Ask any expert, “What are the best ways to fight cancer?”, and you’ll likely be told advice such as to eat a healthy diet, exercise and avoid smoking.
You’re probably aware of the protective effects that certain cancer-fighting foods, such leafy greens and berries for examples, can have on your immune system and overall health. Here’s more good news: Some of the most widely consumed beverages in the world have also been shown to be cancer-fighting drinks.
Organizations like the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommend including drinks in your diet that provide vitamins and phytonutrients that have demonstrated anti-cancer effects. What are some examples? Coffee, green tea, red wine, and 100 percent vegetable and fruit juices are among the best choices.
6 Drinks that Fight Cancer
What can you drink to prevent cancer? According to the latest research findings, beverages that should be included in a cancer-fighting diet include:
While the caffeine is coffee isn’t well-tolerated by some people, nutrition-rich coffee is also a concentrated source of antioxidant phytochemicals. These include theophylline and theobromine, chlorogenic acid (a powerful phenol), quinic acid, cafestol and kahweol.
Certain studies have linked coffee consumption with reduced risk of liver, colorectal, endometrial, oral/pharyngeal and other cancers.
And although some worry about the negative effects of caffeine/coffee on digestive health, there’s overall no evidence suggesting an association of coffee intake with cancers of the stomach, pancreas or GI cancers.
2. Green, Black and White Teas
Black, green, white and also oolong teas (sometimes called “true teas”) are rich in many disease-fighting nutrients, such as catechins, polyphenol compounds, epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG), flavonols and more. Researchers believe this to be the reason that long-term tea consumption is linked with lower risks for bladder, stomach and pancreatic cancers, among other types.
Green tea is an exceptional source of EGCG, while other teas also provide epicatechin, epigallocatechin (EGC) and epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG). An article published in Cancer Metastasis Reviews states that “epidemiological studies have reported that the consumption of green tea may decrease cancer risk. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a major component of green tea, has been shown to inhibit tumor invasion and angiogenesis which are essential for tumor growth and metastasis.”
Matcha green tea (whole green tea leaf that is stone ground) is another great option, since it’s rich in antioxidants that give it the ability to support the immune system. Lab studies have linked both types of green teas with reduced development of cancer in colon, liver, breast, lung and prostate cells.
High amounts of polyphenols have also been identified in black tea and oolong tea. Flavonols including quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin are other compounds in true teas that help fight cancer.
A 2018 article published in AntiCancer Research states that “Oolong tea, same as green tea, can induce DNA damage and cleavage, play an inhibitory role in breast cancer cell growth, proliferation and tumorigenesis, and was a great potential as a chemo-preventive agent against breast cancer.”
3. 100 Percent Vegetable Juices
Having a daily serving of green vegetable juice, or another veggie juice/smoothie with pulp and fiber, is an easy way to boost your nutrient intake and help ward off chronic diseases, according to many studies.
Good choices include freshly-pressed juices made with greens like spinach or kale, carrots, beets, tomatoes, celery, herbs and other vegetables.
A large body of research shows that including a variety of vegetables in your diet can helps to lower the risk for many cancers, not to mention other chronic diseases. For example, juices made with dark greens provide you with antioxidants, such as carotenoids, which studies link with inhibited growth of a variety of cancer cells, including skin, lung, stomach and breast cancer.
Tomato juice is another beneficial juice, as it’s a great source of beta carotene/vitamin A, vitamin C, lycopene and other carotenoids that have anti-cancer effects. Lycopene in tomato juice has been linked with protection against prostate cancer.
Carrot juice is an excellent way to get more vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, luteolin, and flavonoid phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
If you’re willing to branch out from commonly eaten vegetables, consider adding superfood supplements to your veggie juices/smoothies such as spirulina, barley greens, wheatgrass or algae powders. When pulp is included, juices may be even more beneficial thanks to the fiber content, especially for colorectal health.
4. 100 Percent Fruit Juices (No Sugar-Added, In Small Quantities)
Examples of healthy juices include those made from anti-cancer fruits such as cherries, blueberries, pomegranate, oranges, grapefruit and acai. Consuming juices made from dark-colored fruits such as berries is a powerful way to get more resveratrol and anthocyanins into your diet, which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Grapefruit juice is another example that contains many phytochemicals that help defend against cancer according to research studies, such as naringenin and other flavonoids, limonin, beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamin C.
Pomegranate juice provides polyphenols that have shown to have antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory effects, offering protection against prostate, lung, breast and other cancers.
Research findings tell us that it’s important for fruit juices to be 100 percent fruit with no sugar added and no high fructose corn syrup, since high sugar consumption has been linked with increased risk for cancer and many other health problems.
5. Herbal Teas and Infusions
The use of herbal remedies, which come in many forms, is considered “by far the most commonly used group of alternative treatments among cancer patients,” according to certain literature reviews. Various herbs, whether in tea or extract form, have been shown to offer therapeutic effects on cancer markers, plus they are considered safe, unlikely to cause side effects or dependency, and widely available.
