Cancer Fighting Foods

Decrease your cancer risk by adding fruits and vegetables rich in protective compounds to your diet.

| May/June 2002

  • Resveratrol, a substance found in grape skins and seeds, is one of the most potent cancer-fighters occurring naturally in food.
  • The protective compounds found in whole foods can help decrease your risk of cancer.


The bad news is that one out of every three people in the United States will have some form of cancer during their lifetime. The good news is that an amazing array of compounds found in many whole vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and herbs has been shown to counteract numerous environmental carcinogens, both natural and human-made, to which we are often exposed. “Whole” is the key word, because while modern food processing allows manufacturers to ship and store foods for long periods of time, numerous life-giving and protective substances are removed along the way. In the mid-twentieth century, before food processing became widely practiced, people consumed many more foods in their whole state. This increased intake of fiber and phytochemicals may partly account for the lower incidence of certain kinds of cancers at that time.

The rise in cancer rates may also be associated with advanced screening methods. Additionally, only about half of the 75,000 compounds created in the chemist’s lab—chemicals that have entered our food and water—have been studied for any kind of human toxicity, so their carcinogenic potential is largely unknown.

Well-known cancer risk factors include smoking, alcohol, consumption of large quantities of animal fat, excessive sun exposure, certain chemicals in groundwater and foods, and asbestos. Here is a guide to some of nature’s most potent protectors found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. Make sure to serve yourself and your immune system these foods daily.

Chlorophyll is said to have an immune-enhancing effect. It’s found in beet greens, bok choy, collards, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, nettles and chlorella and other blue-green algae.

Carotenoids. Many brightly colored vegetables have lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene; carotenoids protect the delicate and vital fatty acids in your body from free-radical damage and can enhance immune response. Apricots, carrots, dark leafy greens, yams, squash, and tomatoes are good sources.

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