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Food and Cancer: What Superfoods Protect Your Body


Having trouble eating your five to nine servings of fruit and veggies a day? This may motivate you: certain foods can actually prevent cancer.  If we all got our daily dose, there could be 200,000 fewer deaths from cancer every year. Fortunately, you aren't limited to a lifetime of broccoli. These six fruits and veggies offer just as much powerful protection for your breasts and the rest of your body—and they'll help fight diet boredom too.

Cancer Fighting Food #1: Artichokes

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that artichokes had the highest antioxidant capacity of 40 vegetables and herbs tested. "Like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, artichokes are rich in flavonoids, which help slow the growth of breast and other types of cancer cells in lab studies," says Dong Moon Shin, M.D., a professor and Frances Kelly Blomeyer chair in cancer research at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta.

Mini Recipe

Tomato-braised artichokes
Boil 4 artichokes for 30 minutes; drain. In the same pot, brown 2 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped onion, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 cup red wine, a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, and 4 cloves minced garlic. Place artichokes in tomato mixture; spoon mixture over then. Cover and simmer for about 35 minutes or until artichokes are tender.

Cancer Fighting Food #2: Pomegranates

High in polyphenols and vitamin C (both antioxidants), this fruit helps fight breast cancer. "Dozens of lab and animal studies show that pomegranates may halt the spread and recurrence of the disease," says Lynne Eldridge, M.D., co-author of Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time.

Mini Recipe

Pomegranate-berry compote
Simmer 16 ounces unsweetened whole frozen raspberries and strawberries, 1/2 cup sweetened pomegranate juice, and a handful of chopped candied ginger for 5 minutes. Stir in seeds from 2 whole pomegranates; sweeten with honey to taste. Serve warm of cold over oatmeal, whole-grain waffles, or yogurt. You can also use the compote as a topping for roast chicken or pork.

Cancer Fighting Food #3: Bok Choy

This type of Chinese cabbage is milder then green cabbage or kale, but like those veggies, it's packed with isothiocyanates. "These sulfur compounds help your body convert some of the estrogen it make into a weaker form, which helps protect your breasts," says Karen Collins, P.D., a nutrition adviser for the American Institute for Cancer Research. Don't overcook bok choy; that reduces its anticancer properties.

Mini Recipe

Bok choy-shrimp stir-fry
Stir-fry 3 heads thinly sliced baby bok choy (or one large head), 1 sliced sweet red pepper, chopped scallions, a few cloves garlic, and minced ginger in 2 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil for about 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add 3/4 pound peeled medium shrimp, a dash of low-sodium soy sauce, and a few toasted walnuts. Heat for 2 or 3 minutes more or until shrimp are just cooked through. Serve with brown rice.

Cancer Fighting Food #4: Tomatoes

Lycopene, a strong antioxidant, is what gives tomatoes their red color. "It plays a major role in helping cells communicate, mainly by rallying healthy ones to band together and kill a "sick" cell that could become cancerous," says Steven Pratt, M.D., the author of SuperHealth. But keep in mind that your body better absorbs lycopene from foods when they're cooked and served with a little bit of fat.

Mini Recipe

Jumbo tomato-chickpea bruschetta
Sauté 4 cloves chopped garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 3 chopped fresh tomatoes and a 15-ounce can of drained and rinsed chickpeas; simmer for 2 minutes. Place a slice of toasted whole-grain bread in each of four bowls. Top with tomato mixture, chopped arugula, and shaved Parmesan.

Cancer Fighting Food #5: Swiss Chard

"Swap Swiss chard for spinach and you'll get similar amounts of important antioxidants-like vitamin C, bet-carotene, and lutein-which fight cell damage and strengthen your immune system," says Shin. But this dark, leafy green is less bland, so you get a flavorful boost when you add it to pasta dishes, soups, and stir-fries.

Mini Recipe

Swiss chard with olives and golden raisins
Brown 1 chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 bunch thinly sliced Swiss chard, chopped pitted green olives, and golden raisins; sauté for about 6 minutes or until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over polenta or couscous, or as a side dish with fish or pork.

Cancer Fighting Food #6: Purple Grapes

"Resveratrol, which is found in red and purple grape skins, is a plant estrogen, and getting enough of it can lower your breast cancer risk because it blocks the effects of the stronger estrogen your body makes," says Pratt. It also boosts immunity and fights cell-damaging free radicals.

Mini Recipe

Sautéed grapes with spicy chicken sausage
Sauté 4 sausages for about 12 minutes. Transfer to a covered dish. In the same pan, brown 1 chopped red onion and 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary in 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add 2 cups grapes, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon honey. Cook for 6 minutes. Add sausages and cook for 6 minutes more.

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