When developing your recovery diet, it’s important to know which nutrients deliver the most anti-cancer properties. Foods rich with ellagic acid, a plant polyphenol, are cancer diet all-stars. Ellagic acid isn’t currently used as an independent treatment, but it should play a central role in your food regimen.

Ellagic Acid and Cancer Cell Suicide

The body naturally kills cells all on its own. This process, called apoptosis, occurs when proteins (specifically caspases) break down cellular components and activate enzymes that destroy a cell’s DNA, making the cell effectively commit suicide. A healthy cell will go through this process and die after roughly 120 days. But for cancer patients, apoptosis can be triggered to kill-off unhealthy cells on demand. Anti-cancer medications and radiation can activate apoptosis, but how do we get our bodies to deconstruct unhealthy cells all on their own?

Enter ellagic acid. Researchers are excited about the anticancer properties in this micronutrient. It is found naturally in lots of healthy foods: grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts, to name a few. And new research highlights its apoptosis-inducing abilities.

Scientists at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea found that ellagic acid slows the growth of cancer cells and jump-starts apoptosis when applied in high doses. But even in smaller doses, it can start apoptosis within the body. Ellagic acid has been studied most extensively in pancreatic cancer, but new studies are underway for oral, breast, and colon cancers. Researchers expect the same cancer-stopping properties to apply to all cancer types.

Ellagic Acid Sources

So how can you boost your ellagic acid intake? Here’s a guide to some of the most densely packed foods.

  • Pomegranates: Thanks to its deep ellagic acid reservoirs, pomegranate extracts have been shown to slow breast, colon, and lung cancers, and some research indicates pomegranate juice slows prostate growth, too. Incorporating pomegranates in any form (juice, whole fruit, seed oil, or extract) will be a worthy addition to any food plan.
  • Strawberries: EA accounts for 50% of all the phenolic acids in the berry, and it’s found in the stem and leaves, too, so blending whole strawberries will maximize EA quantities.
  • Raspberries: When weighed dry, raspberries contain twice as much EA as strawberries and three times as much as walnuts. A recent study at Ohio State University showed that black raspberries are particularly effective at stopping cervical cancer growth.
  • Blackberries: These contain nearly as much EA as raspberries, plus they house another important polyphenol, anthocyanin, which carries its own antitumor properties
  • Walnuts: EA isn’t just relegated to the fruit world. Walnuts (and to a lesser degree pecans) still deliver the goods, plus they contribute omega-3 fatty acids, which can be important cancer deterrents in their own right.   

How Much Do I Need?

Because ellagic acid is not a stand-alone therapy, there is no set protocol for consumption.  Ingesting it naturally from the food source is probably more beneficial than consuming supplements, so look for opportunities to mix the above foods into your diet.

Ellagic acid carries no harmful side effects, but if you are taking Cytochrome P450, you should avoid this nutrient, as it may exacerbate the drug’s side effects.

Pomegranate Chicken Salad

This salad makes it easy to get a healthy dose of ellagic acid in one meal (lightly adapted).

Serves two 12-ounce portions

Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups spinach
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup of cooked chicken (optional)
  • 1 handful fresh basil coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped leek
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh turmeric chopped

Directions:

  • Wash the spinach and tear into pieces and set aside in a large bowl.
  • Prepare herbs and spices and add to the spinach.
  • Top with the chicken and pomegranate seeds.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

We like this vinaigrette on top.