5 Everyday Foods That Help Prevent Cancer

7th November 2017

  • Over 60% of the population in England is overweight or obese, which means they are at risk of developing cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK cites that 4 in 10 cases of cancer can be prevented mainly through lifestyle changes.
  • In the UK, our average fibre intake is below the recommended level.
  • In the UK, most of us do not eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.

(Statistics retrieved from Public Health England, Food Standards Agency. National Diet and Nutrition from Years 5 & 6 (Combined) of the rolling programme 2012/2013 – About Public Health England. Vol. 6,: 2016)

Over the past few years, advice circulated through UK Government health agencies (Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT)) regarding specific foods that should be avoided, as research has shown that they contain elements that have a potential link to cancer. The number of alerts and warnings have influenced the public to question what can be eaten that does not have a causal impact on the development of heart disease; dementia or cancer?

In fact, scientists have more knowledge about what we should not eat such as highly processed foods that contain salt, sugar (including artificial sweeteners) and fats than what we should be eating.

Diets which are low in fibre will result in constipation, and other illnesses of colon and bowel as toxins will stay in the body. Poor diet associated with several different types of cancer:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Upper throat cancer
  • Larynx cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Bowel cancer

However, what we eat is something that we have control over. A healthy diet is considered to be a diet that is high in fibre, whole grain options and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish. NHS guidelines indicate that healthy foods may help to prevent cancer. An essential aspect of a healthy diet is not to make it so rigid that it is impossible to maintain.

Bowl of Fruit

Consideration should also regard additional information and advice that indicates other factors that can increase the propensity for the development of cancer, such as family history; ethnicity, environmental factors, weight control, lack of exercise and smoking.

There are specific diets that claim to prevent cancer, but most of these diets are very strict and can be very hard to follow. Additionally, they do not have sufficient variety or nutritional value to be considered by NHS or NICE standards. Although there is adequate scientific evidence to support the need for a healthy diet, there is not a 100 and certainty that it will prevent cancer. However, there are specific foods that if eaten regularly as part of a healthy diet can provide some protection from cancer through the nutrition; chemical makeup and fibre provided.

Many people take vitamin and mineral supplements, but research has shown that using these should not be used to replace what is lacking from in a poor diet. Additionally, many supplements may interfere with prescribed medications.

However, diet alone does not replace:

What does a healthy diet contain?

  • Five to seven, portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
  • Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. Preferably whole grain which is a good source of fibre.
  • Lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and other non-dairy sources of protein.
  • Milk and dairy foods such as yoghurt and cheese, in moderation.

Healthy Food

Ideally, a healthy diet needs to contain colourful fruits and vegetables. However, there are certain foods or combinations of foods that may help to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Ongoing reviews of research studies by the World Cancer Fund has highlighted the benefits of eating plant-based foods such as broccoli, berries, and garlic as these have shown some of the most influential links to cancer prevention mainly due to their low calorific and fat value. Additionally, these foods are also very high in antioxidants which are considered to help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

Antioxidants (vitamin C, lycopene and beta-carotene), contained in many fruits and vegetables, are the key to foods that help prevent cancer. Plant-based foods also contain phytochemicals that are known as protectors as they provide protection from harmful compounds that are in the environment. Phytochemicals also help to prevent cellular damage and cellular mutations that can often result in cancerous growths.

Best foods that contain antioxidants and phytochemicals:


Many people prefer not to use garlic as they do not like its pungent odour on their breath. However, by roasting a whole garlic bulb, its flavour becomes less sharp, and its bitter taste becomes sweet and mellow. Roasting garlic it does not change its super healthy value only its taste.

Activity: can prevent cancer-causing substances from forming in the body.

Suggested quantity: use daily when possible in most recipes. Garlic powder and garlic salt do not have the same effect as fresh garlic.

Other foods that have similar benefits: Onions leeks and chives may have a same but not as powerful effect.


An Image of Broccoli in a bowl

Broccoli is a super, super food; It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Activity: If broccoli is eaten raw, the phytochemicals it contains will produce protective enzymes which activate a rupture in the cell walls of toxic substances in the body.

Suggested quantity: at least one portion daily of broccoli or any of the cruciferous vegetable group.

Other foods that have similar benefits: Cabbage, kale, cauliflower and russel sprouts


Very high in antioxidants. The bright red colour makes this a very appealing fruit that can be added to salads, stews or served as a concentrated sauce with pasta.

Activity: The red colour of the tomato is produced from a particular phytochemical called lycopene (an antioxidant). Studies have suggested that a diet rich in lycopene may reduce the risk of cancer by boosting the immune system and targeting and destroying cells that appear to have abnormal growth (American Institute for Cancer Research). Unlike several other superfoods, when cooked or heated, the cancer-fighting compounds in the tomatoes more available.

Suggested quantity: Consume as at least one of the daily portions of fruit and vegetables.

Other foods that have similar benefits: Watermelon, pink grapefruit and red bell pepper.


Strawberries in a small bowl

Research into the benefits of strawberries is positive as there are strong indications that this luscious fruit can help to protect against cancer, memory loss and heart disease.

Activity: strawberries have a considerable amount of antioxidant which very efficiently slows down the growth of cancerous cells. They also contain a vast amount of flavonoids which slows down the enzyme that is responsible for lung cancer. Many of the fruits that are in the berry family also contain anthocyanins that can reduce inflammation.

Suggested quantity: 1 portion of your daily fruits.

Other foods that have similar benefits: Black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cranberries. Strawberries and broccoli are the two best cancer prevention foods.


The surprising feature of carrots is that they were a more efficient cancer prevention food when they cooked as opposed to raw. Carrots can be prepared by boiling; steaming; roasting or eaten raw.

Ideally, carrots should be steamed or boiled while and then cut after they have cooked. Not only does this reduce the loss of any of the nutrients it also intensifies their sweetness. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).

Activity: carrots contain Beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant that can protect cell membranes from damage by toxins and can also slow down the growth of cells that have already become cancerous.

Suggested quantity: 1 portions daily.

Other foods that have similar benefits: try the traditional carrots that grow in different colours, ranging from purple to white.


Spinach can either be raw in a salad, or sandwich; it can be cooked a vegetable or added to omelettes and curries.

Activity: apart from being an excellent source of Iron, spinach is a fantastic antioxidant and contains carotenoids that can remove free radicals from the body before they can cause damage. The folate and fibre that spinach can also repair DNA and produce new cells.

Suggested quantity: 1 portion daily.

Other foods that have similar benefits: Dark leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, kale and swiss chard.

Whole Grains

Whole Grains

Whole grains can are found in bread; Pasta; Flour; Rice. White bread can seem tasteless compared to Whole Grain Bread.

Activity: Whole Grains are high in fibre is linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer. They also contain lignin’s that act as antioxidants.

Suggested quantity: recommended portions.

Other foods that have similar benefits: flaxseed; sesame seeds; pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

Although this is not food, water has to be one of the most critical aspects of any diet. Staying hydrated means that the body has the chance to eliminate toxins that out of the body and stay hydrated.

Factors that can cause cancer may be out of our control but by being proactive and taking responsibility for what we eat is ‘The easiest and least expensive way to reduce your risk for cancer is just by eating a healthy diet.’