source
- Whole Grains: Good for the Whole Body
What Are Good Cancer-Fighting Foods?
MD Anderson, a world-renowned cancer research and treatment center, has an extensive list
of 36 foods that may help lower the risk of cancer and would qualify as cancer-fighting foods. Their article also includes a simple grocery shopping graphic and guide. MD Anderson also promotes the use of phytochemicals in fighting cancer. Most importantly they provide a list of foods and drinks that can increase the risk of cancer occurrence or recurrence.
Foods That Can Increase Your Cancer Risk
“Just as there are foods that can reduce your cancer risk, there are foods that can increase it. Make it a point to steer clear of these foods when you go shopping.
- Avoid processed meat. Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and any meat you find at the deli counter, have compounds that cause cancer. Even processed meats that say they are “nitrate-free” or “uncured” should be avoided.
- Limit red meat. Aim for no more than 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week. Instead, choose lean chicken, fish, or plant-based protein.
- Avoid alcohol. Women should have no more than one serving of alcohol per day. Men should have no more than two servings of alcohol per day. Less is better.”
Cancer-Fighting Foods and Recipes
Stanford University, another leader in cancer care, research, and treatment has an extensive recipe list for folks living with cancer and their families.
I also threw in one of the featured recipes by: https://www.rebeccakatz.com/recipe-box/basil-broccoli#more-707
Broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are in the cruciferous vegetable family. What a wonderful group of vegetables with powerful phytochemicals including carotenoids, indoles, glucosinolates, and isothiocyanates. Many of these properties have been studied and shown to slow the growth of many cancers, including leukemia and melanoma. One compound, indole-3-carbinol, continues to be studied in that it appears to change the way estrogen is metabolized, which may stop cancer cells from dividing and growing and prevent damaged cells from turning cancerous.
- Makes 4 servings
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 1 bunch of broccoli
- sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper or cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut the broccoli florets off the stalks, then peel the stems and cut them into bite-size pieces. Add a pinch of salt and the broccoli florets and stems to the pot of water and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain the broccoli, then run it under cold water to stop the cooking process; this will retain its lush green color.
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds, just until aro- matic.
- Add the bell pepper and a pinch of salt and sauté for an additional minute.
- Stir in the broccoli florets and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sauté for 2 minutes; the broccoli should still be firm.
- Gently stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil, and serve immediately.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
COOK’S NOTE: No skimping on the basil! Not only does it contain powerful antioxidant properties, basil combined with the broccoli and the peppers or tomatoes really takes the flavor over the top. The combination of the bright green of the broccoli and the red of the bell peppers is beautiful, making this dish a feast for the eyes. Be sure to add the lemon juice and zest just before serving, as the lemon will dampen the color of the broccoli if it sits for more than a few minutes.
A low-microbial diet is often used during cancer treatment. This is a diet that helps patients to avoid harmful bacteria that can cause infection. This next recipe is safe for this kind of diet.
Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf with Dill (Stanford University)
Serves: 6 (approximately 1 cup per serving)
Per Serving: 312 calories, 8g fat, 51g carbs, 11g protein,6g fiber, 583mg sodium, 6mg chol
NOTE: This recipe is OK for those on the LMD (Low Microbial Diet) if cooking continues after pepper is added, leave off dill & chives (oranges = ok).
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 oz mixed dried mushrooms
- 2 cups quinoa (red or white)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallot, coarsely chopped
- 8 oz cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
- Coarse salt
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp finely chopped chives
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
- Bring stock to a boil; pour over dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Soak until soft, about 6 minutes. Pour liquid through a fine sieve into a bowl; set aside. Coursely chop soaked mushrooms; set aside.
- Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine sieve; drain.
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking; add fresh mushrooms, shallots, and ¼ tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms and shallots have released their liquid and are slightly caramelized for about 7 minutes.
- Add quinoa; cook, stirring until it begins to pop and crackle, about 5 minutes.
- Add reserved soaked mushrooms, reserved soaking liquid, and thyme to pot; bring to a boil. Stir; cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until quinoa is tender but still chewy, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in ¼ tsp salt, pepper to taste, and butter.
- Just before serving, stir in dill and chives; add oranges (if desired), and gently toss.
If you feel like you are wanting more recipes, tips, and tricks on mental health, mindset, relationships, and a roadmap to living your healthiest life, I have many more tips and tools for your toolbox where those came from. All of my meal plans include access to hundreds of recipes and short, easy, all levels workouts. If you have any specific recipes you would like or fitness program questions, always feel free to reach out to me. My mindset work is all-encompassing and can help you release trauma abs roadblocks to ensure a more balanced and joyful life.anks for reading.