Eating certain foods reduces the risk of cancer. Here's an actionable, doable diet to lower your risk.

By BH&G Editors
June 09, 2015

Researchers have found that 30 to 40 percent of all cancers are directly linked to the foods we eat and maintaining a healthy body weight. Current research, however, is inconclusive on the association between diet and breast cancer. Still, it makes good sense to eat as healthfully as possible. Here is an actionable and doable diet following generally accepted dietary guidelines for overall health.

The building blocks of the diet are:

  • Plenty of whole grains
  • Less "unhealthy" fat
  • Variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Healthful beverages

Whole Grains' Positive Attributes

  • Rich in fiber
  • High in vitamins and minerals
  • Hundreds of disease-fighting phytochemicals

Whole Grains' Substances Linked to Lower Cancer Risk

  • Soluble and insoluble fiber
  • Antioxidants
  • Phenols
  • Lignans
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Saponins

Popular Foods with Whole Grains

  • Oatmeal
  • Plain popcorn
  • Wild rice
  • Kasha
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millet

Recipes with Whole Grains

Grains and Berries Cereal Blend

Loaded with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, this cereal guards against disease and helps control blood sugars. Serve the crunch-fruit-studded blend with your favorite yogurt for a great start to your day.

Flaxseed Rolls

Adding flaxseed to an easily prepared hot-roll mix creates tasty dinner rolls with a mild, nutty flavor. Rich in nutrients, flaxseed boosts the immune system and helps to head off cancer and heart disease.

Couscous with Seven Vegetables

The beautiful vegetable combination in this cumin-and-mint-seasoned dish assists in the fight against cancer. Choose whole wheat couscous – it cooks in minutes and offers energy-boosting complex carbohydrates.

Everyday Succotash Salad

If you'd like to use fresh lima beans, they are available fresh June through September. Sold in the pods, limas should be placed in a plastic bag after purchasing and refrigerated for up to 1 week. Shell limas just prior to using. To cook fresh lima beans, simmer, covered, in a small amount of boiling water 15 to 25 minutes until tender; drain.

Foods High in "Good" Fats

Choosing foods rich in poly- and monounsaturated fats, or "good" fats, may help lower your risk of cancer. Try:

  • Salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts

Foods High in Saturated Fats

Foods to avoid include those high in saturated and trans fats. Stay away from:

  • Processed baked goods
  • Fast food
  • High-fat meats

Recipes High in Healthy Fats

Apple Butter-Banana Bread

Apple butter, bananas, and cinnamon flavor this family-favorite quick bread. Steep a pot of green tea to serve with the bread and take advantage of its potent disease-fighting antioxidants such as catechins and flavonoids.

Asian Primavera Stir-Fry

Fettuccine, ginger, and sugar snap peas come together for a satisfying meal that delivers on taste and nutrition. Removing the skin from the chicken is a great way to lower the fat without compromising on flavor.

Spring Carrot Soup

Carrots are a terrific source of carotenoids. You'll find haricots verts, tiny French green beans, in the specialty second of the produce aisle.

Tomato, Zucchini, and Feta Stacks

When "keep it simple" is your mealtime motto, reach for this fresh and easy salad recipe. Ripe tomatoes and garden zucchini star, with a drizzle of oil-and-vinegar dressing.

Cancer Risk-Reducing Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are full of substances that help prevent and fight disease. Try:

  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine, mustard and collard greens, chicory, Swiss chard)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale)
  • Berries

Recipes with Fruits and Vegetables

Eating five to nine servings a day of a variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all the potential disease-fighting benefits – along with a boost of fiber and important vitamins and minerals.

Sesame Chicken with Mixed Greens

Soy sauce, plum sauce, and sesame oil give this salad Asian flavor. Low-fat chicken is a great protein source, and the vitamin C-rich pineapple helps to protect against cancer and enhance the immune system.

Zucchini-Carrot Burgers

These veggie burgers are a nutrient- and fiber-filled alternative to meat. Serving them in whole wheat pita bread ups your intake of whole grains.

Yellow Pepper Soup with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Full of vitamin C, yellow peppers add natural sweetness to this savory soup. The peppers increase immunity and may help to protect against cancer.

Mixed Greens with Mango Dressing

The fiber-intensive mango contains generous amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, and pairs well with the peppery watercress and arugula.

Raspberry Cake

Raspberries are a good source of vitamin C and offer substantial fiber. They get their vibrant color from the antioxidant lycopene and contain flavonoids and ellagic acid, which may act as an antioxidant and reduce damage caused by carcinogens.

Healthful Beverages

Studies have shown that women who have more than one alcoholic drink a day are at higher risk for developing breast cancer. Both green tea and purple grape juice contain compounds that may lower the risk.

  • Green tea is an excellent source of catechins, a potent antioxidant that is thought to protect against cell damage.
  • Grape juice is a rich source of resveratrol, a type of natural plant chemical called a polyphenol that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

If you drink milk, opt for a low-fat or fat-free milk. If you do not get enough calcium in your diet from milk products, be sure to include other calcium-fortified foods and beverages in your diet.

Healthy Dessert Recipes

Pair a healthful beverage with one of these satisfying sweets boosted with good-for-you ingredients.

Pumpkin Pie-Apple Muffins

Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, which enhances immunity and offers protection against cancer and heart disease. The apples spiking these muffins lend soluble fiber to control blood sugars and lower cholesterol.

Tropical Fruit Salad

The macadamia nuts in this tropical fresh fruit salad are rich in monounsaturated fat and the antioxidant vitamin E.

Pineapple-Pear Crisp

Fruit crisps are delicious ways to boost your fruit intake. Diets rich in fruits (and vegetables) may reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.

Cherry Chocolate Bread Pudding

Chocolate and cherries are a delicious addition to basic bread pudding. And we've added another twist by using whole grain bread, which produces a heartier pudding.

Oat, Fruit, and Nut Cookies

Functional foods provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. They can play a role in reducing the risk of disease and promoting good health.

Get the Functional Foods Chart


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