Confused about the best cancer-prevention diet? You’re not alone. In recent years, a few studies have questioned the benefits of foods once considered big guns in the battle against breast and prostate cancers. Now, new research proves they do help, especially if you combine them with other smart steps like staying slim, getting regular exercise, not smoking and avoiding Food Felons such as red meat and added sugars and syrups.
That’s good news, because one in eight women will develop breast cancer, and one in seven men will develop prostate cancer within their lifetime. So be sure to put these tasty foods on your plate:
1. Tomatoes: They’re back on the team! Cooked tomatoes deliver a healthy dose of lycopene, a carotenoid that, in a big Harvard Medical School follow-up study, cut risk for prostate cancer 9 percent and slashed odds for fatal prostate cancer 28 percent. Lycopene discourages formation of blood vessels that feed tumors; it also slows cancer growth. It’s not as clear that lycopene discourages breast cancer, but since it reduces your risk for heart disease and peripheral artery disease, you want to get plenty. Soon, an “essence of tomato” supplement may be available in Europe.
Eating plan: Aim for at least 90 milligrams of lycopene a week. You’ll get that in ½ cup tomato sauce or 1 cup low-sodium tomato juice four times a week. While cooked tomato products have the highest levels, fresh tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit also deliver some lycopene.
Flavor boost: Mix up a Spanish-style condiment called sofrito – a blend of tomato paste, olive oil, garlic and onion – for a dose of cancer-battling polyphenols and carotenoids, says a recent report from the University of Barcelona. Dab it on 100 percent whole-grain bread, veggies, fish or chicken.
2. Omega-3s: You know omega-3 fats pamper your eyes, brain, joints and mood. But one study seemed to find a link with higher prostate cancer risk, scaring men away from fish and fish oil capsules. It’s time to come back. In one new study, fish oil along with a healthy diet reduced inflammation in men with prostate cancer and seemed to slow cancer-cell growth. In other studies, men with high blood levels of omega-3s had a 25 percent lower risk for prostate cancer, and women with high blood levels had a 14 percent lower risk for breast cancer.
Eating plan: Enjoy several servings of fatty, omega-3-rich fish like salmon or wild trout weekly. We do that and get 900 milligrams of DHA – the most powerful omega-3 – from daily algal-oil supplements.
Flavor boost: Snack on a small handful of nuts – walnuts are numero uno – several times a week. A new study found these nuggets help lower the risk for lethal prostate cancer 29 percent.
3. Fruit and vegetables: Fiber up! A few years ago, experts questioned whether fruits and vegetables helped lower cancer risk. We’ve never doubted they do, and now a British study of 65,000 people says getting five or more servings daily cuts your risk for fatal cancers by 25 percent. Other new reports have found a 40 percent lower risk of fatal prostate cancer and a 50 percent lower risk for breast cancer among people who load up on fruit and veggies as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Eating plan: Sneak high-fiber fruits and veggies into every meal and snack. Why? Fiber can help keep you slim and may whisk cancer-promoting substances out of your body and control levels of cancer-fueling hormones.
Flavor boost: Season your fruits and veggies with plenty of cancer-fighting fresh herbs and spices. Capsaicin, the fire in chili peppers, has been shown to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells in laboratory and animal studies. Does it help in humans? That’s not confirmed, but it may. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, apparently KOs cancer cells in lab studies and reduces development of several forms of cancer in lab animals. Horseradish and mustard are also smart choices.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.