LAWRENCEVILLE - No single food or food substances can protect against cancer.
But scientists believe a combination of foods in a predominantly plant-based diet may be effective in warding off the dreaded "c-word."
Evidence is mounting that the minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals in plant foods interact to provide extra cancer protection. Additionally, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans are shown to protect against weight gain, a culprit in the development of cancer, experts say.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the following foods can help fight cancer:
Beans: The active ingredients in beans that scientists believe may play a role in cancer prevention include: saponins, protease inhibitors and phytic acid. These compounds, called phytochemicals, are found naturally in plants and appear to protect our cells from damage that can lead to cancer.
Berries: High in vitamin C, berries are shown to protect against cancer of the esophagus, while foods containing dietary fiber decrease one's risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale - protect against some types of cancers. This protective effect is strongest for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and stomach.
Dark green leafy vegetables: Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, and chicory are excellent sources of fiber, folate and a wide range of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, along with saponins and flavonoids. Carotenoids are shown to protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx.
Flaxseed: Flax is the richest plant source of alphalinolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. In several large scale studies, this fat has shown promising health benefits, including offering protection from heart disease.
Garlic: Garlic protects against stomach cancer. Moreover, evidence suggests that garlic, in particular, decreases the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.
Grapes and grape juice: Scientists believe that polyphenols, a substance found grapes, and resveratrol, in particular, possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In laboratory studies, resveratrol has been able to prevent the kind of damage known to trigger the cancer process.
Green tea: In laboratory studies, green tea has been shown to slow or completely prevent cancer development in colon, liver, breast and prostate cells. Other studies involving green tea have shown similar protective effects in tissues of the lung, skin and digestive tract.
Tomatoes: The tomato's red hue comes primarily from a phytochemical called lycopene, which studies show protects against prostate cancer.
Whole grains: Whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and hundreds of natural plant compounds, called phytochemicals, which protect cells from the types of damage that may lead to cancer.