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Cancer Prevention Diet - Lower Your Risk with Cancer-Fighting Foods
Whether you have a history of cancer in your family, or are currently battling the disease, lifestyle factors, including your diet, can make a huge difference in helping you fight off cancer. Some foods actually increase your risk of cancer, while others support your body and strengthen your immune system. By making smart food choices, you can protect your health, feel better, and boost your ability fight off cancer and other diseases.
The link between cancer and diet
Not all health problems are avoidable, but you have more control over your health than you may think. Research shows that a large percentage of cancer-related deaths are directly linked to lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, a lack of exercise, and an unhealthy diet. Avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol, reaching a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise are a great start to preventing cancer. But to best support your health, you also need to look at your eating habits.
What you eat—and don’t eat—has a powerful effect on your health, including your risk of cancer. Without knowing it, you may be eating many foods that fuel cancer, while neglecting the powerful foods and nutrients that can protect you. For example, a daily serving of red or processed meat increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent, whereas eating whole soy foods such as tofu or edamame can help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Every 35 grams of dairy protein you consume each day can increase your risk of prostate cancer by 32 percent, while eating more fruits and vegetables can lower your risk for a variety of common cancers. By making small changes to your diet and behaviors, you can lower your risk of disease and possibly even stop cancer in its tracks.
The controversy over GMOs, pesticides and the risk of cancer
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the biotech companies that engineer GMOs insist they are safe, many food safety advocates point out that these products have undergone only short-term testing to determine their effects on humans.
Some animal studies have indicated that consuming GMOs may cause certain types of cancer. Since most GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has substantially increased since GMOs were introduced. Some studies have indicated that the use of pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. However, research into the link between GMOs, pesticides, and cancer remains inconclusive.
Cancer prevention diet tip #1: Focus on cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables
While there’s no single food you can eat to prevent or fight cancer on its own, a balanced plant-based diet filled with a variety of vegetables, fruits, soy, nuts, whole grains, and beans can help lower your risk for many types of cancer. Eating a colorful variety gives you the best protection. Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients that boost your immune system and help protect against cancer cells. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. These powerful vitamins can protect against cancer and help the cells in your body function optimally.
There is also evidence that plant-based foods may be effective at preventing specific cancers. For example:
The less processed these plant-based foods are—the less they’ve been cooked, peeled, mixed with other ingredients, stripped of their nutrients, or otherwise altered from the way they came out of the ground—the better.
How to add more cancer-fighting fruits and veggies to your diet
There are many ways to add plant-based foods to your diet. A nice visual reminder is to aim for a plate of food that is filled at least two-thirds with whole grains, vegetables, beans, or fruit. Dairy products, fish, and meat should take up no more than a third of the plate.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to go completely vegetarian. Instead, focus on adding “whole” foods, which are foods close to their original form. Just as important, try to minimize or reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Eat an apple instead of drinking a glass of apple juice, for example. Or enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with raisins instead of an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Cancer prevention diet tip #2: Fight cancer with fiber
Another benefit of eating plant-based foods is that it will also increase your fiber intake. Fiber, also called roughage or bulk, is the part of plants (grains, fruits, and vegetables) that your body can’t digest. Fiber plays a key role in keeping your digestive system clean and healthy. It helps keep food moving through your digestive tract, and it also moves cancer-causing compounds out before they can create harm. Eating a diet high in fiber may help prevent colorectal cancer and other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber. There is no fiber in meat, dairy, sugar, or “white” foods like white bread, white rice, and pastries.
Tips for adding more cancer-fighting fiber to your diet:
Use brown rice instead of white rice
Substitute whole-grain bread for white bread
Choose a bran muffin over a croissant or pastry
Snack on popcorn instead of potato chips
Eat fresh fruit such as a pear, a banana, or an apple (with the skin)
Have a baked potato, including the skin, instead of mashed potatoes
Enjoy fresh carrots, celery, or bell peppers with a hummus or salsa, instead of chips and a sour cream dip
Use beans instead of ground meat in chili, casseroles, tacos, and even burgers (bean burgers can taste great)
Drink plenty of water. Fiber absorbs water so the more fiber you add to your diet, the more fluids you should drink. Water is also essential for fighting cancer. It stimulates the immune system, removes waste and toxins, and transports nutrients to all of your organs.
