Diet and Cancer

Foods That Increases The Cancer Risk

  • 1 out of 10 cancers (10%) may be linked to diet and over half of these are caused by eating less than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Diets rich insaturated fats (400gm), salt and poor in fiber are associated with increased risk of cancer. The people who eat more red and processed meats are more likely to develop stomach and bowel cancers.
  • The way we cook might also increase our cancer risk. Chemicals are released when we cook food at high temperatures which can damage body cells putting them at risk to become cancerous.
  • Some studies have shown that the calcium in milk reduces the bowel cancer risk while others have linked high intake of dairy proteins with prostate cancer.
  • Most additives, colors, flavors and sweeteners have not been found to increase the risk of cancers.
  • Even in small quantities of processed food, Alcohol can increase the risk for a number of cancers including that of liver, mouth, bowel, throat, food pipe and breast.

Food Components That Reduce Cancer Risk

  • Insoluble grain fiber in coarse grains (e.g., rye, sorghum, maize, barley and millets).
  • Micronutrients like vitamins and trace elements.
  • Vitamins A, E, and trace minerals such as selenium, zinc.
  • Vitamin-D and calcium are also found to give protection against colorectal cancer.
  • Green tea and its compounds.
  • Growing evidence suggests that certain dietary habits can increase or decrease the cancer risk.
  • Nutrition is thought to play an important role in treating and coping with cancer.

Certain Foods Contain Cancer-Fighting Properties

There is no single superfood that can prevent cancer. Rather, a well balanced healthy diet is the most beneficial.

An optimal diet may reduce your risk by up to 70% and would likely help recovery from cancer as well. However, nutrition is complex, and how effective certain foods are at fighting cancer varies depending on how they’re cultivated, processed, stored and cooked.

Some of the key food groups to include in your diet to reduce the cancer risk include


Higher consumption of vegetables lowers risk of cancer. Most vegetables contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. For example, cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, contain sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to reduce cancer risk.

Tomatoes and carrots are linked with a decreased risk of prostate, stomach and lung cancers.


Fruits contain antioxidants and other phytochemicals that help in preventing cancer.


These are associated with protective effects against certain cancers. For example, one study found that men with prostate cancer taking 30 grams — or about 4 1/4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily experienced slower cancer growth and spread than the control group.


Some spices like cinnamon and curcumin may have anti-cancer properties and prevent cancer cells from spreading.

Beans and Legumes

High intake of fibre protects against colorectal cancer. Beans and legumes are high in fiber.


Regularly eating nuts may be linked to a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

Olive Oil

Many studies show a link between olive oil and reduced cancer risk.


Garlic contains allicin, which has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Other studies have found an association between garlic intake and a lower risk of specific types of cancer, including stomach and prostate cancer.


Eating fresh fish can help protect against cancer, possibly due to healthy fats that can reduce inflammation.


Eating certain dairy products may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The type and amount of dairy consumed are important. For example, moderate consumption of high-quality dairy products, such as raw milk, fermented milk products and milk from grass-fed cows, may have a protective effect. This is likely due to higher levels of beneficial fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and fat-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, high consumption of mass-produced and processed dairy products are associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, including cancer. The nutrition guidelines and the World Cancer Research Fund recommendations advocate that having a diet with liberal amount of vegetables and fruits, less saturated fats decreases the risk of breast cancer. Increased consumption of fish, eggs, raw and cooked vegetables, and fruit is associated with a decreased risk of oral cancer.

Follow Good Nutritional Habits

  • Eat whole grain bread, cereals, poultry products, fish and soya.
  • Avoid refined food products
  • Eat foods low in calorie and fat
  • Limit eating sugar and high calorie baked foods (e.g. cakes, cookies, doughnuts).
  • Avoid eating deep fried foods.

No single food can protect against cancer. However, eating a diet full of diverse whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, spices, healthy fats, fresh fish and high-quality dairy, may reduce cancer risk.

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