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Tess Langfus

Nutritional Foods that are Fabulous for Fighting Cancer

Researchers have long known that diets low in plant-based foods and fiber are one cause of cancer. And they're now working to isolate the specific foods – primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans – that can help prevent cancer, and maybe even improve chances of survival from it.

As that work continues, one point is clear: More is better when it comes to fruits, veggies, and the like. The federal government's guidelines call for us to eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit every day. And the American Cancer Research Institute recommends that fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains make up two-thirds (or more) of every meal.

Hitting those numbers might seem like a stretch. But with a little creativity, it's not hard to add healthy, potentially cancer-fighting foods to your diet.

On a tight budget? Check out if your grocery has senior discount or loyalty programs. In the summer shop local farmer's markets or at local food stands for fresh healthy produce

Eight great ways to get your health fix

  1. Use zucchini noodles instead of regular pasta and top them with a rich tomato sauce. Several studies have found that a nutrient called lycopene in tomatoes can help protect against prostate cancer.
  2. Blending, chopping, or crushing cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) before cooking releases substances called phytochemicals that can help stop the division of cancerous cells. Coarsely chopped and steamed cauliflower is a healthy substitute for white rice, and you can use it instead of flour for pizza crusts.
  3. Don't toss out day-old cooked vegetables. Instead, toss them into eggs, soup, or pasta to load up on nutrients.
  4. Chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Mix them with baby spinach for a tasty side dish, use them in a creamy soup, or roast and eat them whole. They contain a substance called butyrate, which some studies show can help cut the risk of colorectal cancer.
  5. Pureed black, pinto, and great Northern beans add fiber, protein, and a B vitamin called folate to any dish or baked goods. Use them in tacos or as a flour substitute in baked goods.
  6. Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and other orange vegetables are rich sources of alpha carotene. While the evidence is mixed on alpha carotene's effects on cancer, the foods have undeniable health benefits. Plus blended carrots make a terrific macaroni and cheese filling. Pumpkin lends savor to a Sloppy Joe mix. Sweet potatoes add fiber and flavor to soups and casseroles.
  7. The research is ongoing, but studies suggest apples, pears, and other white fruits can help cut cancer risks. Swap out oil with applesauce in your baked goods. It has less calories, plus it adds moisture.
  8. Spinach may help protect you from a range of cancers. Add it to scrambled eggs at breakfast, in a salad at lunch, and mixed with chili at dinner.