This time of year offers a cornucopia of cancer-fighting foods, and
many of them will end up on the dinner table this holiday season.
Stephanie Meyers, RD, LDN, CNSD, a nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute in Boston, says many foods are at their nutritional peak now,
so it's important to incorporate them into a healthy diet. The key,
however, is to know what to look for and how to prepare it.
Pumpkin isn't just for pie
The jack-o-lantern that smiles so brightly on Halloween can also be a
part of a holiday meal. Behind that grin may be one of the best kept
secrets: pumpkins are packed with a cancer-fighting nutrient called
carotenoid. Meyers says carotenoids have been linked to the prevention
of colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancer.
Pumpkin isn't just for the holidays. Tips for eating it year-round:
- When cooking it, choose "sweet" or "pie" pumpkins.
- Eat it in soup, ravioli, and bread.
Other orange foods that are rich in carotenoids include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Squash, including acorn and butternut
Meyers stresses that eating foods rich in carotenoids, rather than
taking carotenoid supplements in pill form, provides greater protective
An apple a day
There may be something to the old adage "an apple a day keeps the
doctor away." Studies suggest that eating at least one apple a day can
help prevent throat, mouth, colon, and lung cancer and possibly breast
Besides being crisp, sweet, and juicy, apples contain quercetin, a
nutrient that protects cells' DNA from damage that could lead to the
development of cancer.
During the holidays there are a lot of opportunities to eat apples,
but watch out for apple pie. It may be a favorite, but an apple's
cancer-fighting potential is diminished when it is peeled and then
combined with extra sugar and fat. Meyers says stick to whole apples,
cooked or raw, making sure to eat the skin whenever possible. That's the
best source of nutrients.
Not just for the holidays
Cranberries are plentiful during the holidays. They are found in the
cranberry sauce, dressing, and some favorite breads and desserts.
They're at their peak this time of year, and that means their
cancer-fighting nutrient, benzoic acid, is strongest.
Research suggests that benzoic acid can inhibit the growth of lung cancer, colon cancer, and some forms of leukemia.
Meyers encourages her patients to think of cranberries as a
year-round favorite. She suggests buying them now, while they are at
their nutritional best, and storing them in the freezer for later. This
ensures getting the highest level of cancer protection all year long.
Color your world
Meyers says the key to finding cancer-fighting foods is to look for a
lot of color. The brighter and richer the pigment, the higher the level
of nutrients. So while shopping at the market, look for colorful
- Sweet potatoes
"You want to load up your plate with as many colorful plant-based
foods as you can," adds Meyers. "Eating a plant-based diet all year long
is the best way to help lower your risk of cancer."
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org)
is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is
among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.
It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
(DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National