Eat Drink Better

Published on September 1st, 2011 | by Rachel Fox, RD


Reader Question: Can Asparagus Fight Cancer?

chopped asparagus

A couple of days ago we received a question from a reader about green asparagus: Does this vegetable have cancer fighting principles? Let’s find out…

I have a fantastic book by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD called The Anti-Cancer Way of Life. I frequently refer to it when I’m curious about certain foods. Asparagus is cousin to garlic and onions and presumably has the same cancer fighting sulfur compounds. The alliaceous family helps to “reduce the carcinogenic effects of nitrosamies and N-nitroso compounds.” These compounds arise with the overgrilling of meat and tobacco smoke.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber’s book contains charts that break down the effectiveness of certain foods to inhibiting certain cancers. Asparagus ranks quite high on most lists.

  • Colon Cancer: 100 x inhibition in cell growth, #10 on list of foods
  • Brain Cancer: 80 x inhibition in cell growth, #15 on list of foods
  • Lung Cancer: 70 x inhibition in cell growth, #10 on list of foods
  • Prostate Cancer: 70 x inhibition in cell growth, #21 on list of foods
  • Breast Cancer: 70 x inhibition in cell growth, #15 on list of foods

These numbers are compared to cells that were not exposed to any vegetable at all. Asparagus seems to be ranked high on all of the above lists and has pretty super cancer inhibiting properties. The foods that ranked above it always included garlic, leeks, Brussels sprouts and the cabbage family vegetables. I think it’s safe to say that yes, asparagus has cancer fighting principles.

Thank you to Darrin for asking this fantastic question! Got your own nutrition questions? We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email through our contact page.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by epicuriosa

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About the Author

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and food and nutrition enthusiast from southeast Michigan. She has her Bachelor's in Dietetics from Central Michigan University and completed her dietetic internship at Michigan State University. Rachel aspires to get a Master's of Public Health in the near future. Her passions include cooking, baking, and even grocery shopping. She supports local food, slow food, and good food! Rachel's spare time is devoted to attending local concerts and festivals, reading and playing tennis.

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