Top 10 superfoods to improve your immune system and lower the risk for cancer

By: Yumna Hussain ’25

“Superfood” is a term that has gained popularity in recent years to describe certain foods that are believed to have exceptional health benefits due to their high nutritional content. While there isn’t a strict scientific definition for what constitutes a superfood, these foods are typically rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are beneficial for overall health and well-being.

Here are some characteristics commonly associated with superfoods:

  • Nutrient density: Superfoods are often densely packed with essential nutrients, meaning they provide a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds per calorie. 
  • Antioxidants: These compounds help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are molecules that can damage cells and contribute to various chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fats are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and are important for brain health, heart health, and overall well-being.
  • High fiber content: Fiber is crucial for digestive health and can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and promote satiety. 
  • Bioactive compounds: Superfoods often contain bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, and phytochemicals, which have been linked to various health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved immune function, and lowered risk for chronic diseases.

Foods can influence cancer risk through various mechanisms, and understanding these factors can help individuals make informed dietary choices to reduce their risk. Here are some ways in which foods can contribute to cancer:

  • Promotion of inflammation: Certain foods, particularly those high in processed sugars, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates, can promote inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to an increased risk for cancer development by creating an environment that supports the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Obesity and weight gain: A diet high in calorie-dense, processed foods and low in nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can contribute to obesity and weight gain. Excess body weight, especially abdominal fat, is associated with an increased risk for several types of cancer, including breast, colon, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.
  • Formation of carcinogens: Certain cooking methods, such as grilling, frying, or charbroiling meats at high temperatures, can produce carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds have been linked to an increased risk for colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
  • Hormonal effects: Some foods contain naturally occurring or added hormones that can influence cancer risk. For example, high consumption of red meat and processed meats has been associated with an increased risk for hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer, possibly due to the hormones used in livestock production.
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes: Diets high in refined sugars and carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Both conditions are associated with an increased risk for certain cancers, including pancreatic, liver, and endometrial cancer. Insulin resistance may promote cancer growth by stimulating the production of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), which can encourage the proliferation of cancer cells.

Here are 10 top foods for health—also considered superfoods—that can help boost your immune system and lower your risk for cancer:

Fatty fish

  • Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, and lowering the risk for chronic diseases like cancer.
  • Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may also directly inhibit the growth and spread of certain types of cancer cells, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and turnips are rich in compounds like sulforaphane, which have been shown to have anticancer properties.
  • Sulforaphane activates enzymes that detoxify carcinogens and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
  • Cruciferous vegetables also contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which support overall health and immune function.


  • Berries are packed with antioxidants such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, and vitamin C, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • The high antioxidant content of berries has been linked to a reduced risk for various cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Nuts and seeds

  • Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber, plant protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • The combination of nutrients found in nuts and seeds supports immune function and reduces inflammation.
  • Some studies suggest that regular consumption of nuts and seeds may lower the risk for certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer.

Whole grains

  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, and barley are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
  • Fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive system, regulates blood sugar levels, and supports a diverse gut microbiota, which is essential for immune function.
  • Whole grains have been associated with a reduced risk for colorectal cancer and other types of cancer due to their fiber content and other protective compounds.


  • Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • The fiber and protein found in legumes support digestive health, regulate blood sugar levels, and help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Some studies suggest that legumes may have protective effects against certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.

Garlic and onions

  • Garlic and onions contain sulfur-containing compounds like allicin, which have been shown to have immune-boosting and anticancer properties.
  • These compounds may help activate immune cells, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and reduce inflammation.
  • Regular consumption of garlic and onions has been associated with a reduced risk for several types of cancer, including stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancer.

Green tea

  • Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which have powerful anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
  • The antioxidants in green tea help protect cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
  • Some studies suggest that regular consumption of green tea may lower the risk for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.


  • Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health and immune function.
  • Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is important for immune regulation and inflammation control.
  • Some research suggests that probiotics may help reduce the risk for certain cancers, although more studies are needed to confirm this effect.

Extra virgin olive oil

  • Extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, including oleocanthal and oleuropein, which have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
  • The healthy fats and antioxidants in olive oil help reduce inflammation, protect cells from oxidative damage, and support overall health.
  • Some studies suggest that regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil may lower the risk for breast, colorectal, and other types of cancer.

It’s important to note that there is no single food that can guarantee good health or prevent cancer. However, eating a variety of these healthy foods can help to give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and fight off disease. Remember that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are essential for promoting overall health and reducing the risk for chronic diseases.

The above list is just a snippet of the array of food that is super beneficial to boosting our immune system and preventing cancer.

Find these superfoods at: 

  • Our dining halls! Dining Services offers a myriad of healthy choices in the dining centers across campus. It’s important to have a balanced diet and find the different components that make up meals. 
  • Easton Farmers’ Market: Find an array of fresh produce available, including the majority of the foods mentioned above. (9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, May-December, Larry Holmes Drive,
  • Nearby grocery stores such as Wegmans and Giant should also have the foods for purchase.


Medical News Today: 

Defines a superfood and all statements made in the introductory paragraph. 

Better Health: Cancer and Foods

Description on how components of food contribute to cancer. 

Cincinnati – UC Health:

Some of the foods chosen for the list were taken from here.


Some of the foods chosen for the list were taken from here.

Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials:

Some of the foods chosen for the list were taken from here.