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You have likely heard your doctor talk about the benefits of including more vegetables and fruits in your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that research has shown that certain vegetables and fruits can help prevent cancer? 

A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet and physical activity are key factors to help prevent cancer. Not one food or food group will cause or cure cancer. Still, research has shown that diets rich in fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein will provide you with various phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber that your body needs to function optimally to reduce cancer risk. 

Consult with a registered dietitian if you need help making healthful changes to your diet. If you are receiving treatment for cancer, the same food guidelines do not always apply. Your oncology care team will help advise the best nutrition plan during your cancer treatment regimen. 


What foods can help fight cancer?

"As much as possible, you should aim for the food forms of these nutrients rather than take supplements," said Mandy Li, MS, RD, CDN, CNSC, Senior Clinical Dietitian at The Cancer Institute at St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center®.



Dark, leafy greens like kale and broccoli contain vitamins C, K, folic acid, and manganese. Research shows that the carotenoids (naturally occurring pigments) in dark green leafy vegetables can act as antioxidants, which helps to stop free radicals from causing DNA damage that can lead to cancer. 



Garlic, onions, chives, leeks and scallions have a high sulfur content and a major bioactive compound called allicin. Research shows this can help repair DNA and boost enzymes that detoxify carcinogens.



Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, are high in fiber. Research has shown that a diet high in fiber may help lower the risk of certain cancers. 



All nuts may lower the risk of certain cancers. Walnuts have been the most studied because of their unique cancer-fighting compounds that may reduce oxidative stress (excess free radicals in the body's cells), inflammation and gene expression that can lead to cancer.



Berries, including blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, contain phytochemicals and nutrients that have shown increased antioxidant activity and the potential to prevent DNA damage that can cause cancer.


Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and anchovies, are rich in vitamin B, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids that may lower the risk of cancer.


Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, including oranges and lemons, are high-antioxidant foods that may reduce the risk of certain cancers.


Although research is ongoing about how certain foods can prevent certain cancers, incorporating the above foods into your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle will benefit your overall health. Remember to check with your doctor before adding new foods to your diet, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions.

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