Anticancer Compounds in Vegetables

Anticancer Compounds in Vegetables

There are a whole variety of anticancer compounds in vegetables, called phytochemicals. These compounds have different effects on the cancer progression pathway shown below.

cancer initiation pathway and diet


Anticancer compounds in vegetables

In the first stage of the pathway – something causes a normal cell to be damaged, this damaged cell is said to have been ‘initiated’. Many of the phytochemical compounds in cruciferous vegetables, as well as onion and garlic, block this process of a normal cell becoming initiated right at the beginning of the pathway. If you want to avoid developing cancer, you should include these vegetables in your diet regularly.

Other phytochemical compounds block the process of the damaged (initiated) cell turning into a dangerous and malignant cancer cell, capable of spreading cancer around the body (promotion and progression). Out of all of the vegetables available, tomatoes have been shown to have a significant effect on this stage of the cancer process1, particularly in prostate cancer cells2. If you already have cancer, this is this second part of the pathway that you want to block.


Cruciferous vegetables

Includes white cabbage, red cabbage, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

cruciferous vegetables and cancer


Anticancer food benefits – cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that prevent cells being damaged (initiated) at the beginning of the cancer pathway3,4. Broccoli and Brussel sprouts contain the highest amount of these anticancer compounds and should be eaten regularly to protect against cancer.

Cooking/preparation – lightly cooked (stir-fried or steamed) or raw (the anticancer compound seeps into cooking water and is also destroyed by excessive heat).


Onions and garlic

Anticancer food benefits – onions and garlic contain sulphur compounds that prevent cells from being initiated and becoming cancerous. Garlic may also prevent cancer cell growth by directly attacking tumour cells and destroying them5,6,7. Studies have shown that regularly eating onions and garlic reduces an individual’s risk of developing cancer8.

Cooking/preparation – onions and garlic need to be crushed, chopped or chewed to release the anticancer compounds. They can be lightly cooked or eaten raw.



Anticancer food benefits – tomatoes contain lycopene that may prevent cancer from progressing by stopping cancerous cells from growing, it may also trigger cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis)9,10.

Cooking/preparation – the anticancer activity of lycopene is maximised by cooking tomatoes with vegetable fat such as good quality olive oil. Tomato paste contains a much higher (more concentrated) amount of the anticancer compound lycopene.


In summary

Based on scientific research to date, tomatoes and garlic in particular should be eaten regularly if you already have cancer (as these may act directly on tumour cells). If you want to reduce your risk of developing cancer, then all of the vegetables mentioned in this article should be eaten on a regular basis.


For more detailed information on the anti-cancer diet, the book ‘Food to Fight Cancer: What Your Doctors Aren’t Ready to Tell You’, is available to purchase from The Green Apple Club shop.







About the author: 
Sonia Nicholas is a Biomedical Scientist and Freelance Clinical Science Writer & Editor. She has been working in the field of clinical science for fifteen years.

Sonia believes that everyone can improve their health by eating a clean diet – a claim that scientific research increasingly supports. Sonia also believes that healthy, clean eating is accessible to all and doesn’t have to be an expensive lifestyle choice.

All of the information on The Green Apple Club website is in line with current, recommended Government guidelines on nutrition. All of the articles on the website are evidence based and fully scientifically referenced.

Related Reading:


BLOG: Living in Cancers Shadow: Taking Back Control
ARTICLE: Fruits to Fight Cancer: Berries & Citrus
ARTICLE: Green Tea and its Effect on Tumour Growth

Article tags: anti cancer compounds in vegetables, anti-cancer diet, phytochemicals, anti-cancer food


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