Did you know that eating the right foods can reduce your risk of developing cancer? Current research shows that a poor diet, as well as a lack of exercise, is a major factor when it comes to developing cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 590,000 people die of cancer in the United States. Approximately one-third of these deaths are directly linked to an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and being overweight.
Establishing a healthier diet overall is an important step but there are some additional things you can do to help reduce your risk of cancer. There are a variety of foods that both lower and raise your risk for developing cancer so it is important to know what to eat and what to avoid.
Top foods for cancer prevention
The best foods for cancer prevention include:
- Fruits and vegetables: Less fat, more fiber, and cancer fighting nutrients are all you need to know about adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables support your immune system and give your body the power it needs to fight off cancer. It is currently recommended that adults get five full servings of fruits and vegetables a day but most are woefully lacking. It is believed that many people need to literally double the amount of fruits and vegetables they are eating each day.
- Fiber: Speaking of fiber, what you get from fruits and vegetables may not be enough. Whole grains are an important source of fiber to add to your healthy diet. Beans, brown rice, and popcorn are all healthy choices to add along with whole grain breads. Also, be sure to drink enough water. Fiber absorbs water so the more you eat, the more water you should drink.
- Unsaturated fats: Not all fats are bad so make sure you get the right ones. (We’ll talk about the wrong ones below.) Unsaturated fats are the best for reducing the risk of cancer. These are typically plant-based fats found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Another source of healthy fat is fish, especially tuna or salmon. They help prevent inflammation and make our brain and heart healthier overall. If you’re not a big fan of fish, you can also get this nutrient from flax or chia seeds.
- Soy: While soy has been steeped in controversy for some time it truly is a good source of cancer fighting nutrients and a healthier source of protein than most meats. The beautiful part about soy is that it comes in multiple forms: soy milk, edamame, soy flour, tofu, miso, and tempeh, just to name a few. There is a great variety so you can add whichever you prefer to help boost your cancer-fighting diet.
Worst foods for cancer prevention
Of course, with every recommendation for foods to add there are foods to avoid. Foods to avoid to help protect you against cancer include:
- GMOs: A controversial subject is genetically modified organisms, which are plants or animals that have had their DNA altered in some way. There has been very little testing overall to determine just how safe a GMO product is so many health experts recommend avoiding them or keeping them to a minimum. Try to look for non-GMO foods or buy organic to reduce the amount of chemicals you are ingesting.
- Meat: In truth you don’t need to completely give up meat in your diet, but eating less of it has been proven effective for reducing the risk of cancer. The easiest thing to do is reduce the portion of meat you eat in a meal and replace that portion with vegetables. Eat red meat only occasionally. You can also replace animal-based proteins with fish.
- Saturated and trans fats: While unsaturated fats are good for your diet, these other fats can increase your risk of developing cancer. Sources include red meat, dairy products, and eggs. Some bad fats are also created by processes intended to preserve food, such as the fats found in margarine or other butter replacements.
- Alcohol: Studies have demonstrated that the consumption of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer. For example, beer is thought to have an ingredient that is a pre-carcinogen that can activate in the digestive tract. This may lead to colorectal cancer in some people. Like with meat, you may not need to eliminate alcohol all together, but practice moderation.
How to prepare your foods
Did you know that the way you cook foods can also impact the way it increases or decreases your risk of cancer? Many people know that grilling over an open flame can increase the carcinogenic properties of meat. However, there are other things you can do or avoid to aid in your new nutrition plan. These include:
- Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating. This can help remove any chemicals used for pesticides.
- Eat fruits and vegetables raw or only steam lightly with minimal water. Cooking these foods removes many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
- Don’t rely on your barbeque grill. Cooking meat over an open flame creates carcinogens.
- Don’t cook with oils on high heat. Like with the fire, cooking with super-hot oils will release carcinogenic properties. This means avoiding sautéed and fried foods.
- Choose fresh meats over cured meats. Preserved or smoke meats also possess carcinogens.
- Reduce your dependence on the microwave. Also, switch to using waxed paper rather than plastic wrap when heating foods.
Concentrating on a diet that is rich in cancer fighting foods can help you remain healthier, longer. Of course, before you change your diet drastically we recommend talking with your doctor to determine if there are any additional concerns you should be aware of.
How can you implement some of these changes in your family’s kitchen today?
Image by Amazing Almonds via Flickr