Our diet plays a huge role in our health and well-being, particularly for those who are at risk of cancer or those who are already battling cancer. In fact, a recent study of colon cancer patients found that those who followed a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains had a better prognosis and survival rates than those who did not eat these foods. A proper diet can improve the body’s ability to fight cancer and reduces the risk of getting cancer in the first place.

Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables should be the first thing you reach for in the grocery aisle if you want cancer-fighting foods. Broccoli, kale, spinach and brussels sprouts are cancer-fighting all-stars. Start by incorporating a small salad into your daily routine, adding plenty of your favorite salad toppings and a flavorful dressing. For a maximally nutritious lunch or dinner, half your plate should be filled with vegetables, with the other half divided into one part lean protein and one part whole grain carbohydrates.

Whole Grains

A study from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston found that colon cancer survivors who ate whole grains had a lower rates of recurrence and higher survival rates than those who ate white flour carbohydrates. Make sure you choose products that say “100% whole wheat” to ensure you are getting all of the valuable nutrients you need. When baking from scratch, you can replace the white flour in many recipes with whole wheat flour or rye flour to boost their nutritional profile.

What to Avoid

A diet heavy in sugar and simple carbohydrates, called high-glycemic-index foods, may raise the risk of cancer. Researchers believe that the chronically high levels of insulin resulting from a poor diet may contribute to the growth of cancer cells. High-glycemic foods are also a culprit in many serious diseases such as obesity that also raise cancer risk. If you have a sweet tooth, try sweetening baked goods, drinks, and more with honey or agave nectar, which are all-natural and healthier alternatives to sugar.

In an age of readily available prepackaged, highly processed junk, it can be difficult to switch to healthier foods. Start with small changes such as switching white bread for a whole wheat variety, or replace a bowl of after-dinner ice cream with a piece of fruit. For people living with cancer or for those who fear they may one day be diagnosed, making the change to a healthy diet can go a long way towards winning the battle.