7 of the Best Heart-Healthy Foods That Also Prevent Cancer

By Dr. Jack Wolfson

Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, heart disease and cancer have claimed the first and second spots respectively for over a century.1

There is currently an epidemic of increasing rates of both diseases. And there are many factors that can impact your risk of developing heart disease and cancer.

Risk factors for heart disease and cancer include:

  • Stress

  • Lack of sunshine

  • Lack of sleep

  • Toxic environment

  • Poor nutrition

Interestingly, nutrition is an especially important factor that can play a role in the development of heart disease and cancer, which explains how diet can impact health. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to explore which nutritious, heart-healthy foods are preventative regarding disease development. You CAN eat to beat heart disease AND cancer.

7 of the Best Cancer-Fighting & Heart-Healthy Foods

#1 – Beets

  • Both red and green beets have protective pigment compounds called flavonoids, which give them their signature color and deliver a wide range of bioactive properties including: antioxidant and anti-cancer effects.

  • A recent study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2017 found that beets have exceptionally high levels of C-glycosyl flavonoids that exhibit increased antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative activity.2

  • The study concluded that beets are protective because they can induce cell death and downregulate genes that can control cancer cell growth and survival, making them highly anti-cancerous foods.2

  • Furthermore, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action exerted by beets2 is protective for the heart as it can help to prevent chronic inflammation and oxidation from damaging blood vessels in the heart over time.

Every morning, we drink our organic beetroot juice. Our patients do as well and the results are spectacular!

#2 – Capers

  • Quercetin is a novel flavonoid with promising anti-cancer potential. It is therefore one of the most important flavonoids found in the human diet. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on cardiovascular disease. Quercetin is present in a variety of plant foods with some of the highest natural concentrations found in capers, which are essentially pickled flower buds of the Capparis Spinosa plant.

  • Quercetin has been found to have significant effects on lowering blood pressure.3 Numerous studies have revealed a substantial decrease in hypertension following quercetin supplementation.3

  • Due to its prominent ability to fight inflammation,4 decrease blood pressure,3 significantly decrease plasma levels of oxidized LDL,5 and act as an antioxidant, quercetin is found to be cardioprotective as well as anti-cancerous.

Capers are delicious with seafood and meat, but I add to salad dressing and blend. Buy organic in glass.

#3 – Citrus Fruits

  • The consumption of citrus fruits has been significantly associated with a lower risk of cancer development, specifically non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL).6

  • Furthermore, a recent review article published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2017 concluded that citrus fruit intake had a significant inverse association with cardiovascular disease and cancer. Specifically, an increased intake of citrus fruits was significantly linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.7 The study further concluded that these premature causes of death are actually due to a low intake of fruits and vegetables that is well below the dietary recommendations.7

  • The appeal of citrus fruits in disease prevention is largely due to their high levels of essential nutrients and antioxidants. Citrus fruits contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is both a vitamin and potent antioxidant or flavonoid known to be associated with a reduced incidence of cancer. They also have a flavonoid called nobiletin that has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties as it can suppress tumor and cancer cell growth.

Don’t forget to eat the peel. The peel is loaded with nutrients. We take the organic peels and put them in the oven or dehydrator. Dip in organic dark chocolate if need be.

#4 – Turmeric

  • Curcumin, found in turmeric, is a powerful plant chemical responsible for turmeric’s signature yellow color and touted with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer and cardioprotective properties.8

  • Turmeric is a member of the ginger spice family. It has long been utilized in traditional eastern medicine as a therapeutic treatment for a variety of disorders such as cancer, heart disease and even neurodegenerative diseases.

  • While it has been used widely throughout history in alternative medicine, recent research has corroborated its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. There is evidence that curcumin has significantly beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders such as heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease and is highly chemopreventative.9

We juice the turmeric or just add water and blend. Turmeric spice is perfect for so many recipes.

#5 – Broccoli

  • Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains glucosinolates that are converted to sulforaphane, a sulfur compound found to have preventative outcomes on cancer and heart disease.

  • There is evidence that broccoli’s sulforaphane compounds are chemopreventative as they can instigate programmed cell death and control gene regulation in DNA to preclude cancer progression.10

  • Chronic diabetes is known to be associated with cardiovascular events. Recent research has revealed that sulforaphane can actually inhibit advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and prevent vascular problems in diabetes.11 Specifically, sulforaphane can mitigate the inflammation associated with increased AGE development and decrease levels of AGEs in the blood,11 contributing to cardioprotection. This is important as AGEs have adverse pathological effects on the heart including: increased inflammation and arterial stiffness, inhibition of nitric oxide and decreased vasodilation, and increased oxidative stress and LDL oxidation.

Raw, steamed or sautéed, get broccoli into your diet. Check out broccoli sprouts too.

#6 – Seafood

  • Seafood is the only well-established source of both of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Overall, these marine omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with lower inflammation, healthier arteries and protection against certain cancers and heart disease.

  • A review of the research concluded that a higher intake and dietary plasma level of omega-3 fatty acids from fish was significantly associated with a lower risk of heart failure.12 The authors speculate this could be due to a reduction in coronary disease events due to EPA/DHA’s beneficial effects on inflammation, heart rate and ventricular function.12

  • Another review study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2017 concluded that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood was significantly correlated with a decrease in brain tumor risk, alluding to their potential neuroprotective and anti-tumor mechanisms in the brain.13

Love my wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and shellfish… especially oysters. Add anchovies to salad dressing and blend. Your body will love it.

#7 – Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms have been found to be protective against cancer. A study that reviewed the research found that dietary mushroom intake was inversely associated with breast cancer rates.14 This means that increased mushroom consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of breast cancer development.14 The study cited the established evidence for medicinal mushrooms to have anti-tumor and immune-modifying effects, which could contribute to their anti-carcinogenic status.14

  • Mushrooms have key bioactive compounds that are known to be immune-modulatory meaning they can enhance or suppress the immune response. They can also act as antioxidants that inhibit oxidative stress,15 which has been implicated as a significant factor in cardiac dysfunction.

Organic mushrooms add a unique flavor and texture to any recipe. Get some today!