The Best Anticancer Foods

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

It’s clear that having a nutritious diet is essential to your health and well-being. But did you know that some foods can also lower your cancer risk?

Certain plant foods are anticancer and contain powerful phytochemicals that can protect your cells and DNA from damage that potentially causes cancer.

While no single food can guarantee that you won’t develop cancer, regularly adding a variety of cancer-fighting foods to your menu plan is excellent for your health and may lower your risk of cancer.

Let’s look at the best anticancer foods.

cruciferous vegetables

What are anticancer foods? 

Cancer is a widespread disease and the second leading cause of death worldwide. 

Carcinogenesis, or cancer development, typically follows a set of changes to normal cellular behavior that results in the formation of cancerous cells.

Cancer cells grow and divide uncontrollably and avoid the normal mechanisms that regulate cell growth and prevent the development of tumors. 

Whether somebody develops cancer depends on various factors, including genetic predisposition, dietary and lifestyle choices, and exposure to cancer-causing substances such as alcohol, tobacco smoke, and environmental toxins.

The American Institute for Cancer states that a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, ultra-processed meats, and junk food increases the risk of developing cancer. In contrast, a diet rich in vegetables and other plant-based foods can help to lower cancer risk.

Anticancer foods protect from harmful oxidative damage, promote a strong immune system, and are generally nutrient-rich and anti-inflammatory.

Plant foods rich in polyphenols appear to be the most potent cancer-fighting foods.

Broccoli sprouts

What are cancer-fighting phytochemicals? 

There are thousands of phytochemicals identified in plant-based foods, including vegetables, berries, herbs, and spices. Research suggests that some phytochemicals have potent anticancer properties that disrupt tumor growth and lower your risk of developing cancer.  

Let's take a look at the potential health benefits of phytochemicals and how they can help you to fight cancer. 


Glucosinolates are found predominantly in cruciferous vegetables. These phytochemicals can help prevent cancer by disrupting the growth of cancer cells and reducing tumor growth.

Glucosinolates boost the body's immune system, promoting the early detection and destruction of cancerous cells. These plant compounds also help prevent the formation of new blood vessels necessary for cancer to thrive.


Flavonoids are compounds that contribute to the color, aroma, and flavor of plant foods. They have tremendous health benefits and act as potent antioxidants. 

Flavonoids protect your body from oxidation and free radicals that damage cells and DNA, leading to mutations and cancer growth.


Quercetin is a plant pigment found in onion, citrus fruits, and leafy green vegetables that has been extensively studied for its potential anticancer effects.

Research shows that quercetin can stop the renewal and proliferation of cancer cells and causes apoptosis, or cell death, of cancerous cells.


Polyphenols are present in an abundance of plant-based food. They’re potent antioxidants, protecting your cells from harmful oxidation linked to increased cancer risk.

Cancer research indicates that polyphenols also stimulate detoxification pathways that help your liver to eliminate and excrete cancer-causing toxins and metabolic byproducts.


Anthocyanin is a pigment responsible for the colors red, purple, and blue in certain fruits and vegetables. It's one of the most potent cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Anthocyanins can directly inactivate the DNA of cancerous cells, stopping cancer growth and preventing the spreading of cancer cells to other tissues. 

The top anticancer foods 

The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a wide range of vegetables and plant foods to lower cancer risk. Aim for seven to ten cups of vegetables daily to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.

Here are the top cancer-fighting foods you should be enjoying regularly to decrease the risk of cancer.

Broccoli sprouts 

Broccoli sprouts are the first food on our cancer-fighting food list, and they’re one of the most powerful superfoods in the world.

Broccoli sprouts are rich in sulforaphane, a phytochemical of the glucosinolate family. Sulforaphane is often called "green chemo-prevention" due to its potent anticancer properties.

Sulforaphane directly blocks enzymes that stimulate tumor growth. It also increases your liver's capacity to detoxify cancer-causing substances. 

Research found that sulforaphane is particularly effective in preventing breast cancer cell growth and lowering the risk of colorectal cancer. 


Garlic contains more than 20 phytochemicals, including allicin, a sulfur-containing plant compound that can trigger cancer cell death. 

