12 super food to beat cancer

Are there food choices that can prevent or maybe even cure cancer? If you ask Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, co-founder of the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the answer is a definite “yes.”

Servan-Schreiber has three unique credentials. First, he’s both a medical doctor (MD) and a PhD. Second, he has written an international bestselling book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life. Third, he is himself suffering from cancer, and beating it.

This unusual combination of life events has made Servan-Schreiber rethink his medical education and find a cure for cancer. After long arduous research, he lists the following top anti-cancer food:

  1. Green tea. Green tea contains catechins, which can help retard tumor growth. It is also a powerful anti-oxidant that helps hasten the death of cancer cells. According to Servan-Schreiber, green tea should be steeped for at least 5-8 minutes to release the catechins. Drink two cups of green tea a day and drink within two hours of preparation. Choose the non-caffeinated variety to lessen any side effects, like heart palpitation.
  2. Curry and turmeric. Turmeric and yellow curry are potent food ingredients that fight inflammation. In laboratory tests, these substances enhance the effect of chemotherapy while also reducing tumor growth.
  3. Ginger. Ginger root has long been used in Asia to treat nausea, vomiting, coughs, colds, headache, stomach ache and arthritis. Its pungent odor comes from gingerols and shogaols, which are likely responsible for its anti-nausea and anti-vomiting effects. Aside from these benefits, ginger also helps reduce inflammation and helps retard the creation of new blood vessels used by cancer cells.
  4. Cabbages. Cabbages (like bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts) contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols, which are potent anti-cancer substances. These molecules can prevent precancerous cells from turning into real cancer cells. To prepare cabbage, steam briefly or stir-fry quickly with a little olive oil. Don’t boil them or you’ll destroy its anti-cancer properties.
  5. Garlic, onions and leeks. When tested in the laboratory, garlic and leeks were the top inhibitors of cancer cells. Garlic and leeks contain ally sulfides which can cause cell death in colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer, as well as leukemia. For best results of releasing its anti-cancer ingredients, the garlic clove should be crushed and gently fried with a little oil. Garlic can also be eaten raw, or added to salads.
  6. Carotenoid-rich vegetable and fruits. Yellow-orange colored fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A and lycopene, which may prevent cancer. These healthy foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and tomatoes.
    In a six-year study on breast cancer patients, researchers found that patients who ate more food rich in carotenoids lived longer compared to those who ate less.
  7. Tomatoes and tomato sauce. A study shows that eating tomato sauce (rich in lycopene) leads to longer life for men with prostate cancer. In order to release its lycopene, tomatoes should be cooked with a little olive oil. Ideally, we should consume at least 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce or approximately 150 ml a week. So remember, red spaghetti sauce is very healthy, just skip the meatballs.
  8. Soy. Soy products, like tofu and miso, contain genistein, a substance that blocks the stimulation of cancer cells by the body’s estrogen and testosterone hormones.
    In a study of Asian women who consumed more soy since their teen years, scientists found the women had fewer incidence of breast cancer. Instead of drinking regular milk, you can try soy milk. You may take tofu and vegemeat as an alternative source of protein to reduce your meat intake.
  9. Shitake mushrooms. Shitake mushrooms and other mushrooms contain polysaccharides and lentinian, which increase the activity of our immune cells. These protective cells kill off any cancer cell that wants to replicate and invade the body’s organs. The stronger your immune system, the lesser your chances of getting sick. In Japan, cancer patients are encouraged to eat mushrooms to complement the effects of chemotherapy.
  10. Oily fish. The Omega-3s in oily fishes (like sardines, salmon and mackerel) help reduce inflammation and may retard cancer cell growth. Omega-3s also reduce the spread of cancer. Some studies show the more fish you consume, the lesser your chances of getting certain types of cancer.
  11. Probiotics and yogurt. Our intestines contain good bacteria, called lactobacillus, to help digestion and bowel movement. Probiotics, like yogurt, help increase these friendly bacteria and help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells.
  12. Berries. Strawberries, blueberries and cranberries contain ellagic acid and polyphenols. These substances help eliminate cancer substances in the body. Fresh berries are ideal but frozen berries have also similar beneficial effects. To obtain the greatest benefit from these superfoods, try adding more of them to your diet. At the same time, reduce your intake of “unhealthy” and possibly cancer-causing foods, especially the traditional Western fast-food diet of hamburgers, hotdogs, preserved meats and steaks.

    The anti-cancer mind

    Aside from listing anti-cancer food, Servan-Schreiber talks about the anti-cancer mindset. He believes that one’s state of mind has an effect on whether we develop cancer or not.

    For example, people who feel helpless, hopeless and desperate are more prone to develop cancer. Persistent anger, especially hidden negative emotions, may lead to illness. On the other hand, acceptance, openness, facing one’s difficulties and support from family and friends may help prevent and even cure cancer. These positive emotions, along with meditation, yoga and prayer, can activate one’s immune system and help the body fight off cancer cells.

    Such an idea was considered medical heresy decades ago, but now, more and more experts are beginning to see the mind-body connection. To learn more about these exciting findings, check out Servan-Schreiber’s book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life. This groundbreaking book (available locally) may change the way you think of your health.
    (Photo from — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, no. 1-2 (June 21-July 4, 2016): 11.