1. Folate-Rich Foods
This B-complex vitamin can be found in many ‘good for you’ foods. Plus, manufacturers of cereals, pastas, and breads often fortify their products with folate.
How It Works: “The thought is that when someone has low levels of folate, it’s more likely for mutations in DNA to occur,” Stolzenberg-Solomon says. Conversely, adequate levels of folate protect against such mutations.
Cancer-Fighting Abilities: In a large-scale study, researchers evaluated the effects of folate on more than 27,000 male smokers between ages 50 and 69. Men who consumed at least the recommended daily allowance of folate -- about 400 micrograms -- cut by half their risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
How to Get It: Starting with breakfast, a glass of orange juice is high in folate; so are most cereals (check the box to see how much). For lunch, try a hearty salad with either spinach or romaine leaves. Top it with dried beans or peas for an extra boost.
Snack on a handful of peanuts or an orange. At dinner, choose asparagus or Brussels sprouts as your vegetable.
2. Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin which helps absorb calcium to build strong teeth and bones may also build protection against cancer.
How It Works: Researchers suggest that vitamin D curbs the growth of cancerous cells.
Cancer-Fighting Abilities: A report presented at the latest meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) showed a link between increased vitamin D intake and reduced breast cancer risk. It found vitamin D to lower the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 50 percent.
Vitamin D may also improve survival rates among lung cancer patients, according to a Harvard study reported in 2005. Patients who received surgery for lung cancer in the summer, when vitamin D exposure from sunshine is greatest, and had the highest intake of vitamin D, reported a 56 percent five-year survival rate. Patients with low vitamin D intakes and winter surgeries had only a 23 percent survival rate.
How to Get It: In light of these recent findings, many researchers consider the current RDA of 400 international units (IU) too low. William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., suggests that the RDA recommendations for vitamin D be increased to 1,000 IU for both men and women.
“Higher amounts may eventually prove better, but for now that amount is likely to be safe and have a protective effect,” he tells WebMD.
While vitamin D is often associated with milk, high concentrations also can be found in these seafood choices: cod, shrimp, and Chinook salmon. Eggs are another good source. And don’t forget sunshine. In just 10 minutes, you can soak up as much as 5,000 IU of vitamin D if you expose 40 percent of your body to the sun, without sunscreen.
If you enjoy sipping tea, you’ll be happy to know that it appears promising against some forms of cancer.
How It Works: Like many plant-based foods, tea contains flavonoids, known for their antioxidant effects. One flavonoid in particular, kaempferol, has shown protective effects against cancer.
Cancer-Fighting Abilities: A large-scale study evaluating kaempferol intake of more than 66,000 women showed that those who consumed the most of it had the lowest risk of developing ovarian cancer. Researcher Margaret Gates, a doctoral candidate at Harvard’s School of Public Health, suggests that consuming between 10 milligrams and 12 milligrams daily of kaempferol -- the amount found in four cups of tea --offers protection against ovarian cancer.
A separate study showed a link between consuming flavonoids and reducing the risk of breast cancer. The study, analyzing the lifestyle habits of nearly 3,000 people, showed that postmenopausal women who got the most flavonoids were 46 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who got the least. However, flavonoid consumption had no effect on breast cancer risk among premenopausal women.
How to Get It: Hot tea can be warming in the winter; ice tea offers cool refreshment in the summer. So enjoy tea year-round to boost cancer prevention.