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The 6 Best Cancer-Fighting Foods

Food is used for fuel, but it can also be one of the first lines of defense against illness. Learn what superfoods can help you combat one of the deadliest diseases!

Last month, photos of men with overgrown beards, mustaches, and sideburns flooded social media for "No-Shave November." The annual event, which asks us to ignore our razors for 30 days and donate the money we'd normally spend on grooming to the American Cancer Association, is undoubtedly a great way to give to a worthy cause. But now that we're well into the month of December and letting the stubble spread, that doesn't mean our cancer-fighting efforts have to come to a halt.

Food helps fuel your body and workouts, but may also help you take steps toward cancer prevention. While no individual food is a magical cancer-preventing bullet, adding these into your diet on a regular basis (while maintaining healthy eating and daily exercise habits) can certainly help minimize your risks.

1. Dairy

Dairy products like milk, Greek yogurt, skyr (Icelandic yogurt), cheese, and, of course, whey and casein proteins aren't only some of the most anabolic proteins you can consume, they've also been suggested to help prevent cancer. Studies have found that dairy consumption is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal, breast, bladder, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

Dairy products aren't only some of the most anabolic proteins you can consume, they've also been suggested to help prevent cancer.

You may have heard the complete opposite from scaremongers citing studies that suggest eating dairy products actually increases the risk of cancer. However, a recent massive review paper concluded that the long-standing and well-proven beneficial effects of dairy on cancer prevention far outweigh the unproven negative effects. The researchers clearly stated there's no evidence that milk consumption might increase death from any condition.

They also noted that, while there may be occasional reports about the possible causative effect of milk consumption on some types of cancer, it must be remembered that not only are there far more published studies showing a beneficial impact from dairy consumption, but that there's ample convincing evidence through thousands of years of consumption of dairy products that shows their definitive impact on health maintenance, survival, and longevity.

Prevention Point

One of the many ways I like to enjoy dairy is with this Greek Pro JYM Pudding recipe!

2. Tomatoes

A recent study by UK researchers reported that men who consumed at least 10 servings per week of tomatoes or tomato products, such as tomato sauce, tomato juice, and ketchup, had an almost 20 percent reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. This new data backs up earlier research that showed a 35 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.

Tomatoes' health-boosting benefits are attributed to the presence of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that fights compounds that can cause cell and DNA damage. One serving of tomatoes consists of one medium tomato, seven cherry tomatoes, or a five-ounce glass of tomato juice.

Prevention Point

Greek salads are full of tomatoes. Check out my protein- and lycopene-packed Greek Chicken Salad recipe.

3. Dark Chocolate

Chocoholics rejoice! Research confirms that the flavanols in cocoa can reduce the risk of cancer, specifically colorectal cancer. The colon is very susceptible to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can provoke the production of cancerous cells. Flavanols work to neutralize ROS, and cocoa has one of the highest flavanol content of all foods. By neutralizing ROS, cocoa's flavanols may help to prevent the damage and the production of cancerous cells.

Prevention Point

A great time to eat dark chocolate is before workouts, because cocoa also boosts nitric oxide (NO) levels. This is likely due to the flavanol epicatechin present in cocoa. Aim for about two ounces of dark chocolate—85 percent cocoa or more—with your pre-workout protein shake.

4. Coffee

No need to feel guilty about your coffee vice. The antioxidant compounds in java appear to provide benefits for fending off prostate cancer. A recent study in "Cancer Causes & Control" reported that, in more than 1,000 male prostate-cancer survivors, those who consumed four cups of coffee per day or more had about a 60 percent reduced risk of recurrence or progression when compared to men who drank one or fewer cups of coffee per week.

This data supports earlier findings from Harvard's Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) that reported that men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 60 percent decreased risk of lethal prostate cancer compared to men who abstained from coffee.

No need to feel guilty about your coffee vice. The antioxidant compounds in java appear to provide benefits for fending off prostate cancer.

Coffee has also been linked to a healthy liver. Research suggests that coffee drinkers may have as much as a 50 percent reduced risk of liver cancer. These benefits seem to stem from chemopreventive compounds in coffee such as cafestol, kahweol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. Other scientific evidence has shown that caffeine delays metastasis and provides other anticancer effects.

Prevention Point

In the morning, I like to add a scoop of Pro JYM Vanilla or Chocolate Cookie Crunch to 10-12 ounces of coffee. This concoction offers the cancer-fighting benefits of both coffee and dairy on top of anabolic benefits and a nice pick-me-up.

5. Kale

This leafy green cruciferous vegetable is from the brassica family, as are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collard greens. Kale and the rest of the brassica vegetables are rich in organosulfur compounds known as glucosinolates, which may help reduce the risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer. One of the major glucosinolates present in kale (as well as the other cruciferous veggies) is sulforaphane, which is formed when these vegetables are chopped or chewed.

One warning you might have heard about cruciferous vegetables is that they contain substances called goitrogens that can suppress thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism. But don't worry—only excessive daily consumption of these vegetables, combined with a significant deficiency in iodine, can impact thyroid function.

Prevention Point

Ever tried kale chips? They're an easy and different way to reap the green's benefits. To make them, roughly chop a bunch of kale and place it on a cookie sheet. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly, then bake the kale at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes. Use a pair of kitchen tongs to mix the leaves, then continue cooking until crisp (usually another 10-15 minutes).

6. Garlic

Garlic is well known for its cardiovascular and immune-function benefits, and it might even aid in fat loss. Raw garlic also appears to provide protection from cancer, particularly stomach, colorectal, and lung cancer. One study from Chinese researchers reported that subjects consuming raw garlic at least twice a week had roughly a 45 percent reduced risk of lung cancer. This was true even of smokers, who were found to have 30 percent less risk of developing lung cancer.

Prevention Point

The compounds in garlic that appear to be responsible for cancer protection are known as organosulfur compounds. One of them, allicin, is well-known for its antibiotic and antifungal properties. Since it's largely depleted when garlic is cooked or pickled, your best bet is to consume raw garlic. A great way to do this is by adding sliced or crushed garlic to salads or salad dressings. Another idea: Combine it with two cancer-fighting tomatoes and make good-for-you bruschetta.

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