14 Anti-Cancer Foods

By Sally Kuzemchak, M.S. R.D., Family Circle

“What you eat and how much you consume makes a difference when it comes to cancer,” says Colleen Doyle, R.D., director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. The first step: Limit your intake of sweets and unhealthy fats. Focus on the term “occasional treat,” with the stress on occasional. Step two: Incorporate the following foods into your everyday meals and snacks; pick at least two a day for a week’s worth of protection. They’re nutritional powerhouses and have all shown promise in the fight against cancer.


Serving = 1 cup soy milk, 4 ounces tofu, or 1/2 cup shelled edamame

Soy may lower the risk for breast and prostate cancers. You’ll get more benefit from whole soy (edamame, tofu and soy milk) than from foods with processed soy protein (energy bars), says Alice Bender, R.D., a dietician with the American Institute for Cancer Research. One caution: Some women with breast cancer should avoid soy – talk with your doctor.


Serving = 1 cup

Berries contain antioxidants that reduce and repair the kind of damage to cells that can lead to cancer. When they’re not in season, choose frozen berries since they’re typically just as healthy as fresh.



Serving = 1 cup

Tea has antioxidants called catechins that may block certain enzymes that lead to cancer. In animal research, stomach, liver and skin tumors shrank in mice fed green or black tea. Steeping tea for at least five minutes releases the most antioxidants.

Fatty Fish

Serving = 3 ounces

Several studies have indicated that the mega-healthy components of fish – like omega-3 fatty acids – guard against cancer (just as they do against cardiovascular disease), but experts stress that more trials are necessary. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3s.


Serving = 1 clove or 1 teaspoon minced

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, garlic may lower your risk for colon cancer with compounds that block tumor formation and cancer cell growth in the colon.



Serving = 1/4 cup

All nuts may prevent cancer. Peanuts in particular have been linked to a lower rate of endometrial and colorectal cancers in women. The protective benefits of nuts most likely come from antioxidant compounds like folic acid and magnesium, according to a research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Serving = 1 to 2 tablespoons, ground

Researchers say the lignans, compounds that act like antioxidants, in this high-fiber seed may help reduce the growth and spread of breast cancer. Grind flaxseed before eating (or buy ground instead of whole) to better absorb the nutrients.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Serving = 1/2 cup

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli pack sulfur-containing compounds that may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Studies have linked them to lower rates of lung, liver, colon, breast and endometrial cancers.


Sweet Potatoes

Serving = 1 medium potato

Beta-carotene, the antioxidant that gives sweet potatoes (as well as carrots, cantaloupe and mangoes) their orange color, may help prevent the damage to cell membranes that leads to cancer.

Low-Fat Dairy

Serving = 1 cup

In recent research, premenopausal women who had at least one serving a day of low-fat yogurt or milk reduced their breast cancer risk. Most dairy products also contain vitamin D, which has been associated with lower risk for pancreatic and colorectal cancers.


Serving = 1 cup

Red and purple grapes contain the same disease-fighting compound found in wine – resveratrol – which has been shown to slow the growth of cancer cells and block tumor formation in the liver, stomach and breast. Lycopene, the pigment that gives grapes their color, also boasts cancer-fighting properties.


Leafy Greens

Serving = 1 to 2 cups raw

Dark green leafy vegetables are loaded with folate, a B vitamin that helps repair damaged DNA that’s vulnerable to cancer. Some studies suggest it may guard against GI cancers in particular – and possibly breast cancer too.


Serving = 1/2 cup cooked

Having meatless meals can slash your risk for cancer, so consider eating more beans (such as black, pinto, lima and kidney) as well as other legumes (like lentils and black-eyed peas). Postmenopausal women whose diets contain lots of beans have lower rates of invasive breast cancer.

Whole Grains

Serving = 1 slice bread, 1 cup cereal, or 1/2 cup brown rice or pasta

Compared with refined grains (like white bread and regular pasta), whole grains have much more fiber, which may protect against colorectal cancers because it helps move food through your digestive system faster. At least half of your daily grain servings should be whole grains.


Strive to add cancer-fighting foods to your diet while keeping in mind these daily recommendations:

Every Day Consume at Least:

  • 3 to 4 servings of whole grains
  • 3 servings of fruit
  • 4 servings of vegetables
  • 8 cups of water

Originally published in the October 1, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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Janet B.
Janet B3 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Lisa Taylor
Lisa Taylor3 years ago

Dairy is inflammatory, consistently listed as one of the top ten food allergens, and if not organic, contains pus, blood, growth hormones, and antibiotics. Why? To produce more milk cows are given hormones. Producing and holding too much milk often causes the infection, mastitis of the udder, for which antibiotics are used to clear up. Inflammatory foods cause inflammation in the body; just about all diseases are caused by inflammation, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes type II.

Just the name, "fatty fish," should alert you that fish isn't good for you. It does contain about 50% fat, only 1-2% of it being omega-3s. That's right. I won't even get into mercury and other toxins in fish and growth hormones (the latter for farmed fish). Guess what else? We don't really need omega-3s. If you don't believe that, at least do the research into just how much is in fish. 1-2%. The rest are bad fats. Almost 50%. True nutritional knowledge is withheld and misrepresented. Why are heart disease and cancer still the top two killers in the US with all this fish and low-fat dairy people are conned into eating? Then ask why researchers have been touting, "We're THIS close to finding a cure for cancer," for 40 years.

You have to take responsibility for your own preventive healthcare because doctors and hospitals are pressured by pharmaceutical companies to push drugs. Why is hospital food so bad? Why do so many develop an additional illness while in hospital for another illness's tr

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Good to know.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Eat smart with proper physical exercise as well

Monika Ka
Monika K3 years ago


Don Swanz
Don Swanz3 years ago

"Thank you". Great ideas that must be repeated often for those of us who have those "Senior Moments" and "Brain Farts". Don and WE CAN! :-))

Sandra Penna
Sandra Penna3 years ago


Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K4 years ago

I enjoy most of these foods already, but I don't eat a lot of soy. Will try to only get fermented tofu. Thanks and happy 2014.

Margaret Skeel
Margaret Skeel4 years ago

My only worry with soy these days is that so much of it is GMO soy.