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The Anti-Cancer Diet

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that a healthy diet may prevent up to 40 percent of cancers. Add a healthy weight, an active lifestyle and not smoking, and 60-70 percent of all cancers can be prevented. Bonus: A healthy lifestyle also helps prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke, weight gain, and even dementia.

Ready for a diet make-over? Start here!

  1. The anti-cancer diet

    Basket of fruit and veggiesReduce your risk of cancer by eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Their vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals protect you by helping your immune system fight off cancer. 

    • Eat 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Even eating five per day could reduce your cancer risk by 20 percent. 
    • Eat from the rainbow. Download a guide to the rainbow and serving sizes here
    • Try to eat organic when possible. There is growing concern that pesticides in our food may cause cancer. 

    Can't afford to go 100 percent organic? Download a guide to the most and least-contaminated fruits and vegetables here

    American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines for cancer prevention

    Eat a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods - fruit, veggies, whole grains.
    Eat lots of vegetables and fruits - at least five per day. Ten would be better!
    Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. That means one drink a day for women, two for men.
    Select foods low in salt and fat. Some fat is essential, though. Choose olive or canola oil.
    Prepare and store food safely
    Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. Most experts recommend 30 minutes a day.
    Do not use tobacco in any form

  2. Cancer-fighting foods

    CherriesNo single food or supplement can protect against cancer on its own. But there is strong evidence that eating a plant-based diet with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers, including breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

    There are many foods that contain cancer-fighting properties - most of them fruits and vegetables. Learn more about these foods and the research: American Institute for Cancer Research.

    Our favorite five anti-cancer foods

    Berries and cherries: The phytochemicals that give berries and cherries their dark red, blue and purple colors also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Eat them on their own, in smoothies, layered with yogurt and low-sugar granola for a breakfast parfait, or added to a tossed salad (fresh, dried or frozen).

    Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts and turnips: Their many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals help your immune system destroy cancer cells, turn on genes that suppress cancer, and reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for cancer.Try them in stir-fry, roasted with garlic or as broccoli slaw tossed in a salad.

    Red and purple grapes – but not red wine: Red and purple grape skins contain powerful anti-cancer properties from the compound resveratrol. Red wine also contains resveratrol. However, there is convincing evidence that alcohol is associated with increased risk of breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, esophagus, and colon and rectum.

    Greens: Dark leafy greens – spinach, kale, romaine and leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard – have loads of antioxidants that help prevent cancer by hunting down potentially dangerous “free radicals” from the body before they can do harm (like cause cancer). Try them in salads as baby greens, added to hearty soups, or sauteed with garlic in olive oil.

    Whole grains: The fiber from whole grains dilutes potential cancer-causing chemicals and encourages “good bacteria” in your digestive system. Fiber also helps you keep your weight down – extra body fat increases your risk of eight cancers, including breast cancer. Substitute brown rice for white rice, and whole grain bread, whole wheat or brown rice pasta instead of the white-flour kind. 

    Learn more: American Institute for Cancer Research

  3. Get recipes

    Love your veggies - they help prevent cancer

    Eating two to three cups of vegetables every day helps reduce your risk of many kinds of cancers, including colorectal and breast cancer. Here are some easy and delicious ways to fit more vegetables into your daily diet.

  4. More resources

    What's getting into you? - Common chemicals found in our cosmetics, food and in our homes and environment are linked to cancer. Learn about them and the science of epigenetics, or how our environment influences how our genes behave - for better or worse. 

    American Institute for Cancer Research - Recipes, quizzes and tips, information on the latest research about cancer-fighting foods, and more.

    National Cancer Institute - Information on general cancer prevention, prevention of specific cancers, and cancer prevention clinical trials.