19 November 2009

Day-to-day foods that fight cancer

A recent WHO report estimates that a lack of exercise and being overweight account for up to one third of all breast, colon, endometrial, kidney and oesophageal cancer.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency research, estimates that a lack of exercise and being overweight account for up to one third of all breast, colon, endometrial, kidney and oesophageal cancer.

“If you have a family history of cancer, it is important that you adapt your lifestyle, your diet in particular, to decrease your risk of getting it,” says Yvonne Rammbwa, a dietician at Lesedi Private Hospital, which is managed by the Clinix Health Group.

A healthy, balanced diet prevents cancer
“By eating a healthy balanced diet, emphasising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses, and maintaining a healthy weight, as many as one third of all cancer deaths could be prevented. You should therefore try to include at least two cancer-fighting foods in your diet each day,” says Rammbwa.

Vegetables and fruits contain many vitamins, minerals, fibre and hundreds of beneficial phytochemicals, which prevent and fight cancer. For example, some phytochemicals protect DNA (substance that makes our genes) from damage & promote DNA repair, which explains how these foods reduce the risks.

“Cut down on fatty foods,” Rammbwa says. “Diets high in saturated fats are also high in calories and contribute to obesity. Limiting the intake of red meat, especially those that are high in fat, had been found to reduce the risk of cancerous cells. Always opt for poultry breast, fish and shellfish.”

According to Rammbwa, fibre eliminates cancer-related toxins, and like the antioxidants, helps the body eradicate free radicals. In addition to fruits and vegetables, eating plenty of wholegrain foods will boost your intake of dietary fibre.

Important cancer-fighting foods
No single food can protect you against cancer, but the right combination of foods can really help boost your immune system in the fight against cancer.

  • Whole grains - wheat, rice, oats & barley
  • Linseeds - They are very rich in phytochemicals

  • Green and Black tea - Both of these teas contain flavonoids which may protects against viral infections.

  • Tomatoes - Rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against prostate cancer.

  • Nuts and seeds- These are rich in essential fatty acids which may help combat cancer. They are also a goods source of mineral selenium which fight cancerous cells.

  • Cruciferous vegetables - Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts all contain a substance that increase the antioxidant defenses of cells to fights cancer and switch on the enzymes that detoxify carcinogens.

  • Orange vegetables & fruits - carrots, pumpkins and mangoes all contain antioxidants in the carotene family including beta carotene, which helps cells defend themselves against cancerous damage.

  • Berries - strawberries & raspberries reduces the damage to cells caused by smoke and air pollution.

Snacks for people ill with cancer
“If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment, your energy levels may be low and foods may take on unpleasant tastes. For example meats such as beef and pork may not appeal to you, substituting chicken or veal may be helpful because they have a milder flavour,” says Rammbwa.

The following high protein, calorie-dense foods are good choices for meals or snack to help you maintain your weight and keep your energy levels up:

  • Cereal with fruit and milk
  • Fruit yoghurt with muesli

  • Instant porridge with raisins

  • Soup with a bread roll

  • Cream cheese on whole-bran muffin

  • Mixed nuts and crackers

“Eating foods that are not properly cooked, while you are undergoing radiation therapy, can be potentially dangerous because you are susceptible to infection and therefore may be advised to follow a germ-free diet,” concludes Rammbwa.

(Source: Clinix Health Group, March 2006)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst and Head of Advocacy Magdalene Seguin. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules