- Fresh Berries
- Seasonal fruit
- Eat a Mediterranean diet
- Chicken breast
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Celery, carrots, and onions
- Sweet potatoes
- Pasture-raised Eggs
- Plain Greek yoghurt
You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Eat the rainbow’. This nutrition rule of thumb means it’s wise to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, ideally that vary in colour, to get a range of important nutrients, as Dr Renee Stubbins, PhD, an oncology dietitian explains. “Having a variety of fruit and vegetables on hand provides your body with a broad range of antioxidant protection.” Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells from damage and have been shown to protect the body from cancer, and “that variety helps protect our bodies from disease,” Dr Stubbins says. Filling your belly with more plants can also be a solid way to trim down, as 2022 CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) data points out that people who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for these 13 types of cancers:
- Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
- Breast cancer (in post-menopausal women, the CDC specifies)
- Colon and rectal cancers
- Uterine cancer
- Upper stomach
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Meningioma (a type of brain cancer)
- Multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting the blood, bones, immune system, and more.
Eating the rainbow is a worthy goal…but if it feels like carving out the space in your week to meal-plan is a task in itself, Dr Stubbins has created a shortcut by opening her fridge for Reader’s Digest to reveal what she herself stocks up on to stay well.
No surprise they’re first on the list, berries are famously high in antioxidants. Blueberries often get all the cancer-fighting praise, but almost any berry you eat packs a powerfully nutritious punch. An easy way to keep them in reach? “Typically, I always have frozen berries for smoothies and yoghurt bowls,” Dr Stubbins says.
A popular fruit, and not just because they’re so easy to grab. In one 2021 study in the peer-reviewed Frontiers in Oncology, the anticancer properties in bananas showed promise for creating cancer prevention drugs. Dr Stubbins says she loves to keep bananas on hand for smoothies.
This citrus fruit is bright in more ways than one: eating them delivers plenty of vitamin C, flavonoids, and, who knew, dietary fibre to your diet. There is substantial research that shows dietary fibre in food can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
Especially in autumn, apples and pears are some of the season’s stars. And even in colder climates during autumn, farmers markets can be a ripe place to stock up since Dr Stubbins says that’s where fresh, seasonal fruit “is easier found” than at big-box supermarkets. Crunchy and sweet, apples have both polyphenol compounds and dietary fibre, which work with microbes in your gut to potentially lower the chance of cancer. Some studies have shown that eating apples could reduce the chances of oestrogen receptor negative (ER-), a type of breast cancer. Meanwhile, pears have vitamin C, potassium and are an excellent source of fibre.
Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and A as well as beta-carotene and lycopene, a type of carotenoid. One study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition spanned 20 years to show that eating food rich in carotenoids may decrease the risk of breast cancer. (Lycopene has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.) Dr Stubbins says she loves eating tomatoes in a caprese salad.
Pumpkins are another carotenoid-rich category, while delivering beta-carotene and vitamin C. In a 2020 review in Antioxidants, food with carotenoids were believed to help lower the risk of breast cancer (though the authors stated that more research was needed).
Dr Stubbins says for her, capsicums are “always on hand for adding to lunches to dip in hummus.” Capsicums are a good source of carotenoids and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C and potassium.
Eat a Mediterranean diet
Speaking of hummus, chickpeas are the base for the Middle Eastern dip. A type of legume, chickpeas have folate, protein and dietary fibre, which makes you feel full longer.
We all need protein, and recent studies have shown that opting for a lean protein, like chicken, is a healthier pick than processed meats for lowering the risk of colorectal, oesophageal and lung cancer. To help with meal prep, Dr Stubbins says, “I will marinate on Sunday and then cook later in the week.” You know not to eat raw chicken, but here are 8 foods that you should be eating raw.
This dark, leafy green has carotenoids and antioxidants, helping the body prevent free radicals from harming DNA that could cause cancer. (Kale also contains vitamin C, folate, calcium, dietary fibre and beta-carotene.) Dr Stubbins suggests there’s no harm in taking a shortcut when it comes to working more kale into your diet. “I buy it already washed and prepped [because] it’s easier to add to soups or make a quick salad,” she says.
Once again, Dr Stubbins goes for pre-washed, bagged spinach. “[It’s] easier to add to smoothies or make a quick salad,” she says. Spinach is loaded with vitamin C, fibre and beta-carotene and may have phytochemicals that can protect against cancer. Fruit and veg spoiling too quickly? Here are 19 produce mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
Cruciferous vegetables – think broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower – contain folate, beta-carotene, vitamin C and dietary fibre. (Fun fact: this family of vegetables is called “cruciferous” from Latin, thanks to the fact that they’re picked from the stem and then branch out, vaguely resembling a cross.) For one, Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and protect the body from free radicals. And broccoli contains sulforaphane, a compound that one 2017 nutritional biochemistry study found may protect against prostate cancer, due to the minimising of the long noncoding RNAs preventing cancerous cells from spreading. Additionally, a study published in Nutrition and Cancer found that cruciferous vegetables may protect against ovarian cancer. Dr Stubbins shared one of her favourite ways to use cruciferous vegetables: “I love making cabbage steaks or stir-fry with cabbage [and other cruciferous vegetables],” she says.
Celery, carrots, and onions
Carrots, celery and onions are staple ingredients for Dr Stubbins, who says, “I always have [them] on hand for soups. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which contributes to their bright orange colour, as well as carotenoids and phytochemicals. Research has shown that non-starchy fruit and vegetables might actually reduce the risk of different cancers, including mouth, lung, oesophageal, colorectal and stomach cancers. Celery contains beta-carotene, vitamin C and a variety of antioxidants. Onions are part of the allium family and contain antioxidants. A 2019 Phytotherapy Research review suggested that 16 types of alliums contain anti-cancer properties.
These mahogany-skinned potatoes with bright orange flesh (though sometimes purple or white), are a good source of beta-carotene and fibre. They also have antioxidants that help the body fight free radicals. Dr Stubbins’ favourite way to eat sweet potatoes is when they’re roasted.
In addition to their famed protein content, eggs contain significant amounts of choline, an essential nutrient that supports metabolism, nerve function and more. Some research suggests choline lowers cancer risk by keeping DNA healthy, though more studies are needed. Dr Stubbins has a friend who raises chickens, so she says she’s a fan of pasture-raised eggs. “I prefer the taste,” she says. That’s a good friend indeed. Can’t even cook with eggs? Here are 10 mistakes you might be making with eggs.
Plain Greek yoghurt
A 2021 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that dairy foods high in calcium may help lower the risk for breast cancer. Dr Stubbins says, “I use plain Greek yoghurt for breakfast, smoothies and as a replacement for sour cream in recipes.”
Similar to the other calcium-rich foods that recent research suggests may help fend off breast cancer, Dr Stubbins says cheese is one of her go-to snacks – for herself, or if she needs an easy appetiser for visitors. Can you freeze cheese? Here’s what you need to know. Sign up here to get Reader’s Digest’s favourite stories straight to your inbox! Source: RD.com