Fruits and Vegetables: Nature’s Cancer Prevention

What is known about cancer prevention is still evolving, but we do know that chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices we make. Some simple changes can make a big difference – such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular screenings.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends we fill at least two-thirds of our plates with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Research shows that vegetables and fruits likely protect against a range of cancers.

Vegetables and fruits may protect against cancer because they contain vitamins, minerals, and food heartphytochemicals. Vitamins and minerals help strengthen our immune system. Phytochemicals (a.k.a. antioxidants) protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer. Typically, phytochemicals are found in the pigment, which is why eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is important.

Enjoy vegetables and fruits with less sugar and salt—season with herbs and spices. Herbs (leaves of low-growing shrubs) and spices (come from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berry, or fruit of tropical plants and trees) are recommended in place of table salt. The key is understanding how and when to use them.

Each spice or herb has a distinctive flavor, but certain spices and herbs can be grouped together according to a type of flavor:

  • Strong or dominant—Includes bay leaf, cardamom, curry, ginger, pepper, mustard, rosemary, sage.
  • Medium—Includes basil, celery seeds and leaves, cumin, dill, fennel, tarragon, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano, savory, thyme, turmeric. Use in moderate amounts (1 to 2 teaspoons for 6 servings).
  • Delicate—Includes chervil, chives, parsley. May be used in large quantities and combined with most other herbs and spices.
  • Sweet—Includes cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, anise, fennel, mint. Combined in sweet dishes, these may let you reduce sugar.
  • Savory—Includes oregano, tarragon, chives, dill.
  • Peppery—Includes red pepper, mustard, black pepper, paprika. Use with care because their flavors stand out (approximately 1 teaspoon for 6 servings).

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