Eating right offers a two-sided approach toward cancer protection. First, certain nutrients like antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols, calcium, folate and vitamin D work to prevent cell damage and thwart cancer. Second, healthy eating helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Experts believe as many as 30 percent of major cancers (colon, breast, endometrial and esophageal) are related to improper energy balance—poor eating habits, lack of exercise and excess weight.
A healthy eating plan doesn’t mean complicated menus or strange foods. Follow these simple guidelines from the American Cancer Society to feed and protect you and your family.
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables:
- Consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Aim for a wide color variety by choosing sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, squash, apricots, tomatoes, spinach, collard greens, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit and mangoes.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables often. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale contain chemicals believed to reduce colorectal cancer risk.
Meals and snacks rich in fruits and vegetables are linked to a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach and colon cancers.
2. Don’t forget the dairy:
- Get most of your daily calcium from food sources such as low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yogurt and leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce and kale. People ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 mg daily; ages 51 and older need 1,200 mg.
- Consider taking a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D. Taking the recommended doses of calcium supplements reduces colorectal polyps, but taking doses that are a lot higher is associated with aggressive prostate cancer. Vitamin D may be helpful against colon, prostate and breast cancer.
3. Choose more whole grains:
- Opt for whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, wraps and pizza crust.
- Cut out high-calorie, high-fat foods in your diet.
Foods made from the whole grains of wheat, oats, barley and brown rice provide more fiber, folic acid and selenium.
4. Limit processed and red meats:
- Substitute fish, poultry or beans for beef, pork and lamb.
- Select lean meat cuts and bake, broil or poach them.
- Limit consumption of meats preserved with smoke or salt such as bacon and ham.
Eating large amounts of processed and/or red meat leads to a greater colorectal and stomach cancer risk.
5. Curtail the cocktails:
- Limit your intake of alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men; one drink a day for women.
- One drink is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or one and a half ounces of distilled spirits.
Drinking alcohol is linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, liver and breast and may increase risk for colorectal cancer.
6. Watch those calories:
- Reduce portion sizes; swear off second helpings.
- Shun the junk to reduce your fat and sugar intake.
Excess weight is clearly linked with cancers of the colon, uterus, esophagus, kidney and breast in postmenopausal women.