Can Fruits and Vegetables Really Fight Cancer?

Just one more reason why healthy eating should be one of your resolutions this year!

fruit vegetables cancer preventionDid you know that…

  • Broccoli has preventative properties related to prostate and breast cancer?
  • Lycopene found in tomatoes, guava and even watermelon can help fight cancer?
  • Compounds found in soy and legumes are known for their anti-cancer power?

While the power of food related to cancer has only been evaluated over the past few decades, the knowledge of the medicinal properties of food date back 6,000 years when Chinese emperors used soy for its curative power.

Back in the 1980s, when only a handful of researchers were exploring how specific foods may prevent cancer, Omer Kucuk, MD, was one of those researchers. Today a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory Winship, Kucuk focuses on food’s effect on cancer prevention and treatment, as well as its effect on other diseases such as osteoporosis.

Many foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and legumes, contain bioactive compounds that display potent anticancer activities, says Kucuk. For example, evidence exists that specific food compounds such as soy isoflavones and curcumin can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

What’s more, many nutritional compounds used for therapy or disease prevention can be taken as part of a routine diet and have little if any side effects, explains Kucuk. “The tomato carotenoid lycopene has cancer-preventing properties. People can get enough lycopene by eating tomato paste and tomato sauce, which is very rich in lycopene. So, if people ate a couple of ounces of tomato paste a day as part of a regular diet, they would eat enough to get all the benefits,” Kucuk says.

To hear Kucuk’s own words about these food compounds, listen to his podcast on the topic. Subscribe to Emory’s Sound Science for more podcasts from our Emory doctors.

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