Research has shown that a healthy diet is not simply a large part of cancer prevention, but can also make treating and living with cancer more bearable. While cancers such as mesothelioma are most effectively treated with radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery, diet can make an important difference in how well those treatments are received. In addition, good nutrition can make dealing with the side effects of other treatments easier.
The American Cancer Society strongly recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, specifically colorful fruits and vegetables. While there is no “magic food” that will prevent cancer altogether, certain foods can play a role in keeping your risk low. Those that are rich in the following nutrients are recommended as part of a healthy diet.
Oxidation reactions, while a normal part of the body’s function, can cause damage to cells and tissues, and large amounts of this damage have been linked with diseases such as cancer. Antioxidants are chemicals that prevent some of this damage and are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer. Some common antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E; carotenoids such as beta carotene and lycopene; flavonoids; and polyphenols.
It is important to note that merely taking supplements of these antioxidants has not yet been shown to reduce cancer risk, so they are best taken in through food sources, rather than pills. As with many of the items on this list, antioxidants are found in high quantities in fruits and vegetables.
Dietary fiber refers to a wide variety of plant-based carbohydrates that are indigestible by the human stomach. While soluble fiber’s main long-term benefit lies in its cholesterol-lowering properties, there is some evidence that it may also decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Additionally, foods that are rich in dietary fibers often contain other important nutrients as well.
Beans, peas, and oats are excellent sources of soluble fiber, and many fruits and vegetables contain high levels of fiber, as well.
Also known as folic acid and vitamin B9, folate is essential to many of the body’s functions, such as the production of healthy red blood cells. Folate deficiency is especially common in heavy drinkers, and has been linked with colon, rectum, and breast cancer.
Folate can be found in highest concentrations in leafy vegetables, though all grain products in the United States are now fortified with this nutrient.
The term phytochemicals refers to a broad range of chemical compounds that are found in plants. There is some overlap between these nutrients and antioxidants, and it is thought that both work in similar ways to prevent damage to the body. As with antioxidants, phytochemicals have only been clinically proven to be beneficial when eaten in food, rather than taken as supplements. Beneficial phytochemicals can be found in a wide array of fruits and vegetables.