To say that food can fight cancer may seem like a hyperbolic statement, but it’s true.

There are so many factors that contribute to a cancer diagnoses, and the food you choose to eat can play a key role in reducing those risks.

The American Institute for Cancer Research notes that many studies have shown that the minerals and vitamins found in certain foods can have anti-cancer effects. It also says that while one food may contain cancer fighting nutrients, it is the combination of foods that will offer the greatest protection against the diseases.

A healthy overall diet will play a huge role in preventing cancer. Nearly one-fifth of all cancers diagnosed in the US relate to an unhealthy lifestyle: a Body Mass Index that is above 25, lack of physical activity, and poor food choices.

Take a proactive step this new year in preventing cancer and practice mindful, healthy eating — your body may thank you.

The Fighter Foods

The term “super food” is one that is applied liberally nowadays.

It turns out the label is appropriately given, and many of the ingredients considered super foods are effective during the fight against cancer and in the prevention of the diseases. The good news is that cancer fighting nutrients come in foods of all variety, from produce to grains to protein to snack food. Even if you have dietary restrictions, there should be at least one cancer fighting food that you can add to your shopping list.

Here are a few of the most common cancer battling foods:

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion have been found to give a boost to the immune cells that fight pancreas, breast, colorectal, intestinal, and esophagus cancers. The sulfur compounds found in garlic (which gives it its odor and flavor) can also help slow the speed of tumor development. Few clinical trials have focused on the positive effects of garlic on fighting cancer, however several population studies back up the fact that garlic is one of the most powerful common plants to fight cancer.

Onions and other bulbous plants in the same family — namely leeks and chives — have also been shown to reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancer.

Spinach

Spinach and other leafy greens such as lettuce and swiss chard are healthy for various reasons. High fiber levels help maintain a healthy digestive tract, and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein team up to do their antioxidant duties of patrolling the body for dangerous cells.

According to a report published by the American Institute for Cancer Research, foods with various carotenoids can help prevent mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancer. Leafy green vegetables eaten raw or steamed will contain the highest amount of nutrients.

Citrus Fruits

Like leafy greens, citrus fruits are excellent to include in your diet for a number of reasons. In addition to high levels of Vitamin C and folic acid, fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruit — particularly the rinds — contain limonene, a phytochemical that has been shown to break down cancer-causing substances. In studies, the consumption of limonene has slowed the progression of advanced stage cancer for as long as a year.

Tea

Excellent for staying warm in the winter months ahead, various teas also contain antioxidants that can prevent cancer cells from replicating. Black and green tea is shown to have a positive effect. The latter is your best bet for fighting the diseases, and contains ample amounts of Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, an antioxidant toxic to cancer cells.

Whole Grain Foods

Don’t cut out the carbs — whole grain breads, crackers, rice, and cereals may also be cancer-fighting foods. They serve as concentrated sources of dietary fiber, antioxidants, and phytoestrogens, all which have their own effect on reducing the risk of cancer.

Studies have found whole grains are especially protective against gastric, colon, breast, and prostate cancers. The average American should eat between three and seven servings of whole grains per day.

Being mindful of your diet will also help reduce your risk of other diseases, especially heart conditions and diabetes. For a complete list of the foods found to fight cancer, see this comprehensive article on the MD Anderson Cancer Center website. Take it with you the next time you go grocery shopping and make an investment in cancer prevention.