Cancer Prevention: Eat to Lower Your Cancer Risk (cont.)

Many of our favorite foods contain good-for-you ingredients along with less healthy ingredients. For example, chocolate contains healthy flavonols (though it also has plenty of fat and sugar). Pizza is a rich source of disease-fighting lycopene, but it can also be loaded with high-fat cheese and toppings. That's why it's important to exercise restraint.

"Enjoy a piece of veggie or plain pizza but stop at one and add a side salad," suggests Doyle. Or indulge your sweet tooth and have one cookie -- along with a piece of fruit.

As for that American favorite, the hamburger, just be sure to use extra-lean hamburger meat, skip the high fat toppings, and pile on the lettuce, tomato and other veggies. When it comes to heart-healthy seafood, top grilled or baked (anything but fried!) fish with fresh-squeezed lemon or tomato salsa to get your omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C.

Eat Smart to Prevent Cancer

The best overall diet is one that includes plenty of whole, natural foods that are also good sources of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, says David Grotto, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

But there are certain "super" foods that are particularly rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. The American Institute of Cancer Research web site suggests:

  • Berries
  • Grapes and grape juice
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Soy
  • Green tea
  • Flaxseed

Grotto says he would also add pomegranate and omega-3-rich salmon or walnuts to the list.

"The beauty of it all is that many different foods work together, so the sum is greater than the individual parts at protecting health and warding off cancer," he says.

Experts agree that about two-thirds of your calories should come from these super-nutritious foods. They also agree there are some foods you should steer clear of.

"Avoid foods that have are high in trans and saturated fats," says Grotto. "Stay clear of foods with chemicals like preservatives and nitrates and the ones found in large fish (dioxins and PCBs) or charred meat."

Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to be good for your heart, but the key word here is moderate. If you drink alcohol, it's best to limit it to one drink per day for women and two for men because at higher amounts, the risk for cancer increases.

"If you don't drink alcohol, you can incur the same heart-healthy benefits by getting moderate exercise and eating a healthy diet, so we don't encourage anyone to start drinking if they don't already do so," says Doyle.

Of course, eating the right foods is just part of the equation for preventing cancer.