Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Many foods have been reported to be anti-cancer foods that will reduce your risk of getting cancer. However, figuring out if the claims are true can be quite difficult. For over 25 years, the American Institute for Cancer Research has been looking at the link between diet and cancer. They have found that no single food can protect you against cancer. Instead, a healthy diet that focuses on vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans is your best bet to reduce your risk.

Join the Fight Against Cancer: Food as a Weapon


For over 30 years, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has been researching the link between diet and cancer. Their mission is “changing lives to save lives,” which highlights the view that everyday choices can reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Choose your food

When it comes to fighting cancer, no miracle food exists. However, research has shown that eating a healthy diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and other plant foods can help protect you. These foods, and/or the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in these foods, seem to work together to reduce your risk.

Food: The evidence

The following is a summary of foods the AICR is most commonly asked about regarding their role in preventing cancer along with a recipe idea for each.

Beans/Legumes

What are they?

Beans/legumes are the dried edible seeds of plants. They are also known as pulses and include foods such as lentils, chickpeas, and dried peas and beans.

The cancer connection

Beans and legumes contain fibre and phytochemicals which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Tomato, Cheese and Chickpea Salad

Blueberries

What are they?

Blueberries are a vibrant blue fruit native to North America that contain anthocyanins, which are believed to be one of the most powerful antioxidants.

The cancer connection

Blueberries contain fibre, vitamin C, and antioxidents which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Blueberry and Oatmeal Pancakes with Maple Yogurt Topping

Cranberries

What are they?

These are a bright red fruit native to North America that are high in antioxidants.

The cancer connection

Cranberries contain fibre, vitamin C and antioxidents which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Carrot, Cranberry and Gouda Salad

Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables

What are they?

The title cruciferous comes from the four-petal flowers of these vegetables that resemble a cross or “crucifer.” Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale.

The cancer connection

Cruciferous vegetables are non-starchy vegetables that contain fibre, folate, carotenoids and vitamin C, which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Lental, Kale and Feta Salad

Dark green leafy vegetables

What are they?

This category includes spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, chicory and Swiss chard.

The cancer connection

Dark leafy green vegetables contain fibre, folate, carotenoids and phytochemicals, which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Spinach and Chicken Pizza

Flaxseed

What is it?

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are both produced from flax crops and contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

The cancer connection

Flaxseed is high in fibre, which reduces cancer risk.
Start with Cranberry Flax Muffins

Garlic

What is it?

Garlic is part of the Allium family of vegetables, which includes onions, scallions, leeks and chives.

The cancer connection

The active compounds such as allicin in garlic and other allium vegetables reduce cancer risk.
Start with Roasted Carrot and Ricotta Hummus

Grapes and grape juice

What are they?

Grapes and grape juice contain resveratrol. This phytochemical is found in red, purple and green grapes. The skin of grapes contains the most resveratrol.

The cancer connection

Grapes and grape juice contain phytochemicals, which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Fruit Salad with Bocconcini and Tarragon

Soy

What is it?

Soybeans are a type of legume. A variety of foods are made from soybeans including tofu, soy beverage, soybeans/edamame, miso/soy paste, tempeh, soy burgers and soynut butter.

The cancer connection

Soy contains phytochemicals, which can reduce cancer risk. Many people worry that soy may increase the risk of breast cancer. However, research suggests that soy does not increase risk of cancer and may even decrease risk.
Start with Pasta and Edamame Salad

Tomatoes

What are they?

Tomatoes get their red colour from a phytochemical called lycopene. Evidence suggests that processing tomatoes (i.e. tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato juice) increases their cancer-fighting potential.

The cancer connection

Tomatoes contain phytochemicals, such as lycopene, which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Cream Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup with Feta Cheese

Whole Grains

What are they?

A whole grain kernel has three parts: germ, bran and endosperm. Whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, barley and buckwheat and are used in whole wheat bread and pasta.

The cancer connection

Whole grains contain fibre and phytochemicals, which reduce cancer risk.
Start with Bean and Barley Creek Salad

Learn more about foods that fight cancer at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Article revised December 2018

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on April 24, 2012



Related Links

American Institute for Cancer Research
Foods that Fight Cancer – American Institute for Cancer Research