According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The causes of cancer are broad and varied; some are known and some are unknown. Known causes result from a combination of poor diet, environmental factors, and genes.

Poor diet and environmental risk factors are typically classified as modifiable risk factors, meaning they can be changed or improved to prevent increased risk. Whereas the genes you are born with cannot be changed, however, their expression can be influenced by diet and/or environment.

Our purpose here is to focus on diet improvements to prevent cancer; more specifically we will take a look at cancer fighting foods readily available in the summer and how they work to prevent this deleterious disease.

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Diet improvements can make a significant impact on lowering your cancer risk. Improvements consist of consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. These foods are nutrient dense, meaning that they are packed with vital nutrients for maintaining health and preventing cancer, without an overload of calories.

Consuming nutrient dense foods will also help decrease weight and body mass index (BMI). Therefore, nutrient dense foods serve two purposes in cancer prevention: weight loss and eating cancer preventative foods.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, carrying extra weight increases your risk for several cancers. Increased cancer risk from excess body fat particularly pertains to excess around the waist. This excess fat increases hormone levels and inflammation, both of which increase cancer risk. Therefore, decreasing weight to a healthy range through diet improvements should also be a priority in decreasing cancer risk.

Your goal should be to incorporate nutrient dense foods by filling 2/3 of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans on most days of the week. The focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains results from their high vitamin, mineral, phytochemical and antioxidant content. These are all essential nutrients in keeping the body healthy and working correctly while preventing abnormal cancer cells from forming.

There are 10 cancer fighting foods that you must consume this summer

You will notice that most of the foods listed are rich in colors including dark reds, bright oranges and deep purples. These colors are indicative of flavonoids, lycopene, and beta-carotenes, which are all classified as either phytochemicals or antioxidants. These are the nutrients responsible for preventing and fighting cancer.

Your body produces what are called free radicals. Free radicals float through your bloodstream and have the ability to become involved in oxidative reactions. These oxidative reactions set off chain reactions that can result in DNA and cell damage to the extent that cancer-forming cells are given the green light to proliferate. Antioxidants and phytochemicals step in to stop these oxidative chain reactions, therefore halting cells from becoming damaged and cancerous.

cancer fighting foods

1) Blueberries 

Contain vitamins C, K, and the mineral manganese. Blueberries also contain flavonoids that give them their deep purple color. Vitamin C, acting as an antioxidant, in addition to the flavonoids help decrease free radical damage to DNA that can lead to cancer. Studies show blueberries help to decrease mouth, breast, colon and prostate cancer.

2) Strawberries

Contain fiber, vitamin C, manganese and ellagic acid. Research has shown ellagic acid to employ several cancer fighting methods including acting as an antioxidant, helping the body deactivate carcinogens, and helping to slow the production of cancer cells. Strawberries have been shown to decrease mouth, breast, cervical, colon and prostate cancer.

Why not check out these amazing Strawberry smoothie recipes

3) Watermelon

Contains vitamins C, A, and potassium. Watermelon is rich in lycopene, which is a beta-carotene antioxidant that has been shown to decrease prostate cancer. Watermelon is also a good source of fiber, which plays a role in weight control.

4) Peaches

Contain vitamin C and potassium. The bright orange color of peaches also comes from beta-carotene, which helps protect DNA and control cell growth in ways that may reduce cancer risk. Peaches are also a good source of fiber, which plays a role in weight control.

5) Grapes

Both red and green grapes are rich in resveratrol. Resveratrol is a phytochemical that has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown resveratrol to have the ability to slow the growth of cancer cells and inhibit formation of tumors in the skin, liver, colon, prostate, and breast cells. Note that resveratrol is beneficial only in the fruit form, but not in the wine form since alcohol has been shown to increase risk of certain types of cancer.

6) Tomatoes

Contain lycopene, which is a beta-carotene antioxidant. Research has particularly inked tomatoes to a decrease in prostate cancer risk, since lycopene tends to concentrate in the tissues of the prostate. The cancer fighting potential of tomatoes increases when tomatoes are consumed in their processed form, such as in tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato juice. This is because processing allows these natural components to be more readily absorbed in the body.

7) Dark green leafy vegetables

Contain a variety of carotenoids, which act as antioxidants. Research has shown these carotenoids to be protective against mouth, pharynx and larynx cancer. Dark green leafy vegetables have also been shown to slow the production of certain types of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung and stomach cancer. Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard are examples of dark green leafy vegetables that contain these cancer-fighting benefits.

You’ll find tons of these in this 10 day green smoothie cleanse

8) Whole grains

Contain several nutrients that play a role in preventing cancer. Such nutrients include fiber, phytic acids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, protease inhibitors, resistant starch, flavonoids and tocotrienols (vitamin E). There are a wide variety of whole grains, which makes it difficult to specifically pinpoint their cancer-fighting properties, although some highlighted benefits pertain to fiber, antioxidant and phytochemical properties.

Fiber, which is present in all whole grains, lowers cancer risk by diluting carcinogens and promoting growth of healthful gut bacteria. Fiber also helps maintain healthy body weight, which contributes to decreased cancer risk.

9) Flaxseed

Contains fiber, flavonoids in the form of lignins, alpha-linolenic acid, and gamma-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E. Lignins and gamma-tocopherol are antioxidants that have cancer-fighting properties. Research has shown flaxseed to be protective against breast, colon and prostate cancers.

10) Cherries

Both sweet and tart cherries are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and contain potassium. Tart cherries are also an excellent source of vitamin A. Both sweet and tart cherries contain phytochemicals and have great antioxidant power. The deep red color comes from anthocyanins, an antioxidant. Due to the fiber, nutrient and phytochemical content of cherries, research has shown them to be protective against colorectal, mouth, esophagus, lung and stomach cancers.

Remember variety is key. Consuming just one of the foods listed above is not enough; you need a healthy balance of all the foods listed in order to gain a combination of all the cancer-fighting benefits these foods provide.

To achieve this, why not try a Balanced diet and workout plan, designed by a professional?

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