Cancer is a complex disease. People who eat well and exercise get it, while lazy, fried-food loving people dodge it. Sometimes, it can seem like there's no rhyme or reason.
And while specific foods can't totally protect you from cancer, eating a healthy diet (and working out regularly and drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking) can help your chances of avoiding the disease that affects 1 in 3 of us.
So, eating a healthy diet overall is your best bet, but there are a few foods that have a good deal of research to back up their cancer-fighting credentials:1. Turmeric
This popular curry spice contains an active compound called curcumin (it's what gives turmeric its bright yellow-orange colour) which has been shown to display powerful anti-cancer activity. In fact, curcumin has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any nutrient. Professor Bharat Aggarwal, from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas goes as far as saying, "No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin." Pretty powerful stuff then!2. Tomatoes
This one is for the men in your life—tomatoes are packed with an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been widely researched for its anti-cancer properties and may lower the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is best absorbed when consumed together with dietary fat, so drizzle with plenty of olive oil! It has also been shown that lycopene is better absorbed and utilized by the body in processed tomato products, such as tomato puree and tomato paste. Bolognese it is!3. Garlic
Preliminary studies suggest that garlic consumption may be able to help reduce your risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. It is thought that the protective effects from garlic may arise from its potent antibacterial properties (the same properties that make it great for your immune system), or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances.
This nutrient-packed cruciferous vegetable (which is part of the same family as kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts) contains certain chemicals that may reduce the risk of colorectal and other cancers. Some studies have suggested these chemicals may alter the levels of estrogen in the body, which could affect breast cancer risk.5. Beetroot
Studies carried out on animals suggest that the powerful nutrients that give beetroot their deep crimson colour may help ward off cancer. Beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.6. Brazil nuts
These nuts are one of the richest food sources of the essential mineral selenium, which has also been identified as an anti-carcinogenic agent, with supporting evidence from both human and animal studies. Other exceptionally selenium-rich foods include oysters, clams, liver, and kidney.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.