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Foods that fight for you

How can we prevent as many as one in five cases of cancers? Simply by eating more fruits and vegetables, agree scientists at the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

While the following “super” foods come with no guarantees, they do offer plenty of powerful reasons to make them your table’s centerpiece.

Berries. While all berries deliver health benefits, blueberries are extraordinarily rich in antioxidants. The pigments that give blueberries their hue, anthocyanins, are also found in blackberries, cherries and other blue-red fruits and help defuse several common carcinogens.

Strawberries, along with tomatoes, sweet green peppers, pineapples and carrots, contain the disease-thwarting phytochemicals coumarin and clorogenic acid.

Oranges, lemons and limes. Here’s a good reason to add more citrus rinds to juices and other dishes: Limonene, a substance plentiful in the peels of these fruits, helps block the development of breast tumors and may help stimulate the production of cancer-killing immune cells. What’s more, according to the American Chemical Society, flavonoids in citrus juice—particularly orange and tangerine juice—appear to have some effect against prostate cancer, lung cancer and melanoma.

Tomatoes. The tomato’s potency comes not just from vitamin C and other nutrients but from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps shield the body from free-radical damage. Evidence suggests that tomatoes need to be cooked and combined with a fat, such as olive oil or cheese, to release lycopene.

Leafy dark-green vegetables. Kale, collards and spinach, along with other members of this family, contain chlorophyll and carotenoids, substances that enhance the activity of red blood cells.

Cruciferous vegetables. Cabbage and its cousins, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, rutabagas and turnips, contain dithiothiones, indoles and isothiocyanates, compounds that may help destroy cancer-causing agents.

Beets. This vegetable owes its rich color to an antioxidant called betacyanin. For best benefit, enjoy fresh beets: They retain more folacin and vitamin C.

Garlic and onions. A study from the Penn State University College of Health and Human Development found that garlic blocks the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines in the test tube. Research has also shown less incidence of cancer in areas where people eat a lot of garlic and onions.

Green tea. This tea is steeped in free radical-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols. It is also rich in catechins, compounds that can help subdue cancer-causing cell damage. Note: Sip your tea without milk; its protein binds to the polyphenols, possibly hindering their effects.

Water. The world’s only natural beverage helps flush carcinogens out of the system before they can do damage. Last year, The New England Journal of Medicine reported that drinking more water may help reduce the risk of bladder cancer.

Hot peppers. The hotter the pepper, the more cancer-fighting capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin works by destroying the union of harmful nitrates and amines.

Winter squash. This vegetable’s brilliant color comes from a large dose of carotenoids, pigments that block cellular damage due to free radical attack.

Soybeans. Research suggests that compounds in soy may trigger changes in cells that hinder cancer growth. In cultures where soy is a main staple, rates of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer are relatively low.