Photo: Fruits and Vegetables

by Tandis Bishop, DTE Nutritionist

An important way to lower our risk of cancer is to adopt a plant-based diet, according to the American Cancer Society. Their Guidelines On Nutrition And Physical Activity For Cancer Prevention includes eating “a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.”1


Plant-based diets tend to be lower in saturated fats and high in fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals. That is why to lower cancer risk, the world famous Dr. William Sears recommends:2Switch from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet.


The most compelling research linking diet to cancer are studies of groups of people who have primarily plant-based diets. For example, vegetarians and Seventh Day Adventists [who are also vegetarians] have a much lower risk of cancer. One of the theories on the high incidence of cancer in modern times is the belief that the switch from plant-based to animal-based diets correlates with the increase in cancer.


The plant food/less cancer correlation is primarily due to three health-promoting factors: Plants have less fat, more fiber, and more phytonutrients. Phytonutrients or phytochemicals simply means plant nutrients . These chemicals or nutrients are naturally occurring in plants and have been shown to protect the body and fight disease, especially cancer. Plant-based foods all have beneficial features in one way or other. However, there are some plant foods that have shown to be rich in cancer-preventing phytochemicals. Here is a list of some of the top cancer-fighting foods (in no particular order).


  1. Cruciferous Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and kale. These vegetables contain several cancer preventive biochemicals which have been shown to help reduce the risk of many types of cancer including prostate, bladder, stomach, colorectal, and lung.3
  2. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries (organic), blackberries, and raspberries. Ellagic acid and anthocyanosides are two powerful antioxidants found in berries. Anthocyanosides, which are riches in blueberries, are the strongest antioxidants known to scientists that can help fight all types of cancer.
  3. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables such as mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, and chicory are rich sources of antioxidants known as carotenoids. Other vegetables rich in carotenoids are sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, papaya and mango.
  4. Beans are beneficial in preventing many different types of cancer as they contain a number of phytochemicals. They have anticancer properties called protease inhibitors, which have been shown to reduce the growth of breast, colon, and skin cancers. Their high fiber content is also an added benefit in lowering the risk of digestive cancers.
  5. Garlic and Onion are part of the Allium family. They are known for their powerful sulfur-containing compounds and have been shown to help reduce the risk of several types of cancer including lung, ovarian and prostate cancer.
  6. Tomatoes. The phytochemical lycopene in tomatoes has been extensively researched over the past several years for its antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene from tomatoes is found to be protective against a growing list of cancers including prostate, breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.5
  7. Green Tea contains a phytochemical called catechins and has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.6
  8. Flaxseeds. Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in flax seeds, help produce cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Flax oil also contains the anticancer phytonutrient lignans.7 So increase the amount of these foods in your diet and you'll be on your way to living a healthier life!