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Extension > Source - Fall/Winter 2009 > Putting your vegetables to work

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Putting your vegetables to work


Research by Extension horticulturist Vince Fritz focuses on improving the cancer-fighting nutrients in fruits and vegetables. The discoveries are shared through outreach events called Chemopreventive Cafés.

We all know vegetables are good for us, but new research shows that one head of broccoli may not necessarily be as healthy as the next.

Extension horticulturist Vince Fritz's job is basically to stress plants out. His research focuses on how manipulating environmental factors can increase cancer-fighting compounds called phytonutrients. One factor is colored mulches, which alter the quality of light around a plant, possibly affecting phytonutrient concentrations.

Dr. Paul Limburg, a Mayo Clinic physician who partners with Fritz's team, values the connection. "To conduct appropriate clinical trials," he says, "we need to know not only what food might be of benefit, but also what the active components are." He sees his relationship with Fritz as "a unique advantage for our research program at Mayo Clinic."

Fritz shares these discoveries through events called Chemopreventive Cafés, where attendees can sample cancer-fighting foods. The café settings are effective, he says, because rather than distributing handouts telling people what to do, it's really showing them. "They come back and say they put the menu on their fridge, so we know the message is getting through and having an impact on their behavior."

Sample delicious cancer-fighting foods!

Everyone's genetic makeup is different, so phytonutrients will have varying effects. This list is neither all-inclusive nor conclusive, but is a good summary of cancer-fighting foods you can integrate into your diet.

Food Phytonutrient Helps protect against
Apple skins, blueberries, cranberries, red grapes Quercetin Oral cancer and leukemia
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower Glucosinolates Prostate, esophageal, colorectal and breast cancer
Carrots Beta-carotene Chemotherapy toxicity
Cranberries, red grapes Myricetin Prostate cancer, anti-tumor
Raspberries Ellagic acid Breast, skin, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer
Tomatoes Lycopene Prostate, lung, bladder, cervix and skin cancer
Ginger [6]-gingerol Skin, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancer
Grapes, peanuts Resveratrol Cancer
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