I’ve always believed that as a nutritionist with experience working with difficult patient populations, I would be well-prepared to handle situations if my own loved one ever developed a medical condition. But when I learned my father, who was 61 years old, had advanced pancreatic cancer, I had to turn my life upside down to take care of him and realized I had a lot to learn.
CORDING, JESSICA MS, RD, CDN As a healthcare professional, I’m wary of using the terms “foods that prevent cancer” or “cancer preventative foods” since even when you follow all the rules, bad things can still happen. However, evidence indicates that specific dietary methods can help the decrease of cancer risk.
MS, RD, and CDN Jessica Cording I was 31 years old and, although being a typically healthy eater due to my line of work, I was more focused on eating well at the airport and finding foods that would help with hangovers than I was on longevity and illness risk. I hadn’t thought about the specifics of eating for lowering cancer risk in a very long time. Although I had grown up witnessing family members battle various forms of the disease, I purposefully avoided working in oncology in the beginning of my career because I felt it would be too traumatic.
However, I genuinely felt called to work in the cancer field when my dad passed away following a 15-month cancer journey, which I discuss in my new book . I couldn’t alter my family’s past, but I could move forward with purpose and teach people how to lower their risks and improve their wellbeing before and after treatment by making dietary and lifestyle changes. This makes up a sizable portion of my labor today.
While it’s true that some cancers have a genetic component, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) , a staggering 30 to 50% of cancer cases can be linked to lifestyle risk factors like alcohol use, a diet poor in fruit and vegetables, being overweight, inactivity, and cigarette use. As a healthcare professional, I’m wary of using the terms “foods that prevent cancer” or “cancer preventative foods” since even when you follow all the rules, bad things can still happen. However, evidence indicates that specific dietary methods can help the decrease of cancer risk.
5 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY DIET TO PREVENT CANCER EAT A MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE DIET THAT IS PLANT-FORWARD. A Mediterranean diet will be your best bet if your goal is to follow an anti-cancer diet. According to recommendations from the American Institute for Cancer Research, you should aim to fill two-thirds of your plate with plant-based meals, such as fiber-rich whole grains, pulses (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and vegetables (AICR). These foods are high in fiber, which research demonstrates is crucial for maintaining regular digestion, managing weight, and controlling blood sugar—all of which are crucial for lowering the risk of developing cancer. In instance, fruits and vegetables include a variety of antioxidants that, when frequently taken, can serve as protective agents. The remaining one-third of your meal is made up of animal products, though the AICR advises choosing seafood, poultry, and small amounts of dairy over red and processed meat. (Related Article: What Exactly Is the Mediterranean Diet?)
Health professionals also advise avoiding trans fats, fried foods, and ultra-processed foods like packaged chips, cookies, and similar items in favor of healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and oily salmon. For satiety, vitamin absorption, heart health, blood sugar control, and cognitive function, it’s critical to consume adequate healthy fat. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) claims that bad fats have been linked to inflammation, and that chronic inflammation can damage DNA and result in cancer. It’s also important to remember that the majority of ultra-processed meals tend to be heavy in calories, sugar, fat, and simple carbs while lacking nutrients that may lower the chance of developing cancer.
For the record, soy is a valid addition to your diet. You can relax and eat some edamame or tofu if you’ve been avoiding soy due to social media posts that say it causes breast cancer. Isoflavones, which are plant substances that act like the hormone estrogen and are abundant in soy, are a major cause of this mistake. According to the NCI , prolonged exposure or high estrogen levels are linked to a higher risk of developing breast cancer in women. According to the American Cancer Society , while studies on rodents found that high dosages of isoflavones increased the risk of developing breast cancer, no such results have been seen in human trials. Some studies suggest suggests that ingesting soy products (such as tofu, edamame, tempeh, miso, and unsweetened soy milk) may even reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Nevertheless, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises against using too many soy supplements because there isn’t enough evidence to support their safety.
