Eating certain types of food together could help to fight cancer, according to new research.

The research suggests that food combinations such as chicken and broccoli or salmon and watercress bring together two important ingredients sulforaphane and selenium, making them up to 13 times more powerful at fighting cancer than they are on their own, reported BBC Online.

Foods such as broccoli, sprouts, cabbage, watercress and rocket contain high levels of sulforaphane, a plant chemical which could be linked to the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Poultry, nuts, fish, eggs, sunflower seeds and mushrooms are among those foods rich in the essential mineral selenium. Selenium deficiency has been linked to the incidence of certain cancers, including prostate cancer.

Scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich were investigating genes that play an important role in the formation and development of tumours and the spread of tumour cells. They found that when combined, selenium and sulforaphane had a greater effect on the genes than they did alone.

“High concentrations [of selenium and sulforaphane] in the diet are normally required to protect against cancer, but when these compounds act synergistically, lower doses are needed to prevent cancer formation,” Dr Yongping Bao, senior researcher at the Ifr, was quoted by BBC News Online as saying.

“This is particularly good news as selenium and sulforaphane can be toxic at high levels,” he added.

The research is published in the journal Carcinogenesis.