Taking good care of yourself includes eating a healthy diet. And knowing which foods are good for you body can make choosing the right options a little easier. The temptation of fizzy sodas, salty French fries, and decadent pastries might make consuming a well-balanced diet challenging. But once you know how choosing the right foods can strengthen and heal your body, saying “no” to the wrong foods can become much less difficult.
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” In some ways, it’s true. Our bodies run on the nutrients and calories we place into it, after all. And medical professionals encourage us to eat healthy, not just for our current health, but for the state of our health for years to come. What we eat today may determine how healthy we are tomorrow. For example, some foods can cause cancer down the line. And on the other hand, there are foods that help to prevent and combat cancer.
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 1,700,000 people were diagnosed in 2019. Of that number, over 600,000 passed away. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Americans, accounting for one in four deaths. Only 5% of cancer is hereditary, meaning that 95% of cases can possibly be prevented. Working to weaken cancer’s grip means making healthy decisions on the part of each individual.
Cancer consists of mutated cells that rapidly multiply beyond control. Some cancer cells divide and can travel to other organs throughout the body, disrupting bodily functions. When this occurs, the cancer is called a “malignant” cancer. When malignant cancer cells travel to other parts of the body, it is called “mestatsis”.
Cancer cells don’t die in the same way typical human cells do. Instead, they multiply and take energy away from the body, which is why triggering the death of a cancer cell (apoptosis) is so important. In the same way that there are foods which encourage cancer cells to grow (processed meats, alcohol, etc.), there are also foods that cause cancer cells to die. The following are eight foods that can kill cancer cells and keep you healthy.
8. Cruciferous Vegetables
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli can help fight cancer. The nutrients in these veggies decrease the risk of cancer, especially in mouth, pharynx, lung, stomach, and colorectal (digestive) cancers. These foods are rich in antioxidants, which inhibit inflammation and regulate cell production.
Tomatoes, eaten raw or cooked, can help keep cancer cells in check. The main cancer-fighting nutrient in tomatoes is lycopene. Lycopene produces antioxidants and starts up the body’s antioxidant defenses. Lycopene has been found to target prostate cancer and decrease the risk of esophageal and breast cancers. A delicious way to get the most lycopene out of tomatoes is to cook or serve them with some oil, which helps the body absorb lycopene.
Coffee is good for you. But remember to consume all things in moderation, because too much coffee can cause sleepless nights and heart palpitations. Despite these side effects, coffee can reduce the risk of endometrial and liver cancer. The main antioxidant that gives coffee its cancer-fighting properties is called phenolic acid, which can create an environment in the body that’s less likely to encourage cancer growth.
5. Black and Green Tea
The Camellia sinensis plant is what green and black tea is made from. The only difference between black and green tea is the length of fermentation the tea undergoes. Green tea receives less fermentation than black tea and tastes very different, yet they come from the same plant!
Although both can be beneficial, green tea contains more cancer-fighting nutrients because it goes through less fermentation. A chemical called EGCG is the key ingredient that gives the tea its cancer-fighting strength. Research shows teas may help to decrease bladder, lung, and prostate cancer.
The caffeine in tea also has health benefits. If coffee has too much caffeine, you may find that teas have just the right amount to keep you awake without the jitters. And a cup of green or black tea has other antioxidants, too.
Not just for keeping away vampires, garlic also helps to keep away cancer. The allium compounds in garlic inhibit the production of carcinogens, curbing the creation of cancer-causing cells. Allium also decreases cancer risk by reducing inflammation, boosting the repair of damaged DNA, and limiting a tumor’s ability to create blood vessels.
Turmeric, a spice used often in Indian food, contains curcumin. Its pretty golden color comes from this chemical. If you like your food spicy, then you’re in luck. Turmeric works better when combined with pepper, which boosts its cancer-fighting ability. In more than 1,500 studies, curcumin has been shown to curb cancer cell growth and initiate apoptosis. One downside to turmeric is that it has to be consumed regularly to be effective, but finding new ways to add it to everyday recipes can do the trick.
Blueberries are high in bioflavonoids, which cause them to be a vivid blue color. These bioflavonoids, called anthocyanins, have strong antioxidant properties. Blueberries also contain pterostilbene, a compound that kills cancer cells in the lung, pancreas, and breast. Other berries that have a red or blue color, like strawberries and raspberries, also have excellent antioxidant properties and help to fight cancer.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and it may keep cancer at bay, too. Apples are an excellent source of dietary fiber and antioxidants, reducing cancer risk. Flavanols, contained in high amounts in apples, inhibit the growth of cancer cells and destroy abnormal cells. Apples may also create a healthier environment in the digestive system, which decreases inflammation and digestive system cancers.
You may have noticed that a colorful diet, high in fruits and vegetables, can help fight cancer. It’s also essential to remember that there’s no magic bullet to prevent or treat cancer. You can, however, lower your risk of cancer by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. Stick to a variety of fruits and vegetables, avoid saturated fats, maintain your weight, exercise regularly, manage stress, and avoid smoking to lower your cancer risk and stay healthy.