Not everything about your health can be controlled, which is especially scary when it comes to cancer. Some people are genetically predisposed to the disease, while for others it’s unpredictable. Whether or not you have a personal or family history with cancer, a diet filled with cancer-fighting compounds along with a healthy lifestyle is a great place to start. While you might not be able to control your genes, you can control what goes into your stomach.

Do: Eat Berries

cancer prevention

Photo by Hannah Lin

Colorful berries get their bright hues from being packed with vitamins and minerals. All berries contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients (think antioxidants, anti-inflammatories) but blackberries have the highest concentration of ellagic acid and anthocyanins, which are potent inhibitors of premalignant tumor growth. It has been found that people who consume ellagic acid are three times less likely to develop cancer, so make sure to get your blackberry fix.

Do: Eat Pomegranates

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The medicinal properties of pomegranates have long been known, but only recently has this super fruit been identified as a cancer preventative. Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, compounds which have been found to prevent many types of cancer as well as lower blood pressure. Plus, a glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine or green tea, which makes the hassle of seeding the fruit well worth it.

Do: Eat Cruciferous Vegetables

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Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale are full of vitamins and glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds. In the body, glucosinolates are broken down into substances that have been found to inhibit cancer growth in many areas as well as protect DNA from being mutated. To reap all the benefits, throw lots of greens into recipes like these.

Do: Eat Walnuts

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Walnuts have been shown to be especially effective at preventing prostate and breast cancer. Their high levels of phytosterol (the plant equivalent of cholesterol) have been shown to block estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells, preventing the tumors from metastasizing.

Do: Add Spice

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Many spices have been shown to have huge health benefits, and cultures that use spices regularly in their cuisine have much lower incidences of cancer. The most potent of these spices are oregano, garlic, turmeric, and cayenne. All of these spices have antibacterial properties that improve gut health and reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, garlic improves the ability of DNA to repair itself and halt activation of cancer-causing substances. To cover all your bases, add a variety of spices to your diet.

Don’t: Eat Large Amounts of Animal Fat

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Saturated and trans fats are known to be overall bad for your health, but if you needed one more reason to avoid them, they also increase the risk of breast cancer. To avoid the risk, swap out the butter for olive oil and try to stick to lean meats.

Don’t: Eat Processed Meats

cancer prevention

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While eating a hotdog at a baseball game won’t kill you, processed meats shouldn’t be a staple item in your diet. Cured meats, including bacon and many types of deli meat, contain high levels of nitrates and nitrites. In the body, these substances combine with amines to form carcinogens. Time to back away from the barbecue.

In addition to a healthy diet, there are many other steps that can be taken to help prevent the development of cancer. There are many resources available to learn more.