Herbal teas — which include ginger, chamomile, honeybush, dandelion, peppermint, chai, and a variety of Traditional Chinese medicine herbal blends — are caffeine-free and full of benefits, including supporting gut health and reducing inflammation. Herbal infusions are another great option, which are made by steeping herbs in water until the water absorbs the herb’s oils and therapeutic compounds.
A 2019 review explains that herbal teas and infusions are made with herbs that may help offer protection against oxidative stress, certain types of cancers, and also digestive issues that can be caused by chronic illnesses and cancer treatments.
According to a 2018 article published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, “Herbal teas/beverages are rich sources of natural bioactive compounds such as carotenoids, phenolic acids, flavonoids, coumarins, alkaloids, terpenoids, among others.” These bioactive compounds have biological effects, such as antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions.
These teas are also made with water, which has far-reaching benefits of its own. Water is important for overall health because it increases urination and detoxification of potential cancer-causing compounds that can wind up in the bladder and elsewhere.
6. Red Wine (In Moderation)
Red grapes and red wine are filled with cancer-fighting compounds called resveratrol. Studies suggest that chemicals found in wine can contribute to destruction of cancer cells and inhibition of cancer-cell growth.
According to one study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, “There is evidence that wine consumption decreases the risk of cancer at several sites, including cancer of upper digestive tract, lung, colon, basal cell carcinoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” Red wine also seems to significantly reduce transcription of certain genes that increase cancer risk.
The effects of mature, red wine on cancer cell phenotypes have been shown to be stronger than young, wine wines. Red wine seems to be especially beneficial for combatting colony formation of human breast cancer and esophageal carcinoma cells.
However, keep in mind that research shows these positive effects on different human cancer lines occur in a dose-dependent manner, which seems too much alcohol may actually increase your cancer risk (more on this below).
How much of these cancer-fighting drinks do you need to consume to reap their benefits?
In terms of consumption and frequency, this depends on the type of drink. Here are some general guidelines according to most health experts:
- Coffee: 1–2 cups may be best, however for most people up to 3 to 5 cups per day likely won’t lead to any negative effects.
- Tea: several cups per day, or even more if the tea is herbal and uncaffeinated.
- Vegetable juices: between 4 to 8 ounces daily.
- Fruit juices: too much juice can be an extra source of sugar and calories, so small amounts are best, between 4 to 8 ounces daily for adults. Some experts recommend up to 8–12 ounces of veggie/fruit juices daily for children and teens between ages 7 to 18.
- Wine: 1 to 2 drinks per day at most (2 or less is recommended for adult men, and 1 or less for women).
If You Already Have Cancer
What is good for cancer patients to drink? Doctors recommend these health-boosting beverages, which can help with hydration and provide key nutrients:
- Water. Some cancer treatments may make plain water taste unappealing; in this case, drink more water that’s flavored including mineral water, seltzer or water with lemon or other fruit.
- 100% fruit or vegetable juices, which can help prevent dehydration, plus provide electrolytes and antioxidants.
- Coconut water or milk, a hydrating beverage with medium-chain triglycerides, a type of beneficial fatty acid that can help support gut health. Coconut milk (higher in fat) also contains some bacteria-fighting, antioxidant properties that support the immune system.
- Herbal teas such as ginger tea or peppermint teas, which can help with nausea and other symptoms caused by treatments.
- Kefir and organic milk (if tolerated), which provide many important vitamins and minerals, plus probiotics if fermented.
- Bone broth, a unique source of difficult-to-get amino acids, collagen, trace minerals and electrolytes.
If lack of appetite is an issue, try drinking most liquids at least a half-hour before or after meals to keep from feeling too full.
Keep in mind that caffeine, sugary drinks and even sometimes fruit juices my lead to indigestion, so it might be necessary to limit these if diarrhea or nausea occur.
Risks and Side Effects
Just like there are some beverages and foods that can help to fight disease development, research tells us there are also potentially cancer-causing foods to avoid.
Which drinks should you limit or ideally cut out from your diet?
- Sugary drinks, including soda, energy drinks and juices, teas and coffee drinks with added sugar. Research has revealed a strong link between sugary drink consumption and risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and now ongoing research is suggesting that these beverages can also put you at greater risk for certain cancers such as breast, pancreas, gallbladder and endometrial cancer. It’s believed this connection is due to mechanisms such as insulin resistance caused by consumption of a high glycemic load, as well as the effects of chemical compounds, additives and pesticides in sugary drinks which may have carcinogenic effects.
- Alcohol in excess. While wine in moderation have protective effects against certain diseases, too much seems to do the opposite. High alcohol intake increases the risk of certain types of cancer development according to research studies, including colon/rectum, oral, liver, breast and other cancers.
- There’s evidence that as part of a healthy diet, certain drinks and foods can help stop cancer from forming or progressing.
- Cancer-fighting drinks are those that provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, in addition to hydrating water and in some cases probiotics.
- What are the best choices? Coffee, green/black/white teas, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas and red wine can all support your immune system and potentially lower the risk for cancer development.