Limit the use of processed and red meat. Red meat and processed meat have been linked by new book 0 to a higher risk of developing some malignancies, particularly colorectal cancers. Anything that has undergone curing, salting, fermenting, smoking, flavoring, or other preservation or flavor-enhancing techniques is referred to as new book 1. This often pertains to red meat, which is defined as any type of mammalian muscle tissue, including beef, veal, hog, lamb, mutton, goat, and horse. However, processing is also possible with poultry and fish. Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, cured and smoked meat, and deli meat are all examples of processed meat.
According to new book 2, research indicates that the nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives in processed meats release chemicals that may harm DNA, and that cooking red meat at high temperatures may result in chemicals that may cause DNA mutations that may contribute to cancer. The current consensus is that eating moderate amounts of saturated fat “does not pose a health risk within a balanced diet,” per a review of studies published in the new book 3. However, a diet high in saturated fat (red meat and processed meat generally have higher levels of this type of fat) is also linked to an increased risk of cancer.
new book 4 processed beef was classified as a Class 1 Carcinogen in 2015, which means there is “convincing” proof that it causes cancer. Red meat was designated as a Class 2 Carcinogen, which means that although there has been evidence linking high consumption to an elevated risk of colorectal cancer, it was not possible to rule out other potential explanations.
Limiting the amount of red meat you eat to modest amounts (currently 12 to 18 ounces per week) and avoiding processed meat as much as you can.
Limit beverages with added sugar and sugar-sweetened foods. I frequently hear individuals recite the myth that sugar “feeds” cancer. There is an indirect connection between sugar consumption and cancer that has not yet been proven by studies. if a person regularly consumes enough added sugar to cause weight gain, an increase in fat tissue, and estrogen new book 6.
I really believe that you should pick and choose when to indulge in your passions. If it feels worthwhile to you, indulge in cake on your birthday, a favorite holiday treat, an occasional trip to the ice cream shop, or a sweet coffee beverage. I advise attempting to reduce the amount of added sugar in commonplace items where it truly has no place. Check the labels of foods like cereals, yogurt, sauces, and granola bars, and whenever possible, choose goods with lower added sugar content. I also often advise avoiding fruit juices because of their similar impact on blood sugar and matching vegetable juices with fiber- and protein-rich foods, or even better, consuming fruits and vegetables in the form of smoothies with other foods to create a well-rounded meal or snack.
LIMIT DRINKS. Although no one likes to hear it, it has long been known that alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cancer. According to new book 7, alcohol is responsible for about 3.5 percent of cancer-related fatalities in the US, with the biggest associations being between drinking and breast, colorectal, esophageal, liver, and head and neck cancer. Even moderate drinking has been demonstrated to raise risk in several circumstances (including breast cancer).
For reducing the chance of developing cancer, many medical professionals advise limiting alcohol consumption to three or fewer alcoholic beverages (three servings) each week and refraining from starting to drink if you don’t already. One serving of alcohol is defined as roughly 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1 to 1.5 ounces of a distilled spirit; hence, a larger pour or cocktail with multiple types of alcohol may “count” as more than one drink. (Related: How My Life Improved After I Stopped Drinking for a Month)
OVER TIME, MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT. Obesity and being overweight have been linked to several types of cancer in research. In fact, according to new book 8, high body weight is thought to be the cause of 5% of malignancies in males and 11% of cancers in women in the United States.
Speak with a dependable healthcare professional if you’re unsure of what weight is healthy for your body. Additionally, keep in mind that sustainability (and sanity) are crucial if you’re trying to lose weight. A weight loss of 0.5 to 2 pounds a week for people who aren’t at a healthy weight for their physique is regarded as a safe, sustainable number. Consider adopting a small-step strategy that enables you to create new, healthy habits that will support weight management when you do accomplish your goal rather than adhering to an extremely restrictive diet or harsh activity schedule. If necessary, seek the help of a licensed dietitian to develop a personalized strategy that works for you.
How to incorporate a cancer-prevention diet strategy In order to reduce your risk of developing cancer, it’s crucial to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You should also avoid smoking and minimize your exposure to new book 9. Start with one or a few simple changes and go at your own pace if you’re reading this and thinking, “Wow, there’s a lot of stuff I need to alter.” Talk to your doctor about your personal risk and the changes that would have the biggest impact on you if you’re feeling overburdened.