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The good news about cancer is that 30 to 60 percent of all cancers are preventable by following a healthy diet. Boosting your consumption of whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables while avoiding foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber, like meat and dairy, is the best way to stay healthy, according to Jennifer Reilly, senior nutritionist at the Cancer Project (cancerproject.org). In addition, there are several superfoods that have been proven to help keep cancer at bay. Here's our round-up of the top seven.Raspberries
Raspberries -- is there anything they can't do? They not only taste delicious and are a great source of fiber, they also eat cancer cells for breakfast. Their secret ingredient is ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant that has also been shown to cause apoptosis, or natural cell death, in cancer cells. The compound remains active whether the berries are frozen, fresh, or cooked, so even raspberry jam counts. Use the whole fruit, fresh or frozen, in smoothies, on top of oatmeal, or swirled in low-fat yogurt.
Recommended serving size: 1/2 cup; 32 caloriesRed Grapes
Grapes are a great source of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that scavenge cancer-enabling free radicals. But the real anti-cancer properties of red grapes comes from resveratrol, a compound that has been shown in studies to stop and even reverse the progression of cancer. Grapes are delicious eaten right off the stem, or mixed in with salads or chicken salad. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly as grapes (especially those imported from South America) are reported to contain high levels of pesticides.
Recommended serving size: 1/2 cup; 55 caloriesKumquats
All citrus fruits contain liminoids in their rinds (and give them their trademark bitter taste), a chemical that has been shown to prevent and halt the spread of cancer in lab conditions. Kumquats are a great way to get liminoids in your diet since they are eaten rind and all. To serve, slice and use in salads, on cereal, or over yogurt.
Warning: The only people who shouldn't incorporate more citrus rind into their diet are those on the drug tamoxifen. A flavonoid that also occurs naturally in citrus peel may reduce the drug's efficacy.
Recommended serving size: 3 kumquats; 40 caloriesTomatoes
No matter that America's favorite vegetable is actually a fruit. What's really important is that the beloved tomato provides a cancer-fighting anti-oxidant extravaganza. It offers healthy doses of lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate, gastric, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, as well as Vitamins A, C, and E. To work more of this superfood into your daily diet, add sliced tomatoes to sandwiches, toss cherry tomatoes into salads, or make a delicious topping for pasta or crostini by roasting cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste until wilted.
Recommended serving size: 1/2 cup cooked with 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, 82 calories; 3 slices raw, 11 calories; 1/2 cup cherry, 13 calories
Broccoli contains indoles, a naturally occurring chemical believed to help the body expel excess estrogen and other carcinogens from the body. Because of this ability to rid the body of estrogen, indoles are thought to be particularly helpful at warding off breast cancer. Add broccoli to boiling pasta in the last 3 minutes of cooking, then serve with your favorite pasta sauce. Or make a salad by adding feta cheese, black olives, grape tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice to lightly cooked broccoli florets.
Recommended serving size: 1/2 cup cooked, 22 calories; or 1 cup raw, 31 caloriesBrazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, a mineral that is believed to lower cancer risk. They also provide a healthy dose of protein, fiber, and ellagic acid (see raspberries on page 1). Eat them plain or chop them and sprinkle them over cereal, oatmeal, or salads.
Recommended serving size: 6-8 nuts; 186 caloriesFlaxseeds
Tiny little flaxseeds do a lot of heavy lifting. Excellent sources of fiber, the seeds also deliver high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to shrink breast cancer tumors. The body can't digest the seeds whole -- to serve, buy them ground or grind them yourself in a coffee grinder and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh. Add up to 4 teaspoons a day to everything -- cereal, yogurt, soup, salad, pasta, you name it -- but start with only one teaspoon a day and increase your intake slowly so the your body becomes acclimated to your increased fiber intake.
Recommended serving size: up to 4 teaspoons a day; 18 calories and 1 gram of fiber for each teaspoon
Kate Hanley is a freelance writer who specializes in wellness. Visit her at msmindbody.com.
Originally published on LHJ.com, August 2006.