Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, just after heart disease. But, experts believe that as many as half of the cancer cases diagnosed each year could have been prevented with a few simple dietary changes. There are easy changes that everyone can make not only in what they eat, but how they prepare it and what they do before and after they eat it. It important that lifestyle changes and food changes are made as part of an overall attempt at good health. The benefits are huge, not only in terms of preventing cancer, but in the care of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases as well. Preventing cancer is not only the prevention of a disease, but the restoration of a better life.
There are many risk factors that can never be changed, including genetics, family history and certain environmental factors. There are others that can be changed, and while even the healthiest person can develop cancer, heart disease or any of the other conditions or diseases that can be potentially fatal, the risk is much lower. A healthy, well balanced diet can also reduce the chance of minor illnesses and lessen the severity of them as well.
Preventing cancer with nutrition is as simple as:
– Changing the way you look at fat
– Knowing your colors
– Knowing the best proteins
– Knowing the worst foods
Even if you eat the healthiest diet, it is still important to know your risk factors and continue to have the recommended screenings and check-ups with your doctor. Exercise is also important to your healthy lifestyle. Always discuss your exact nutritional needs with your doctor, who can give you suggestions for how many calories you need to take in as well as how much of each nutrient you need.
The Skinny on Fat
Fat is one of the most confusing of the macronutrients. You need fat, but if you are getting the wrong fat, you will gain weight. If you are not getting enough fat, you will also gain weight, since your body craves any nutrient that it is lacking.
There are three main kinds of fats: saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
– The saturated fats are those that are solid when they are at room temperature. These include lard, butter and hydrogenated vegetable oils (the kind that is used in many processed foods).
– Polyunsaturated fats are vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower and soy).
– Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil as well as the fat in avocadoes. These are the oils that are believed to prevent certain cancers from forming. It is these fats that the majority of your fat intake should be made of.
Fat is needed in the diet for a number of functions, including in the digestion. Fat is burned quickly for energy and typically starts the metabolism
Know Your Colors
Fruits and vegetables come in every color of the rainbow as well as in white. Not only should you be aiming for the minimum of vegetables and fruits in your diet, you should try to eat as many colors every day so that you can get all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that they all offer. Every color offers different nutrients in different concentrations.
– Red, like tomatoes, red peppers and red grapefruits, have lycopene, which has been shown to make people up to 60% less likely to develop cancer of the stomach, the colon or the rectum. (Source: Feinstein, editor. 1996)
– Green, like in broccoli, green peas, celery, kale and spinach have lutein which in addition to cancer prevention may play a role in healthy eye sight as well. Watercress may also play a role in preventing lung cancer through a compound that is called PEITC.
There are compounds in vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower may rev up enzymes that are cancer blockers as well as blocking the estrogen that may stimulate breast cancer.
Know the Best Proteins
Protein comes from two sources: animals and plants. To prevent cancer, the experts suggest that the protein that you eat should come from plant sources as much as possible, especially soy, which is the only plant based protein that is complete. A protein is deemed to be complete if it provides all of the eight essential amino acids that the body does not create on its own. Whey protein is also beneficial in cancer prevention and has been shown to slow the growth of tumors in several studies. It is not necessary to go vegetarian or vegan, however. Strictly limiting red meat consumption and substituting it with turkey, fish or chicken is beneficial, especially in reducing the incidence of colon cancer.
Soy also has a chemical called genistein that may protect against prostate cancer. Soy may also work to prevent breast cancer. There are several ways to get soy protein into your diet including using soy protein powder supplements as well as the other soy products including tofu, soy milk, cheese, miso and tempeh.
Whey protein also comes in a number of different types including protein powders and has been shown to be beneficial in cancer risk reduction.
Protein is vital to every cell and function of the human body including the immune system. A strong immune system may play a role in preventing some of the chemical imbalances that may allow cancer to grow and move from area to area. The right amount of protein is important in the diet, not only for cancer prevention, but to keep the body at the right weight, another risk factor that has been proven to increase the risk of getting certain cancers.
Protein also works to establish lean muscle mass which also burns fat. The American Heart Association recommends that protein should not make up more than 35% of the daily calories in an average diet, but it is still vital to get enough. Profect, a liquid protein supplement shot from Protica, provides 25 grams of protein per one hundred calorie serving and can be a great addition to a healthy and active lifestyle.
Know the Worst Foods
In addition to the foods you should be eating to lower your cancer risk, there are a number of foods that you should be avoiding as well. Red meats and high fat dairy are out because they are high in calories and saturated fats and may increase the risk of colon cancer as well as pre-cancerous colon polyps. Lunch meats, hot dogs and other cured meats all contain nitrites which break down in the body to form nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause cancer in numerous studies. High sugar diets are also on the bad list because they tend to be high in fat and low in nutrients and fiber. Too much sugar can cause liver and pancreas stress as well as depleting the immune system.
Alcohol may increase cancer risk two to three times, but drinking and smoking together may cause the risk to be as high as 15% more serious for cancers of the mouth and the throat.