High-fiber, cancer-fighting foods
Whole grains: whole-wheat pasta, raisin bran, barley, oatmeal, oat bran muffins, popcorn, brown rice, whole-grain or whole-wheat bread
Fruit: raspberries, apples, pears, strawberries, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, mango, apricots, citrus fruits, dried fruit, prunes, raisins
Legumes: lentils, black beans, split peas, lima beans, baked beans, kidney beans, pinto, chick peas, navy beans, black-eyed peas
Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, dark green leafy vegetables, peas, artichokes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts
Cancer prevention diet tip #3: Cut down on meat
Research shows that vegetarians are about fifty percent less likely to develop cancer than those who eat meat. So what’s the link between meat and cancer risk? First, meat lacks fiber and other nutrients that have been shown to have cancer-protective properties. What it does have in abundance, however, is fat—often very high levels of saturated fat. High-fat diets have been linked to higher rates of cancer. In the U.S., non-organic meat and poultry may also contain antibiotics and hormones and the animals may have been raised on feed containing GMOs. Finally, depending on how it is prepared, meat can develop carcinogenic compounds.
Making healthier meat and protein choices
You don’t need to cut out meat completely and become a vegetarian. But most people consume far more meat than is healthy. You can cut down your cancer risk substantially by reducing the amount of animal-based products you eat and by choosing healthier meats.
Cancer prevention diet tip #4: Choose your fats wisely
A major benefit of cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is that you will automatically cut out a lot of unhealthy fat. Eating a diet high in fat increases your risk for many types of cancer. But cutting out fat entirely isn’t the answer, either. In fact, some types of fat may actually protect against cancer. The trick is to choose your fats wisely and eat them in moderation.
Tips for choosing cancer-fighting fats and avoiding the bad
Cancer prevention diet tip #5: Prepare your food in healthy ways
Choosing healthy food is not the only important factor. It also matters how you prepare and store your food. The way you cook your food can either help or hurt your anti-cancer efforts.
Boosting the cancer-fighting benefits of food
Here are a few tips that will help you get the most benefits from eating all those great cancer-fighting foods, such as fruit and vegetables:
Eat at least some raw fruits and vegetables. These have the highest amounts of vitamins and minerals, although cooking some vegetables can make the vitamins more available for our body to use.
When cooking vegetables, steam until just tender using a small amount of water. This preserves more of the vitamins. Overcooking vegetables removes many of the vitamins and minerals. If you do boil vegetables, use the cooking water in a soup or another dish to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins.
Wash all fruits and vegetables. Use a vegetable brush for washing. Washing does not eliminate all pesticide residue, but will reduce it. Choose organic produce if possible, grown without the use of pesticides or GMOs.
Flavor food with immune-boosting herbs and spices. Garlic, ginger, and curry powder not only add flavor, but they add a cancer-fighting punch of valuable nutrients. Other good choices include turmeric, basil, rosemary, and coriander. Use them in soups, salads, casseroles, or any other dish.
Tips for avoiding carcinogens
Carcinogens are cancer-causing substances found in food. Carcinogens can form during the cooking or preserving process—mostly in relation to meat—and as foods start to spoil. Examples of foods that have carcinogens are cured, dried, and preserved meats (e.g. bacon, sausage, beef jerky); burned or charred meats; smoked foods; and foods that have become moldy. Here are some ways reduce your exposure to carcinogens:
The five worst foods to grill
Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Cancer prevention: The bottom line
Research shows that about a third of the most common cancers are preventable through changes in diet and lifestyle.
|10 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk|
1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Weight gain, overweight and obesity increases the risk of a number of cancers, including bowel, breast, prostate, pancreatic, endometrial, kidney, gallbladder, oesophageal, and ovarian cancers.
2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Physical activity decreases the risk of colon, endometrial, and postmenopausal breast cancer. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate, or for 30 minutes or more of vigorous, physical activity every day.
3. Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense food. Foods that are high in fats, added sugars, and/or low in fiber, such as many fast and convenience foods, as well as sodas and energy drinks, promote weight gain that is associated with a higher cancer risk.
4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses such as beans.
5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
6. Limit alcoholic drinks. Limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
7. Limit consumption of salt and avoid moldy grains and cereals. Limit consumption of processed foods with added salt to ensure an intake of less than 2.4g sodium a day. Do not eat moldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
8. Where possible, aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone, instead of using supplements to try to protect against cancer.
9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be overweight as children or adults.
10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention. Follow the recommendations for diet, healthy weight, and physical activity from your doctor or trained professional.
Source: World Cancer Research Fund International