Plant foods are all-stars because each contains unique phytochemicals that work together to fight disease. What's more, there are thousands of foods that have yet to be analyzed, so there's more good news to come.
Based on the latest research, the following foods contain phytochemicals that are proving to be terrific choices, says David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Human Nutrition and author of What Color Is Your Diet? (HarperCollins, 2001). So eat more of these:
Broccoli, cabbage and kale
The isothiocynanates in these cruciferous vegetables stimulate the liver to break down pesticides and other carcinogens. In people susceptible to colon cancer, these phytochemicals seem to reduce risk.
Carrots, mangos and winter squash
The alpha and beta carotenes in these orange vegetables and fruits play a role in cancer prevention, particularly of the lung, esophagus and stomach.
Citrus fruits, red apples and yams
The large family of compounds known as flavonoids found in these fruits and vegetables (as well as red wine) show promise as cancer fighters.
Garlic and onions
The onion family (including leeks, chives and scallions) is rich in allyl sulfides, which can help lower high blood pressure and show promise in protecting against cancers of the stomach and the digestive tract.
Pink grapefruit, red bell peppers and tomatoes
The phytochemical lycopene is actually more available after cooking, which makes tomato paste and ketchup the best sources of it. Lycopene shows promise in fighting lung and prostate cancers.
Red grapes, blueberries and strawberries
The anthocyanins that give these fruits their distinctive colors may help ward off heart disease by preventing clot formation. Anthocyanins also appear to inhibit tumor growth.
Spinach, collard greens and avocado
Lutein, which appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as guard against age-related macular degeneration (which leads to blindness), is also abundant in pumpkins.