Disease And Illness - Other

Fruits and Vegetables and Cancer Prevention

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Research suggests that there are many beneficial properties found in fruits and vegetables that may help ward off cancer and other diseases. One of these helpful properties is called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are what give plants their color and flavor and are currently under scientific scrutiny for their potential health-promoting effects. Phytochemicals provide health benefits above and beyond the essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber). Some phytochemicals have been demonstrated to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-tumor properties.

Since eating fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk, the American Cancer Society recommends that individuals eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a days. It is also recommended that you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Since phytochemicals are what give the plant their color and flavor different colors mean different phytochemicals and different benefits. All fruits and vegetables can fit into one of five color categories and you should strive to eat from each category.


Many red fruits and vegetables are colored by a phytochemical called lycopene. Lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk of many cancers especially prostate cancer. Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red peppers and pink guava are especially high in lycopene.

Another powerful cancer prevention agent found in red foods is anthocyanin. Anthocyanin gives berries their pigment. High concentrations of this phytochemical are found in strawberries and red raspberries. Not only have these fruits been linked to cancer prevention they may also be helpful in warding off heart disease as well.


Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of vitamin C and two types of phytochemicals with cancer fighting properties, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. These foods can help lower the risk for some forms of cancer are also important for immune system functioning.

Beta carotene, a well-known carotenoid, is found in high amounts in carrots, mangos, apricots, butternut squash, and peaches. Some of the best sources for bioflavonoids include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, peaches, and yellow peppers.


White fruits and vegetables contain powerful cancer preventing phytochemicals such as beta-glucans and lignans. These phytochemcials boost your immune system and activate disease-fighting cells. These foods may prevent the development of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Make sure to include garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and onions into your daily diet to gain benefits exclusively found in white fruits and vegetables.


The green color group contains a very powerful anti-cancer phytochemical called sulforaphane. This phytochemical is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collards. The phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables are thought to have a powerful anti-tumor effect and may inhibit cancer growth in general.


Like all other groups, the blue and purple vegetable group contains phytochemicals that boost immune system activity and act in cancer prevention by inhibiting tumor growth and limiting the activity of cancer cells. These phytochemicals include anthocyanins and phenolics and are found in foods such as blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple asparagus, and eggplant.

A cancer prevention diet is a diet that includes generous portion of fruits and vegetables from all color categories. The benefits of eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables will not only reduce your risk of cancer but enhance your overall immune functioning and general health as well. Whether fresh, canned, dried, or frozen the unlimited fruit and vegetable possibilities will keep you healthy all year long.

More about this author: Jane W. Smith

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