When it comes to cancer prevention, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters: food.
“It’s easy for people to fall into the trap of thinking, ‘What do you want to eat?’ and then they just eat the things that will make them feel better,” says Andrew M. O’Brien, M.D., author of The Ultimate Guide to Cancer Prevention and founder of the Cancer Prevention Foundation.
“When we have a diet that’s healthy and nourishing and nourishes the body and soul, it helps to prevent the spread of cancer.”
So what do you eat?
That’s what our experts have been researching and analyzing for the past year.
Here are 10 foods that are packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and healthy fats.
What you need to know about antioxidants: Oxidative stress: The body is constantly bombarded by free radicals, which damage and destroy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Free radicals also have the ability to damage DNA.
These are the bad guys.
They are also responsible for the aging process.
“They are also known to have a negative impact on the immune system and may cause cancer,” says O’Connor.
So if you’re feeling stressed, it might be a good idea to focus on those antioxidants that are actually in the food you eat.
“There are some that are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and meats,” says Dr. Ondrej Pardo, M.-B.
Sc., M.P.H.P., an associate professor of preventive medicine and director of the Division of Cancer Prevention at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Other antioxidants are not only abundant in fruits and vegetables, but they are also rich in other natural compounds that are important for cell growth and cell function.”
These are also antioxidants that your body breaks down and uses as fuel.
“Some of these are very important for the body, but others are very powerful antioxidants that can help keep cells healthy,” he says.
Omega-3 fatty acids: The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in fish oils, seeds, nuts, flax, and other plant-based sources of omega-6 and omega-7 fatty acids.
These can help protect your skin, promote heart health, and promote healthy blood pressure.
“The antioxidants in the foods we eat are really important because the omega-8 fatty acids, the ones we’re most concerned about, are not always present in these foods,” says Pardo.
“Omega-8s are the ones that are very abundant in red meats, nuts and seeds, so it is a good thing to eat as well.”
Calcium: The calcium in the bones and teeth is an important component of bone health.
It also acts as a barrier against harmful free radicals.
“If you have low calcium in your bones, you may be more susceptible to the growth of cancer cells,” says Mark D. Johnson, MSc., associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“But calcium also helps protect against osteoporosis and osteoporation.”
Vitamin B-12: B-type vitamins are important to the body because they help to form and maintain bone tissue.
“Vitamin B-13 is found in red meat, dairy, and seafood,” says Johnson.
“In the American diet, we don’t get enough of this nutrient.”
Osteoporotic fractures: “Osteoporosomal fractures occur when a joint becomes unstable and may eventually cause bone to break down,” says Michael P. Gerson, MEd., a clinical professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Osteopathy.
“These are the same fractures that we see in patients with osteoporus malformations,” he adds.
“So the idea is that you need a bone-healthy diet.”
Other dietary factors that may be important: Eggs, fish, and certain fruits and veggies can be sources of vitamins B-6, B-9, and B-15, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
“Protein is also important,” says Gerson.
“You can get protein from whole grains and beans and whole vegetables, and also from a variety of fruits and nuts, and from legumes,” he notes.
“Those foods are also sources of protein.”
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for bone health because it helps the body repair itself and build strong bones.
“Doses of vitamin D vary widely depending on age, ethnicity, and gender,” says D.S. Roush, MEng., MSc, an associate clinical professor in gynecology at Yale University School and Hospital and director and chief of the Vitamin D Clinic at Mount Hope Hospital.
“Women need twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin B-3 to prevent osteoporsis, but that needs to be increased.”
So when it comes time to look at a