Cancer is among the top killers of the world today, likely affecting every single one of us, whether we know someone with cancer or who has has dealt with it, or if we’ve struggled with it personally. Though none of us can be 100 percent safe from any health concern, we do have substantial research showing us foods that can help us fight the disease everyone wants to avoid. And while one or two foods may not cure cancer, may not make up for an otherwise unhealthy diet, or may not provide the same amount of benefits for everyone, many natural foods have certain nutrients shown to help us fight the ongoing war with this disease.

Where to Start

A whole foods, plant-based diet has been one of the most well-studied diets in its ability to fight cancer. Dairy and meat have specifically been linked to promoting cancer cell growth, so start with avoiding animal products, quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption. Aside from those important items, it’s important that you pack your diet out with vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, and other plant-based eating staples have all been shown to fight cancer naturally. Here are five to put on your plate a little more often.

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Let prevention begins with the very next bite!

1. Cabbage

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From sauerkraut to boiled cabbage, to soup and raw dishes, cabbage is an incredible food to help fight disease. In terms of fighting off cancer, cabbage contains many antioxidants, one that is known as sulforaphane that helps to fight the multiplication of cells, and thus prevents cancer cell growth. Cabbage also contains a powerful fermentable bacteria that acts as a probiotic known as Lactobaccilli. Lactobaccilli is one of many powerful disease-fighting types of good bacteria that occurs in several natural foods. This bacteria comes from the soil (as all good bacteria do) and increases our gut health. This is one reason cabbage is used to make fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi, two probiotic stars in a natural, plant-based kitchen. Taking care of your gut is crucial to a healthy immune system which fights cancer from the inside out. Cabbage is also an incredibly source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that improves immunity. Cabbage’s vitamin C content increases during the fermentation process because this breaks down the cell walls and makes it easier to digest. Try making your own kimchi, sauerkraut, or buy a natural fermented product at the store in the produce section that only contains cabbage, salt, water, or other veggies.

2. Broccoli

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Another cruciferous veggie everyone should be eating a few times a week is broccoli. It’s an incredible source of sulfurophane as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Broccoli also helps the body flush out excess estrogens we encounter from the environment, animal foods (if they’re eaten), and even natural skin-care and household products that disrupt healthy endocrine function. Excess estrogens have been linked to increasing abnormal cell growth (cancer), making cruciferous veggies like broccoli one of the best ways to keep your body healthy naturally. Cooked or raw, it’s all good! Also don’t forget broccoli sprouts and stems, which can all be used in many of your dishes and contain all the benefits of this powerful veggie.

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3. Berries 

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Berries’ cancer fighting powers largely come from the antioxidants they’re so well known for: anthocynanins. Anthocyanins are the antioxidants that give berries and other dark purple, red and blue fruits and veggies their colorful hue. They help slow down the growth of premalignant cells and also fight free radicals that can weaken the immune system that increase cancer risk as a result. Berries are also a well-known source of vitamin C  that provides enhanced immunity protection, and their fiber content keeps your digestive system healthy to fight colon and bowel cancer. All berries are a great source of these nutrients, so try them all in a variety of ways. Whether you eat them in your morning porridge, in a smoothie, as a snack, or on top of a salad, they’re a great choice for your health (and taste buds!).

 4. Walnuts

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A nut you might know for its high omega 3 content and filling factor is walnuts. These nuts don’t just offer a buttery flavor and meaty texture – they also help fight estrogen dominance in the body linked to cancer cell growth. Estrogen dominance often occurs in individuals with an intake of red meat and other animal products (especially dairy), processed foods, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables. Walnuts contain special types of beneficial cholesterol molecules that not only improve heart health and lower bad cholesterol in the body, but that also help block estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells. So eat a small handful (about 1/4 cup) as a snack, add them to your oatmeal, puree them and make Walnut ‘Meat’ Tacos, or add a few to your smoothie each day. Not only will you get a brain boost from those omegas, but you’ll also be reducing your risk for heart disease and cancer at the same time.

5. Garlic

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Garlic is another smart choice that has been shown to fight cancer, specifically stomach cancer due to the way it protects the body’s immune system, digestive tract (where most of your immune system is found). Garlic is a member of the allium family of plants (as are onions), that have powerful detoxifying benefits in a small serving. These foods help keep the blood, joints, liver and heart healthy. Need more reasons to eat garlic? Researchers have found that women who consume garlic on a regular basis have a 50 percent lower risk for developing breast cancer, and garlic has been shown to halt the formation of carcinogens in the stomach linked to cancer (which are largely found in processed foods and meats with nitrates or cooked meat).  See how to grow your own garlic here and how to use it in your kitchen if you need some ideas.

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What About Other Foods?

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The truth is, almost every single fruit and vegetable out there come with antioxidants that have been shown to fight cancer. Tomatoes have lycopene, linked to preventing cancer, coffee has been shown to decrease uterine cancer, leafy greens are powerhouse foods to eat daily to fight cancer and multiple types of disease, and winter squash, carrots, cilantro and mushrooms have also been shown to fight multiple types of cancer too. Beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are some others with proven benefits. As you can see, a whole foods, plant-based diet is the easiest way we can all improve our ability to fight off cancer naturally. When we fill up on these foods daily, we naturally crowd out the unhealthier choices that don’t serve us well.

So, what are you waiting for? Start enjoying plant-based foods more often with our recipes, and see A Green Monster’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition here to help you thrive! For more information, you can also see the top 10 things to avoid to fight the war on cancer at the American Institute for Cancer Research here. 

Lead Image Source: Raw Rainbow Noodles With Spicy Jungle Peanut Sauce