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Antioxidant-Rich Foods
for Cancer Prevention


To reduce your risk of all types of cancer, it's vital that you regularly eat foods that are rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants work throughout your body to neutralize free radicals.

Free radicals are reactive elements that want to steal electrons from compounds that they come into contact with.

When free radicals are successful in stealing electrons from genetic material in your cells, injury to your DNA can eventually pave the way to cancer.

The vast majority of free radicals that exist in your body at any given moment can be traced back to one of the following sources:


  • Everyday metabolic pathways that occur in your body to produce energy.

  • Environmental toxins, such as industrial pollutants, household chemicals, and cigarette smoke.

  • Physical stressors such as unhealthy oils, nitrites, artificial sweeteners, and MSG.

  • Emotional stress.

Antioxidants found in fresh, minimally processed foods are helpful in preventing cancer because they are able to provide the electrons that free radicals want. Once free radicals are neutralized by antioxidants, they become harmless, and are eventually eliminated from your body.

It's always best to get your antioxidants from whole foods and/or supplements made with whole foods. When you take in antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene from fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you also benefit from other nutrients found in plant foods that have their own powerful, anti-cancer effects - these cancer-fighting compounds are generally classified into one of the following five groups:


  • Indols

  • Phenols

  • Flavones

  • Cumines
  • Isothiocyanates

While all colorful vegetables, fruits, legumes, and other plant foods provide one or more of the cancer-fighting compounds listed above, the most powerful cancer-fighting foods appear to belong in the cruciferous vegetable family, the most common of which are:


  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Mustard greens

  • Kale

  • Cauliflower

If you don't enjoy any of these cruciferous vegetables, no worries, as you can still obtain a wide range of cancer-fighting nutrients from other vegetables and plant foods.

For significant protection against cancer, a reasonable goal to shoot for is to include at least two antioxidant-rich foods with each meal.

For breakfast, you could include any variety of fruits and nuts with your meal - most go nicely with any type of cereal. Examples of antioxidant-rich fruits include blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, goji berries, mulberries, grapes, and figs. Walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds are excellent choices from the nut category.

For lunch, aim to eat at least half a head of romaine lettuce, or the equivalent in field greens. Generally, dark green vegetables provide a different group of cancer-fighting phytonutrients than fruits, so relying on greens during some of your meals for the bulk of your antioxidants helps diversify your intake and gives you a broader range of protection.

For dinner, you can strive to eat at least two antioxidant-rich vegetables that are cooked. Steaming and boiling in soups are cooking methods that don't tend to generate harmful chemicals, and are able to improve your access to nutrients within the vegetables by softening plant fibers.

Of course, you should always rely on your appetite and what's available to mix and match brightly colored vegetables, fruits, and legumes.

Sometimes, you may want to blend up a large handful of kale or romaine lettuce with ripe mangoes or peaches for a refreshing smoothie.

An excellent option at any time is a freshly pressed vegetable juice. You'll want to use a large base of green vegetables like lettuce or spinach, and add smaller amounts of sweeter plants like carrots, red beets, and apples - don't forget to juice the apples with their antioxidant-rich skins on so that you save and ingest at least some of those valuable phytonutrients.

Freshly pressed vegetable juices are at the highest level of any program of healthy eating and living - I contend that no other food and food form better excel at delivering massive amounts of nutrition with virtually no potential to do harm. If freshly pressed vegetable juices are not a part of your lifestyle, I encourage you to consider giving them a try.

I trust that the message here is clear: If you want to lower your risk of virtually all types of cancer in a significant way, it makes all the sense in the world to regularly eat fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and other plant foods that are rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients. These foods should form the centerpieces of your diet - if you consistently make them the bulk of what you eat, you can likely fill in the edges of your plate with most other foods without suffering negative consequences to your health.

Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist living and working in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Visit his website at www.drbenkim.com



April 12, 2010

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