Current research has shown that a number of readily available foods such as berries and citrus fruits that make up a healthy diet, actually have a major impact on cancer prevention. These cancer fighting foods seem to have the ability to interfere with the development of cancerous tumors. Cancer fighting foods all contain large amounts of certain phytochemicals. Phytochemicals were developed by nature to protect plants against damage caused by insects, disease and environmental stress. These phytochemical molecules are the ones that give fruits and vegetables their brilliant colors, provide the smell to garlic and the bitter taste to tea. It is very likely that these phytochemicals, not the vitamins and minerals, that are the source of the cancer prevention capabilities of these healthy foods.
Most berries are great sources of polyphenol phytochemicals which provide antioxidants and cancer prevention capability. These berries include: raspberries, wild blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, and blackberries. Even when berries aren’t in season you can add frozen berries or dried cranberries to your breakfast cereal. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh fruits and, of course, can retain their nutritional value during the off growing seasons.
Raspberries contain large amounts of ellagic acid which is a powerful cancer fighting phytochemical compound. This molecule is a member of the polyphenol family of phytochemicals which seem to be able to control the growth of tumors. In addition, raspberries contain other polyphenols such as anthocyanidins which are responsible for the very strong antioxidant potential found in berries.
Wild blueberries or low bush blueberries are smaller, more compact and have a more intense flavor than their cultivated cousins. They also have much more antioxidant capacity and anthocyanin, proanthocyanidin and phenolic phytochemicals than cultivated blueberries. Wild blueberries have the most antioxidant potential of all fruits followed by cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. The anthocyanidin and proanthocyanidin phytochemicals contained in wild blueberries, strawberries and cranberries are powerful antioxidants. It is the anthocyanidins in blueberries and raspberries that seem to inhibit cancer development.
Strawberries are another good source of polyphenol phytochemicals such as proanthocyanidin although they contain less ellagic acid than raspberries. Strawberries have about the same antioxidant potential as raspberries.
Cranberries are close cousins of the blueberries and have similar antioxidant and anti-cancer capabilities. Apart from accompanying turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas, cranberries are mostly consumed in the form of juice. Unfortunately because the cranberry is so acidic, large quantities of sugar are added to make the juice more palatable. Dried cranberries can also be added as a topping for cereals or fruit deserts.
Finally some mention should be made of the citrus fruits that make up the orange family. These include oranges, lemons, grapefruit and mandarin oranges. The orange family not only contains polyphenols like the berries discussed above but also terpenes. The phytochemical compounds found in citrus fruits seem to reduce the risk of developing digestive tract cancers. People taking prescription drugs, especially statins, have to avoid grapefruit as it doubles the amount of medication in the bloodstream and increases the side effects. Citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals but also phytochemicals that are required in a cancer prevention diet.
Eating a healthy balanced diet can provide our bodies with thousands of different phytochemicals every day. However not all fruits, vegetables and other plant products provide the best anti-cancer phytochemicals. The ten best groups of anti-cancer foods are discussed in our website www.benefits-of-antioxidants.com . They include: berries and citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, green tea, omega-3 essential fatty acids, olive oil, tomatoes, soy products, red wine and dark chocolate.