Home > Lifestyle, Women Health > Nutrition and food choices can help prevent cancer

Nutrition and food choices can help prevent cancer

Research shows that 60-70% of all cancers are
linked to our daily lifestyle choices such as diet, smoking and
exercise. What we decide to eat and our weight is statistically just as
important a risk factor as whether we smoke or not – both contribute to
an elevated risk rating of approximately 30% each, according to
findings by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Many people may
be surprised to hear that an unhealthy diet and being overweight are
significantly linked to cancer.
Statistics from the US show that many people are far from their ideal weight and are not eating a healthy, nutritious diet:
Only about 25% of American adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
In the last 20 years sugar consumption nearly tripled, rising from 12kg to 61kg per adult annually.
In the last two decades sugar consumption of dietary fat has
increased 20.4 % per capita. The annual amount consumed per person is
31kg.
Nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight, including 30% who are obese.
NUTRITIONAL AND DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS
Ensure adequate levels of vitamin D with safe sun exposure.
Not only is vitamin D crucial for calcium mobilisation for bone
growth, the immune system and mental health, it is also an important
factor in inhibiting several types of cancer. Many of us have become
sun-shy and the pendulum has swung too far the other way and we try to
avoid the sun all together. This has lead to an epidemic of people
worldwide being chronically deficient in vitamin D.
A number of health organisations in the United Kingdom, including
Cancer Research UK, are urging people to spend more time in the sun
without sunscreen. We all need a certain level of UV light so we can
produce vitamin D, and greater sun exposure is required by dark-skinned
than light-skinned people to optimise vitamin D levels. At least 15
minutes twice a week of direct sunshine is required to promote vitamin
D production.
EAT THE RIGHT KIND OF FAT AND PROTEIN
The National Academy of Science (NAS) found clear evidence of the
link between saturated animal fat and cancer, particularly in breast
and colon cancers. Animal fat may also increase the risk of lung,
colorectal and prostate cancer. Most red meat and cheeses contain a
high percentage of saturated fat, up to 90%, and should be restricted
to a few servings a week.
There is evidence to show the vegetarian protein reduces cancer
risks, as well as other chronic, degenerative diseases. This may be due
in part to the fact that vegetarians tend to eat more legumes, and
coloured beans particularly – such as azuki beans, red kidney beans,
pinto and black beans – are extremely high in antioxidants and contain
fibre.
Studies have also shown that a vegetarian’s blood levels contain a
third less oestrogen than non-vegetarians. This may also help to
explain the clearer link seen by NAS between breast cancer and animal
protein, than any of the other cancers. It is therefore advisable for
us not to rely too heavily on animal protein to meet our all protein
requirements, but include a variety of combined vegetarian sources such
as nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.
Fish is high in Omega-3 fats which are cancer-protective and is
anti-inflammatory (saturated animal fat is pro-inflammatory).
Inflammation is a known contributing factor in many chronic diseases
such as asthma and cardiovascular disease. Avoid large fish which tend
to have higher mercury levels and concentrate on eating fatty fish like
salmon, sardines, mackerel, light tuna and bass a few times a week.
COOKING METHODS
Smoking, salting and certain preserving methods have been linked
with cancer and are best avoided. Avoid grilling meat especially over
charcoal, because many of the chemical by-products are known
carcinogens. Also, the high heat of grilling has been linked with
stomach and colorectal cancer. Burnt or blackened food should be
avoided altogether.
Steam, poach or slow cook your foods, rather than frying or chargrilling.
Eat a rainbow of different coloured fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables supply a wide range of vitamins, minerals,
fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals (chlorophyll, carotenes and
flavonoids). Research suggests that these components all offer
significant protection against developing many chronic degenerative
diseases, including cancer. Medical journal Cancers Causes and &
Control published a study stating, “Vegetables and fruit contain the
anticarcinogenic cocktail to which we are adapted. We abandon it at our
peril.”
Broccoli contains immune-stimulating and cancer-protective compounds
called indole-3-carbinole and sulforaphane. These compounds also aid
liver detoxification. The red-blue pigment in beetroot has shown to
have specific anticancer properties. Spinach has a high chlorophyll and
carotene content, providing specific documented anticancer properties.
Passionflower and tomatoes are great sources of lycopene, the
health-promoting red carotenoid. Mushrooms and basil contain
phytochemicals that have been researched for their anticancer
properties. Berries, pomegranates and mangoes have exceptionally high
levels of beneficial antioxidants, carotenes and flavonoids.
Many people find it easier to consume the recommended two to three
servings of fruit a day, than to eat their veggies. Eating a large raw
salad daily helps to ensure you get the recommended amount of
vegetables daily. Research suggests that by adding flavour-enhancing
herbs and spices to your food, you are adding an additional
cancer-protective element.
Where possible, buy organic and the fresher locally grown produce
for higher vitamin and mineral content. However, make sure you wash all
produce well to remove the chemicals. The European Union began
proceedings to ban 16 different vegetables and herbs from Thailand in
January, due to excessive levels of chemicals and contaminants.
LIMIT YOUR INTAKE OF SUGARS AND PROCESSED FOODS
Whole grain and unprocessed foods have a higher nutrient value.
Unprocessed rice is high in fibre and is up to 70% richer in vitamins
and minerals than white polished rice. Studies have shown low dietary
folate, vitamins B12, B6 and vitamin C raises the risk of some cancers. 
Fibre is specifically protective against colon and breast cancer. Fibre
helps to bind with excess hormones, preventing them from creating
unwanted tissue growth. Fibre also aids the detoxification process and
removes excessive bile acids which are linked to cancer.
Insulin-resistance has been linked with cancer, as well as diabetes
and cardiovascular disease, so eating low-glycemic foods such as whole
grains and legumes reduces the risk of cancer. Exercise also helps to
drive insulin levels down.
There is overwhelming evidence that a diet based on nutrient-rich
food helps to prevent chronic, degenerative diseases like cancer.
Maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of exercise and diet
is a powerful way to lower the risk of many types of cancer.
It is important to remember that it’s chronic dietary habits, not occasional indulgences that elevate the risk of cancer.
Categories: Lifestyle, Women Health
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