The ORAC scores of nearly all berries are very high, making them some of the top high-antioxidant foods in the world. Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, goji berries, camu camu and blackberries are easy to find and use in numerous types of recipes — which is good news considering they supply vitamin C, vitamin A and gallic acid, a powerful antifungal/antiviral agent that increases immunity.
Berries are especially rich in proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which have been observed to have anti-aging properties in several animal studies and are capable of lowering free radical damage. High amounts of phenols, zeaxanthin, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, lutein and polysaccharides are other berry benefits. Less familiar “superfoods” mulberry, camu camu and goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine since around 200 B.C. to increase immunity and energy, so look for those in powder or dried form in health food stores and online.
2. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Your body needs vitamins and minerals to perform essential functions, grow and develop, and repair itself. Research on whether they prevent cancer continues, with mixed results. Some vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients help protect your body against damage from oxidants. They are called antioxidants.
A review of clinical trials in people shows the following:
High-dose supplements with beta carotene do not seem to prevent cancer. In studies of current and former smokers, high-dose beta carotene supplements actually raised lung cancer risk.
Calcium and vitamin D.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was a large study of women who had been through menopause and were generally well nourished. Researchers found that supplemental calcium and vitamin D had no effect on the number of new diagnoses of colorectal cancer.
Folate is a generic description of a B vitamin that is found in foods such as leafy, green vegetables, fruit, and dried beans and peas. One form, folic acid, is made in the laboratory. It is found in supplements and fortified foods, such as breads and cereals. Studies show that people with low levels of folate have an increased risk of breast, colon, and pancreas cancers. So far, studies in people have not shown a relationship between folic acid and cancer prevention.
A few studies have tested whether taking a multivitamin reduces your risk of cancer. Generally the studies have not shown a protection. But one study showed that people who took multivitamins for more than 10 years had reduced polyp formation. Because polyps are linked to colorectal cancer risk, this study suggests a multivitamin might reduce colorectal cancer risk. But these are difficult data to interpret. Usually the healthiest people who get regular cancer screening are also the people taking multivitamins.
In a laboratory study, selenium supplements did not prevent a second skin cancer in people who already had the disease. But it did lower the new cases of prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. In some studies, selenium has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes. So be cautious about considering supplements that contain selenium.
Some research studies show that higher amounts of vitamin C in the diet can lower the risk of stomach cancer. But the results have not been consistent.
A large clinical trial called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) tested the relationship between vitamin E and prostate cancer. Updated results showed that participants who took vitamin E had an increased risk for prostate cancer.
Pomegranates are chock full of ellagic acid — the latest phytonutrient to enter the scene (although it’s been quietly hanging out in berries, nuts, and pomegranates for millennia). In laboratory and animal studies, ellagic acid has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth and deactivate cancer-causing compounds. To take advantage of these health properties, incorporate pomegranate seeds into smoothies or use them to top off a bowl of yogurt or cereal. Other foods rich in ellagic acid include raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, walnuts, pecans, cranberries, and grapes (red, black, purple).
Turmeric is the yellow-colored spice found in curry powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, functions as both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and it may help prevent cancer by interfering with aspects of cellular signaling. In laboratory animals, curcumin has been shown to help prevent cancer of the breast, colon, stomach, liver, and lung. Using curry powder to spice up chicken and egg dishes is an easy way to incorporate it into your diet — and it has the added bonus of adding flavor to your meals, without any calories!