In warmer months, we start craving sweet berries, citrus fruits and lighter meals. The good news is, many of what we consider to be summer foods are excellent for cancer prevention.
Several of the below foods contain flavonoids, compounds that naturally occur in vegetables, fruits, chocolate and wine. Among their many benefits, flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, neuroprotective and anti-cancer.
Whether you decide to eat some of these foods fresh or from the grill, here are 12 summer foods that should be in your diet for cancer prevention.
The active cultures in yogurt called Lactobacillus, help strengthen the immune system. In fact, eating yogurt can triple your body’s internal production of interferon, which the immune system uses to fight tumor cells. Yogurt has also been shown to slow the growth of tumor cells in the gastrointestinal system in clinical trials.
2. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens boast bioflavonoids, carotenoids and other nutrients known for cancer prevention. Kale, spinach and other greens also contain indoles, which are compounds that can reduce the potential for cancer growth, particularly from too much estrogen. If you find greens difficult to digest, try sautéing them with some extra virgin olive oil.
3. Fresh tomatoes
The lycopene in fresh tomatoes is full of powerful antioxidants that fight various forms of cancer. Interestingly, a study from the U.K. found that subjects who ate tomato paste consistently for 12 weeks had a lower chance of getting a sunburn than those who didn’t. Other studies found that lycopene can destroy cancer-causing free radicals that cause prostate, stomach and lung cancers.
Not only does salmon make for a light meal — something that’s welcome in the hot days of summer — but it can also help fight cancer. Studies show that nutrients in salmon and other fatty fish can inhibit the development of adenocarcinomas, a common cancerous tumor. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon may also help reduce your risk of skin cancer, but that doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen at the beach.
Cabbage may help prevent colon cancer, thanks to its high-fiber content and the fact that it’s packed with bioflavonoids, which naturally fight cancer cell growth. Cabbage can also help speed the body’s metabolism of the hormone estrogen, which in large volumes can contribute to breast cancer. Eat cabbage cooked only slightly, raw in salads or fermented to gain the largest amount of health benefits.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage above, contain indoles that protect against cancer and boost the body’s production of enzymes that protect it from long-term damage. Lightly steam broccoli for the healthiest way to eat this vegetable.
7. Fresh lemonade
Reduce your risk of mouth, throat and stomach cancers by eating — or in this case, drinking — more citrus. Simply combine one cup of fresh lemon juice (about six whole lemons) with 1/2 cup of your favorite sugar substitute and four cups of water. Stir and pour over fresh ice to enjoy.
Ferulic acid, which has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in breast cancer cells in this 2016 study, can be found in fresh corn. Whether you boil or grill your corn on the cob, the vegetable can provide a boost of fiber and cancer-fighting nutrients. Try mixing some in with fresh tomatoes and spices for a homemade salsa that also fights cancer.
Blueberries contain excellent amounts of vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and manganese. The high-fiber content of blueberries means that they help lower cancer of the gastrointestinal tract and help keep weight in control — one potential cause of cancer. They also boast the largest amount of antioxidants of any of the berries, as well as flavonoids that help fight cancer.
Kiwifruit boast a large amount of vitamins C, A, E and K, as well as folate and minerals including potassium, calcium and magnesium. Compounds in the fruit help protect DNA from oxidation and have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
One of my favorite foods, avocado, is a must-have in summer. High in monounsaturated fats, avocado helps the body absorb anti-cancer antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene from fruits and vegetables.
12. Bean sprouts
Bean sprouts pack a punch with high amounts of sulforaphane, one of the most potent natural anti-cancer compounds. Sulforaphane works by detoxifying the body of chemical compounds you’re exposed to as you go about your everyday activities. You can get the same nutrient from beans, but sprouts contain 50 times more than mature beans.
What’s your favorite summer food on this list? Let us know in the comments!