People often talk about berries, fatty fish, walnuts, and other items as cancer-fighting foods. It means they contain nutrients that may lower the risk of developing cancer.

No foods protect people against cancer completely, but some foods contain nutrients that may help reduce the risk.

It is worth noting that polyphenols, resveratrol, vitamin C, and other nutrients are present in many plant-based foods. Consuming a varied diet that includes the items mentioned below may help keep a person healthy and reduce their risk of cancer.

This article looks at some foods that may lower the risk of cancer. It also explains the science that supports these claims.

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There may be some truth to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples contain polyphenols that have promising anticancer properties.

Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that may prevent inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

Some research suggests that polyphenols may modulate certain processes that can lead to cancer development.

One 2018 study suggests that apple phloretin significantly inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells while not affecting healthy cells.

This polyphenol inhibits a protein called glucose transporter 2 (GLUT2), which plays a role in advanced-stage cell growth in certain types of cancer.

Are apples good for people with diabetes?

Berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Their antioxidant content may mean they have health benefits.

One study shows that anthocyanin, a compound in blackberries, lowers biomarkers for colon cancer.

Another study demonstrates that the anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries can prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.

The authors of a 2016 research article suggest that the anthocyanins, flavonoids, and other antioxidants in berries may mean they can help prevent cancer or even reverse the process of early cell changes.

There is also evidence they may help prevent or slow the development of various cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Can berries help fight cancer?

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, contain beneficial nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.

Cruciferous vegetables also contain sulforaphane, a plant compound with potential anticancer properties.

One study shows that sulforaphane significantly inhibits cancer cell growth and stimulates cell death in colon cancer cells.

Other research shows that sulforaphane in combination with genistein — a compound in soybeans — can significantly inhibit breast cancer tumor development and size. Sulforaphane also inhibits histone deacetylase, an enzyme with links to cancer development.

One review suggests 3–5 servings of cruciferous vegetables per week may have cancer-preventive effects.

Carrots contain several essential nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin A, and antioxidants.

Carrots also contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which is responsible for the distinct orange color.

Recent studies reveal that beta-carotene plays a vital role in supporting the immune system and may prevent certain types of cancer.

One review has linked beta-carotene to a reduction in the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Another analysis shows that higher consumption of carrots results in a 26% lower risk of developing stomach cancer.

Should people with diabetes eat carrots?

Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and anchovies, is rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamin B, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

One study found that people with diets high in freshwater fish had a 53% lower risk for colorectal cancer than those low in freshwater fish.

Another study found that consuming fish oil later in life may be linked to a significantly lower risk for prostate cancer.

Finally, a review of data for 68,109 people found that those who consumed fish oil supplements at least four times a week were 63% less likely to develop colon cancer than those who did not.

What are the best fish to eat for health?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, all nuts appear to have cancer-preventing properties, but scientists have studied walnuts more than other types.

Walnuts contain a substance called pedunculagin, which the body metabolizes into urolithins. Urolithins are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and may play a role in preventing breast cancer.

In one animal study, mice receiving whole walnuts and walnut oil had higher levels of tumor-suppressing genes than the mice receiving vegetable oil.

In 2019, females with breast cancer ate walnuts for 2 weeks between the date of their biopsy and the day of surgery.

Researchers tested tumor tissue samples removed during surgery and compared them with the original biopsy results. They found signs that genetic changes had taken place, which could suggest the suppression of cancerous cell growth.

What other health benefits do walnuts have?

Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, are high in fiber, which may help lower the risk of some types of cancer.

One review shows a link between higher legume consumption and a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Another study examined the relationship between the intake of bean fiber and the risk of breast cancer.

The study results indicated that people with diets high in bean fiber were 20% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not meet their daily fiber intake.

What other high fiber foods are there?

Resveratrol, an antioxidant in red grape skins, has shown promise as a tool for fighting cancer. Some scientists believe that, with further research, it could be harnessed as a cancer therapy.

As well as resveratrol, grapes and grape seeds also contain the following nutrients, which have antioxidant and possibly cancer-fighting properties:

  • flavonols
  • phenolic acids
  • anthocyanins (in red and purple grapes)
  • proanthocyanidins and other tannins
  • catechins

What is grape seed extract?

Supplements can also provide nutrients and antioxidants that may help prevent cancer by reducing oxidative stress, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

Most of the plant-based compounds listed throughout this article, such as phloretin, anthocyanin, and sulforaphane, come in pill form.

Always speak with a medical professional before starting a new medication or supplement regimen.

Research into preventing cancer through diet is still in the early stages and requires further testing. Scientists carried out most of the studies mentioned in cells or mice.

However, it is important to remember that eating a balanced diet high in fresh fruits, vegetables, and good fats will benefit overall health.

Learn more

How can diet reduce the risk of the following cancer types?