Cancer Fighting Foods

Many people are not aware just how much our diet can affect our chances of getting cancer someday.  Here, I will go over the basics of what you can do to increase cancer fighting foods in your diet, and Lindsay has prepared some cancer fighting foods in delicious ways. 


You have probably heard of phytochemicals, but may not understand exactly what they are.  According to the American Cancer Society, phytochemicals are a “wide variety of compounds made by plants, but [the term is] mainly used to describe those compounds that may affect human health.”  Research has been ongoing for years on different phytochemicals.  Some phytochemicals you have probably heard of include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, lycopene (found in tomatoes), and  reservatrol (found in grapes).  These chemicals provide specific functions in plants, for instance lycopene in plants acts as a sunscreen to prevent sun damage in tomatoes.  These chemicals also affect the human body in different ways (research is showing lycopene protects our cells against sun damage as well).  Some phytochemicals have been found to prevent the formation of carcinogens, while others have been found to stop cancer growth.  Other phytochemicals are antioxidants and help prevent damage to our DNA which could someday result in cancerous cells.  

All plant based foods contain different phytochemicals, and scientists will probably never know all of the different chemicals in the different plants that we eat and how they function in our bodies.  So far, science does not suggest that taking phytochemical supplements is beneficial in the same way that eating fruits and vegetables is.  In fact, in some studies taking supplements of different phytochemicals is actually detrimental to our health.  For instance, in a recent study on patients taking reservatrol, the substance was found to actually decrease the benefits of exercise.  The reason supplements probably so far do not work, is that when we eat a whole fruit or vegetable we are getting many phytochemicals at once that all work together to create the changes to our body, and when we try to isolate one or another, they do not have the same affect.

Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Both the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research have been encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables.  The American Cancer Society recommends eating AT LEAST 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, while the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends all meals be at least 2/3 whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and 1/3 or less animal protein.

So, which fruits and vegetables are the best to eat?   In general, choose darker colored fruits and vegetables over lighter colored ones. Fruits and vegetables to focus on include:

  • Berries
    • Black and blue colored berries are especially high in certain protective phytochemicals.  Black raspberries have been investigated for their cancer fighting abilities
  • Crucifers (kale, broccoli, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) 
  • Alliums
    • Garlic – to allow more cancer fighting compounds to form, use a garlic press and let the garlic set for 10 minutes before cooking with it
    • Onions – look for smaller bulbs and avoid sweet onions, choose spicier ones instead, green onions and chives are even more nutritious than bulb onions
    • Shallots – these contain even more phytochemicals than most onions
    • Leeks – don’t throw away the green parts like often recommended, use them too
  • Beets and beet greens
  • Try to find purple potatoes and blue corn if you can!  They both have many more phytochemicals than the normal varieties
  • Leafy greens 
    • Choose red, purple, or dark green varieties, the fresher the better.  Arugula, dandelion greens, and spinach are extra nutritious.  
  • Beans  
    • Canned beans actually have a higher bioavailability of nutrients than home cooked (meaning your body can use these nutrients easier). 
    • Black beans have the most phytochemicals
    • Be careful of sodium content of canned beans and look for low sodium (I also like to avoid the BPA in cans but many companies are now switching to non BPA lined cans)
  • Peas
    • Look for snap peas or snow peas, the pea pods contain more nutrients than the shelled kind.
  • Artichokes 
    • while these are light in color they still have many beneficial phytochemicals
  • Stone fruits (cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots)
    • the white vareity of nectarines actually have more of certain beneficial phytochemicals than the regular variety, proving to be an exception to the rule that darker is better
    • Choose darker colored plums
    • Eat the skins!
  • Grapes
    • Choose darker colored grapes
  • Citrus Fruits
    • Oranges and ruby red graperfruit are good options
    • Use the peels too
  • Orange colored vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes – purple carrots are even better!
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce – the smaller and redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains, and for an even more concentrated source use tomato paste or tomato sauce — just watch the sodium content if you buy it canned or jarred, and if you make it yourself use the skins along with the rest of the tomato
  • Celery, Parsley, Chamomile – While I was doing some research on this, I came across an interesting article about how a compound found in large amounts in celery, parsley, and chamomile stops breast cancer cells from spreading.  Lindsay created a dish inspired by this article.

If you want more information on which fruits and vegetables to eat, the history of the fruit and vegetable, and tips for the most nutritious ways to prepare them check out the book Eating on the Wild Side  by Jo Robinson.  

If you would like more information on specific phytochemicals and what they do in our body check out the American Institute for Cancer Research’s page on phytochemicals:

Lindsay’s Recipes

Lindsay made two Brussels sprouts recipes, both a Brussels sprouts salad with strawberries, and roasted Brussels sprouts, my favorite way of eating them! For Lindsay’s recipe see:

Brussels Sprout, Strawberry Salad

 Brussel Sprouts

NutritionLabel - BrusselsSproutsStrawberries

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

NutritionLabel - BrusselsSprouts


Celery Pasta with Parsley Pesto

This is the cancer fighter with parsley and celery I mentioned above.  For Lindsay’s recipe see:


NutritionLabel - Celery Pasta

Steamed Beets with Beet Greens

I made a recipe similar to this recently, but I really like Lindsay’s simpler idea of steaming the beets and beet greens and just throwing them into a salad.  And the nutrition on this one is amazing, that is why beets are super foods!   For Lindsay’s recipe see:

photo (1)


NutritionLabel - Beets


Mixed Berries with Yogurt

This one looks so pretty and has lots of different phytochemicals with all of the different berries mixed together.  For Lindsay’s recipe see:

Yogurt and Berries

NutritionLabel - BerriesAndYogurt


Eating on the Wild Side  by Jo Robinson


  1. […] foods out there that have cancer fighting properties. Stephanie can tell you more and go into more detail. My job is to come up with things you can make at home. Things that are not hard, and don’t […]

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