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Vegetables to Eat for Cancer Patients

By Emma Cale ; Updated April 18, 2017

Cancer patients can use nutrition to manage their condition before, during and after treatment. Certain vegetables offer numerous anti-carcinogenic properties; in some cases, vegetables may help prevent the growth and proliferation of existing tumors and block the development of new ones. Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and Brussels sprout are highly recommended as are tomatoes, carrots and garlic. Speak to your physician or health care practitioner about vegetables you can eat to help heal your cancer.

Cruciferous Vegetables

As of 2007, 11.7 million Americans survived a cancer diagnosis with an invasive form like breast, prostate and colorectal. Of these 11.7 million, 1.7 million were long-term survivors diagnosed up to 20 years prior, according to the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Trends Progress Report. Current and recovering cancer patients may benefit from regular intake of cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprout and collard greens. These vegetables contain isothiocyanates and sulforaphane – compounds that may inhibit carcinogens and stifle tumor growth, according to Harvey Simon, M.D., Harvard Medical School.


Cancer patients may also benefit from eating garlic. Garlic contains two important organosulfur compounds, gamma-glutamylcysteines and cysteine sulfoxides, according to Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D., from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. These compounds appear capable not only of inhibiting the activity of certain chemical carcinogens but also seem instrumental in helping the body flush these carcinogens from the system.


Current and recovering cancer patients may derive benefit from eating tomatoes as well. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a chemical compound that has a protective effect on the body and appears to combat the development of some of the most virulent cancers, including prostate, colorectal, lung, and bladder cancer, according to Dr. Simon.


Cancer patients who eat carrots may benefit from alpha carotene, a carotenoid that demonstrates cancer-fighting properties. Carrots have been associated with significantly reduced rates of certain cancers, particularly lung cancer, according to Elizabeth J. Johnson, Ph.D., a research scientist at Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. To gain the full benefit of carotenoids from carrots, cancer patients are advised to cook them with fat. If you sautée carrots in oil, this tends to boost the bioavailability of these important nutrients.

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