The Anti-Cancer Diet

Posted on Jul 10, 2010 in Cancer


By Lucy Danziger, the Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine

Sep 29, 2008

Happier, Healthier You

by Lucy Danziger, the Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine

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Is it just me, or does it seem like, these days, almost everyone has cancer somewhere in their family tree? Terrifying? Totally. But the good, absolutely fantastic, news is that regardless of your family history, you can very easily lower your cancer risk. The best way to start: Pile some delicious food on your fork, chew, swallow and repeat.

It turns out that a healthy diet can help to override any cancer-prone genes you might have at work in your body. “Nutrition has a bigger influence on cancer than inherited genes, which means you could significantly reduce your odds of the disease through diet alone,” explains Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat for Health (Gift of Health Press).

OK, OK. I know what you’re thinking right about now: She’s going to tell me I have to eat kale at every meal. Not so! I mean, for the record, you should always eat as many fruits and veggies as possible, because they will dramatically lower your odds of ever hearing the dreaded diagnosis. But there are many other, less rabbity ways to eat away at your cancer risk.

Add whole grains to your diet.

My two faves, aside from a thick piece of freshly baked whole-grain bread? Oatmeal with a pinch of cinnamon for breakfast, or brown rice with a chicken and veggie stir-fry for dinner. Bonus: Because whole grains are high in fiber, you won’t be hungry five minutes after you step away from the table.

Spice things up.

In India, where people cook with many cancer-fighting seasonings such as cumin, ginger, garlic and turmeric, breast cancer rates are about five times lower than in the United States. Plus, adding Indian seasonings to your brown rice or veggies adds loads of flavor without adding loads of calories. Find easy-to-make recipes with these cancer-fighting spices at

Nibble on chocolate.

Ah, and now we’ve come to my favorite study ever! Consider this your permission slip to indulge in a dark chocolate bar, guilt-free. Researchers have discovered a compound in dark chocolate that fights fast-growing cancers, such as colorectal cancer. “The compound requires the activity of an enzyme called kinase, which causes cancerous cells to die but leaves normal cells alone,” says Richard Pestell, M.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. The darkest varieties offer the greatest benefit. Try our guide to picking the good-for-you kind of chocolate at

Find more cancer-fighting tips in SELF’s 2008 Women’s Cancer Handbook.