To Fight Cancer, Put These Foods on Your Plate

Want to plan meals with the plant-based foods your body needs? Here’s what to put on the menu — and how it can help keep you healthy.

3:07 PM

Author | Kimberly Knight

Not only will a healthful diet add color and variety to your meals, but it also can help thwart cancer or reduce the risk of a cancer coming back.

That is why plant-based foods, not dietary supplements, are the best source for cancer-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants.

But how does snacking on nuts or roasting sweet potatoes affect long-term wellness? It all comes down to the natural healing and preventive powers that lie within the cuisine.

Here's a look at some of those elements in play and the best foods to incite them.

Phytochemical power

As naturally occurring substances, phytochemicals provide flavor, protection, color and smell to a plant.

When we eat foods that contain phytochemicals, they stimulate our immune systems and work to fight off cancer by killing or slowing the growth rate of cancerous cells; helping repair DNA; and regulating hormones, among other benefits.

Foods that are rich in phytochemicals include:

  • Berries

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Carrots

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Soy (tofu, soy milk)

  • Pomegranates

  • Tea

Antioxidant advantages

Antioxidants — which include some vitamins, nutrients and many phytochemicals — help protect the body from damage by harmful molecules known as "free radicals." When found in high amounts, free radicals can contribute to the development of cancer.

Antioxidants help keep your immune system in balance, too.

While the body produces some antioxidants on its own, dietary support is crucial. Boost your antioxidant intake with these foods:

Vitamin A

  • Apricots

  • Broccoli

  • Prunes

  • Squash

  • Sweet potatoes

Vitamin C

  • Berries

  • Citrus fruits

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Tomatoes

Vitamin E

  • Nuts

  • Vegetables, vegetable oil

  • Whole grains


  • Garlic

  • Whole grains

Although you don't need to become a vegetarian or vegan to fight cancer, eating a varied diet rich in plant foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans — has been shown to offer protection from cancer and prevent recurrence.

So mix it up! Try to eat as many types, combinations and colors of food as you can.

More Articles About: Preventative health and wellness Nutrition Wellness and Prevention
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Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

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