Phytochemical Food Sources

In this Section

Phytochemicals have the potential to stimulate the immune system, slow the growth rate of cancer cells and prevent DNA damage that could lead to cancer. Here is a list of phytochemical food sources as well as the potential benefits of each.

Allium Compounds

Sources:

    • Chives, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots, garlic

 Potential Benefits:

    • Slows/stops the growth of tumors

    • More cancer fighters are available in garlic when it is cut or crushed at least 10 minutes before cooking 

Carotenoids

Sources (Look for fruits and vegetables in shades of red, orange, yellow and dark green):

    • Fruits:

      • Apricots, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, nectarines, papayas, peaches, watermelon

    • Vegetables:

      • Bok choy, broccoli, carrots, corn, greens, pumpkin, red peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash

Potential Benefits:

    • Acts as an antioxidant, inhibits cancer cell growth, improves immune response

    • Carotenoids in dark, leafy vegetables may even inhibit the growth of cancers of the skin, lung, stomach and some types of breast cancer cells

Flavonoids

Sources:

    • Fruits:

      • Apples, berries, cherries, citrus fruits, cranberries, currants, grapes, pears, plums

    • Vegetables: 

      • Beets, bell peppers, broccoli, celery, chard, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onions, red cabbage, radishes

    • Beans:

      • Black, kidney, pinto

    • Herbs:

      •  Parsley, rosemary, thyme

    • Other:

      • Cocoa powder, dark chocolate, coffee, tea 

Potential Benefits:

    • Acts as an antioxidant, increases the enzymes that protect the body from cancer-causing compounds, stimulates self-destruction of abnormal cells, inhibits inflammation that supports cancer growth, inhibits tumor growth, boosts immune function

Indoles

Sources:

    • Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens, turnips, watercress

Potential Benefits:

    • Acts as an antioxidant, increases the activity of enzymes that protect the body from cancer-causing compounds, helps repair damaged DNA, blocks the activity of hormones that influence the development of breast and cervical cancers, causes cancer cells to die, decreases estrogen's power to promote breast and cervical cancers

Inositol

Sources:

  • Bran from corn, oats, rice, rye and wheat; nuts; soybeans and dried beans

Potential Benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant, slows the growth of tumors, causes cancer cells to die 

Isoflavones

Sources:

  • Soybeans and soy products like edamame, soy milk and tofu

Potential Benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant, decreases production of some hormones, inhibits tumor growth

Isothiocyanates

Sources:

  • Arugula, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, red and green cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, watercress 

Potential Benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant, blocks tumor growth, causes cancer cells to die, inhibits inflammation that supports cancer growth, increases the activity of enzymes that protect the body from cancer-causing compounds

Polyphenols

Sources: 

  • Fruits:

    • Apples, blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, cherries, red grapes, pears, pomegranates, strawberries

  • Other:

    • Chestnuts, peanuts, lentils, pecans, turmeric, walnuts

Potential Benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant, inhibits inflammation that supports cancer growth, prevents cancer formation, causes abnormal cells to die before they can become cancerous

  • In the lab setting, curcumin (found in turmeric) reduced the formation and growth of breast, colon and stomach cancer cells 

 Protease Inhibitors

 Sources:

  • Beans, lentils, peas, soybeans and soy products like edamame, soy milk and tofu

Potential Benefits: 

  • Inhibits cancer cell growth, prevents tumors from releasing compounds that can destroy nearby healthy cells

Sterols

Sources: 

  • Vegetables:

    • Asparagus, beets, brussel sprouts, legumes

  • Other:

    • Nuts; whole grains; flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds; canola, corn, olive, safflower and sesame oils

Potential Benefits:

  • Causes cancer cells to die, lessens the inflammation that supports cancer growth 

Terpenes

Sources: 

  • Fruits:

    • Apples, cherries, citrus fruits, pears, prunes

  • Herbs:

    • Bay leaves, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme 

Potential Benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant, slows cancer cell growth, boosts immune function, inhibits inflammation that supports cancer growth 

 

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