Garlic consumption has been found to prevent the formation of colon cancer cells and lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables 

Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and cauliflower, are rich sources of glucosinolates.

Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables is linked to a lower risk of developing breast and colon cancers.

Glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables can prevent cancer cell proliferation, protect from harmful free radicals, and reduce inflammation, protecting your cells and DNA from damage and mutations.



Bilberries are among the top food sources of anthocyanins. 

Although more human studies are needed to confirm anthocyanins' potent anticancer functions, laboratory studies found a decreased risk of colon cancer cell development.


Nuts are a staple of the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern linked to lower cancer rates and a decreased risk of heart disease. Research found that consuming one ounce of nuts daily can cut your cancer risk by up to 15%. 

Walnuts are a rich source of polyphenols, which can disrupt tumor growth and stop cancerous cells from migrating to other tissues. 


Beta-carotene is a phytochemical and pigment responsible for carrots' bright orange color. This phytochemical protects your cells from free radicals and can inhibit the replication of cancer cell DNA.

Frequent consumption of carrots, bell peppers, leafy greens, and other beta-carotene-rich foods may lower your cancer risk by up to 21%.

Preserving anticancer nutrients in food

Plants produce phytochemicals to protect themselves from insects, fungi, microbes, and environmental stressors, including drought and extreme temperatures.

When plants are injured or damaged, a cascade of chemical reactions triggers the release of phytochemicals. You can maximize the levels of anticancer nutrients by mimicking damage to plant cells.

Chopping, grinding, or cutting garlic, cruciferous vegetables, and broccoli sprouts activates the enzymes needed to release phytochemicals, significantly increasing the health-promoting compounds in these foods.

Watch the video above to learn more about how to enhance and preserve anticancer nutrients in your foods.

Anticancer foods

Key takeaways

Diet and lifestyle choices have significant effects on your risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer.

While no single food can guarantee cancer prevention, many health-promoting and cancer-fighting foods have been shown to inhibit tumor growth, trigger cancer cell death, and prevent the migration of cancerous cells to other parts of the body.

Garlic, broccoli sprouts, and cruciferous vegetables are rich in phytochemicals and are some of the best cancer-fighting foods. Enjoy these foods regularly to potentially reduce your cancer risk.


1. Can food stop cancer from growing?

Certain foods or nutrients have anticancer properties that can potentially help to stop cancer from growing. However, it’s important to note that no single food is guaranteed to prevent cancer. 

Frequent consumption of phytochemical-rich plant foods, including garlic, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and broccoli sprouts, is linked to a reduced risk of cancer development.


2. How do anticancer foods work?

Most plants produce phytochemicals to resist microbial infections, insects, and drought. These plant chemicals can have significant benefits for your health. 

Phytochemicals can inhibit tumor growth, trigger cancerous cells' cell death and stop cancer from spreading. They can directly disrupt the DNA of cancer cells, preventing their proliferation and growth.

3. What are the best anticancer foods?

Foods rich in phytochemicals are the best anticancer foods. Garlic, broccoli sprouts, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and other plant foods are some of the most phytochemical-rich food sources and rank among the top anticancer foods.

4. How often should I eat anticancer foods?

Daily intake of anticancer foods is an excellent choice to reduce cancer risk and promote overall health and well-being.

Foods with anticancer properties are highly nutritious, help your body fight inflammation, support a healthy weight, and protect your cells from harmful damage by free radicals. 

5. Are broccoli sprouts good for reducing cancer risk?

Broccoli sprouts are a rich source of sulforaphane and are one of the most potent anticancer foods on the planet. Sulforaphane can help prevent tumor growth and eliminate cancer-causing toxins from the liver.

Research found that sulforaphane is particularly effective in preventing the growth of breast cancer cells and lowering the risk of colorectal cancer.

6. What are carcinogens?

Carcinogens are substances that can cause cancer. Radiation, toxins, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and certain chemicals are forms of carcinogens. These can cause damage to DNA, which may cause cells to grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to cancer growth.


7. What is the best way to preserve anticancer nutrients?

You can preserve and enhance anticancer nutrients by chopping, grinding, or cutting foods, including garlic, broccoli sprouts, and cruciferous vegetables. This releases enzymes that trigger the release of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and increases their heat resistance.

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan