Specific Foods, Herbs, and Spices That May Help Fight Cancer and Reduce Treatment Side Effects

A great deal of research has been conducted on the impact of specific foods, herbs, and spices on cancer cells’ growth and spread (metastasis).  A great deal of this research has been done in animals rather than humans.  While results have been very promising, many more studies, and especially studies in humans, are needed in order to definitively prove the benefits of these foods against cancer in humans.  The following information reflects the most current research of foods that help fight cancer and/or prevent or reduce the side effects of cancer and its treatment.

  • Green Tea – The ingredient epigallocatechin gallate (“EGCG”) in green tea is one of the most powerful nutritional molecules that has been shown to fight the formation of blood vessels by cancer cells.
  • Olive Oil – Olive oil, along with other foods in the Mediterranean Diet, is believed to slow cancer growth.  For example, ingredients in olive oil been shown to protect against the cause of 20% of all breast cancers.
  • Garlic – Garlic contains several key ingredients that are believed to fight the activity of cancer cells and toxins.
  • Soy – Soy contains powerful chemicals that have been shown to fight against the survival and spread of cancer cells.  Soy has been shown to block the stimulation of certain sex hormone-related cancers such as breast (estrogen) and prostate (androgen) cancer.  In women who have eaten soy since adolescence, breast cancer tumors are usually less aggressive with higher survival rates.  However, the ability of soy to protect against breast cancer has been proven only in women who have eaten it since they were adolescents.  The same is true for prostate cancers. (However, soy is generally not recommended for estrogen-dependent breast cancer.)
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) – Turmeric, the main spice in yellow curry, has the most powerful inflammatory properties of any food ingredient known today.  Turmeric has been shown in the laboratory to help fight cancer cells and make chemotherapy more effective.
  • Mushrooms – Certain mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake, and kawaratake, contain a molecule, lentinian, that stimulates the immune system directly.  In Japanese studies, the number and activity of immune cells increased notably in patients given mushroom extracts.
  • Ellagic Acid in Berries – Many berries, such as raspberries and strawberries, contain a substance called ellagic acid.  It is also in hazelnuts and walnuts. In normal portions, ellagic acid has been shown to slow tumor growth.
  • Ginger – Ginger root is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant acting against cancer cells.
  • Rosemary – Carnasol in rosemary affects the capability of cancer cells to invade neighboring tissues.
  • Lycopene – Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which supports a strong immune system.  Two separate studies of men with prostate cancer showed that taking a lycopene supplement and tomato sauce resulted in slower tumor growth and smaller tumors. (Tomatoes must be cooked in order to release their nutrients.)
  • Cruciferous Vegetables – including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and radishes – contain powerful anticancer molecules.

In addition to helping to prevent or reduce cancer growth and spread, good nutrition also has been shown to reduce treatment side effects.  For example:

  • Rosemary – Rosemary extract has been shown to help chemotherapy penetrate cells, reducing resistance of breast cancer cells to treatment.
  • EGCG – EGCG, present in green tea, has been shown to enhance the effect of radiotherapy on cancer cells. It also slows the growth of leukemia and breast, prostate, kidney, skin, and mouth cancer cells.
  • Ginger – Ginger infusions have been shown to help alleviate nausea from chemotherapy.
  • Turmeric (Curcumin) – Certain tumors have been shown to be more sensitive to chemotherapy when curcumin is taken. Curcumin has also been effective in treating cancer treatment-related mucositis.
  • Cruciferous vegetables – including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and radishes – help people improve or maintain nutritional status while receiving cancer treatment.
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