5 Foods that battle cancer


By Thiyagarajan Sivapriya, M.Sc, M. Phil

Cancer is the third most lethal disease in the world after cardiovascular, parasitic and infectious based on reports from American Cancer Society (ACS). In 2011, nearly 13 million are diagnosed with cancer and cancer continues to be a great threat to people now [1]. There is a strong connection between the foods we eat and chronic degenerative diseases. The great news is that there are also foods that rebuild a healthy body. There are a host of foods that offer a range of benefits to cancer patients. They are specially important for cancer patients that opt for conventional therapies because consuming these foods can increase the ability of healthy tissues to cope with chemotherapeutic drugs and radiotherapy [2]

  • Broccoli & Cruciferous Vegetables

Consumption of cruciferous vegetables is inversely correlated with the cancer incidence. Strong anticarcinogenic activities of cruciferous vegetables are attributed to the high abundance of glucosinolates. [3] The four-petal flowers from these vegetables looks like a cross or “crucifer,” and so the name. Broccoli is perhaps the most known cruciferous vegetable. Like Brussels sprouts, rapini, cabbage (green), cauliflower and turnips (white), it forms a “head.” Others – known as the “headless crucifers” – include dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens. They produce higher levels of antioxidants as well as enzymes which detoxify the body.

  • Apples

Apples and especially apple peels are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. Apples have been found to have very strong antioxidant activity, inhibit cancer cell proliferation, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol Most of the antioxidant power they provide comes from phytochemicals, including Quercetin, epicatechin and, in red apples, anthocyanins and Triterpenoids [3] The total antioxidant activity of apples with the peel was approximately 83 µmol vitamin C equivalents, which means that the antioxidant activity of 100 g apples (about one serving of apple) is equivalent to about 1500 mg of vitamin C. However, the amount of vitamin C in 100 g of apples is only about 5.7 mg [4]

  • Soy foods

Soy  foods contains a variety of phytochemicals and active compounds like Saponins that has the potential to stop the growth of cancer cells and Sphingolipids which seems to play a role in regulating cell growth, self-destruction of abnormal cells and progression of tumors. Saponins are attracting considerable interest as a result of their health-promoting components.  saponins affect the immune system in ways that help to protect the human body against cancers, lower cholesterol levels, decrease blood lipids and lower blood glucose response [5]

  • Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin and curcuminoids that help inhibit the formation of cancer in breast tissue. Experiment on animal shows that curcumin slashed the risk of colon cancer by almost 60%, this phytochemical seems to neutralize cancer-causing compounds, stop cancerous changes in the cells and directly fight substances that enable carcinogens to spread and wreak havoc [6]

  • Green Tea

Can drinking several cups of green tea a day keep the doctor away? This certainly seems so, given the popularity of this practice in East Asian culture and the increased interest in green tea in the Western world. Green tea contains polyphenols known as cathechins. These polyphenolic compounds present in green tea show cancer chemopreventive effects on the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death) and regulation of cell cycle in human. [7]


For good health, AICR recommends that we base all of our meals on plant foods. When preparing a meal, aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Research shows that vegetables and fruits probably protect against a range of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, lung, pancreas and prostate. Also eat foods containing vitamins and minerals, which help keep the body healthy and strengthen our immune system, they are also good sources of substances like phytochemicals. These are biologically active compounds, which can help to protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer. [9]


  1. Jemal A et al, Global cancer statistics. CA Cancer J Clin, 2011, 61, 69-90.
  2. Francisco Contreras, Foods That Fight Cancer, Strong Food Therapy is Fundamental to Victory Over Cancer
  3. Keum YS, Jeong WS, Kong AN, Chemopreventive functions of isothiocyanates, Drugs News perspect. 2005; 18 (7) 445 -51
  4. Eberhardt M, Lee C, Liu RH: Antioxidant activity of fresh apples. Nature 2000, 405:903-904.
  5. John Shi, Arunasalam K, Yeung D, Kakuda Y, Mittal G, and Jiang Y. Saponins from Edible Legumes: Chemistry, Processing, and Health Benefits. Journal of Medicinal Food. April 2004, 7(1): 67-78.
  6. Chiranjib DB, Kumar KP, Chandira M Jayakar B, Turmeric: A Herbal and Traditional Medicine, Archives of Applied Science Research, 2009, 1 (2) 86-108
  7. Ahmad N, Feyes DK, Nieminen AL, Agarwal R, Mukhtar H. Green Tea Constituent Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate and Induction of Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest in Human Carcinoma Cells, JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst(1997) 89(24): 1881-1886.
  8. Nurulain T. Zaveri  Green tea and its polyphenolic catechins: Medicinal uses in cancer and noncancer applications, Volume II: Nutraceuticals, Herbals and Related Products, 2006, Pages 2073–2080
  9. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans. Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, American Institute for cancer research.
Sivapriya Thiyagarajan

Sivapriya Thiyagarajan

Sivapriya Thiyagarajan is post-graduate in Food Service Management & Dietetics. She currently pursues her Ph.D. in the branch of Neutraceuticals. She has several years of experience including teaching, research, diet counselling and consultancy works. She regularly writes on topics covering diet and health at her blog PriyasDietCorner.com

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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