Reduce Cancer Risk With a Healthy Diet
Many of us know that being overweight is a risk factor in developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, but a recent article in Science Daily states that diet and obesity can also be linked to approximately one-third of cancer cases. It concludes that those who are obese are more prone to certain cancers including breast, colorectal, ovarian, and pancreatic.
What is it about obesity that triggers the production of these types of cancer cells? Some researchers believe an unhealthy diet that contains an abundance of processed and red meats, bad carbohydrates–such as highly processed foods and sugary drinks–and too much or not enough calcium plays a major role.
Although there is no proven link between eating particular foods and developing certain cancers, adjusting one’s diet will decrease the odds of getting these cancers while enabling weight loss. Following are some dietary suggestions to help combat obesity and reduce cancer risk.
Make Low Glycemic Index Choices
Healthy diets include foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI)–a numbers-based directory that measures the rate that food is converted to sugar in the blood. Consuming good carbohydrates which fall at the bottom of the GI–such as beans, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes–has been associated with a lower risk of developing both prostate and colorectal cancers.
There are ways to avoid foods high on the index and still get the tastes you crave. Eating whole fruits, such as apples, vs. drinking apple juice is a great example. Apples are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index. Choose a whole potato instead of mashed potatoes and if you want pasta, cook it al dente.
It’s important to note that the GI value should not be the only consideration when choosing a food. Dark chocolate has a low GI designation of 23, yet should only be eaten in moderation. In addition, fat tends to lower the rating on the GI scale so always consider the total nutritional value of a food and how it fits into a balanced diet.
Consume Lots of Fiber
Eating a diet rich in fiber is a great way to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, help one feel full, and give the body a useful tool to regulate function. One of the cancers found to be reduced by eating a high fiber diet is colorectal. Studies have shown that high fiber helps to push waste (which can contain carcinogens) out of the body quicker, giving it less time to settle in the colon. Additionally, when the body breaks down fiber in the digestive tract, it produces a substance that may inhibit the growth of tumors in the colon and rectum.
Fiber is also thought to reduce the risk of other cancers including breast, mouth, throat, esophageal, and possibly prostate.
In addition, eating foods high in fiber can help one eat less without feeling hungry or deprived, leading to weight loss and decreased risk of obesity-related cancers. In order to receive the maximum benefit of a fiber-rich diet, it’s important to drink plenty of water and increase fiber intake slowly to allow the body to adjust.
Eat a Colorful Diet
Eating a diet rich in color is one of the best things to do to stay healthy and reduce cancer risk. Naturally occurring chemicals in plants that give foods color and flavor, known as phytochemicals, can aid the body to:
- Bolster the immune system and reduce inflammation
- Aid in repairing and preventing damage to DNA
- Prevent consumed foods from becoming carcinogenic
- Help kill off damaged cells prior to reproducing
- Slow cancer cell growth
When planning a healthy diet, be sure to include a variety of colorful and flavorful foods, the stronger, the better! Click here for more information and a guide to phytochemicals.
Maximize Benefits Through Proper Preparation
Eating the right foods only helps if they are prepared in a way that maximizes their cancer fighting benefits and minimizes the creation of carcinogens. Replacing processed vegetables with raw is a great way to maintain their vitamins and minerals. If cooked vegetables are preferable, just steaming until tender will help maintain the food’s integrity.
Also, charring when barbequing even the healthiest protein can produce carcinogens as can cooking oils or fat on high heat.
There are many benefits to eating a healthy, balanced diet. Researchers are still looking into the links between some foods and certain cancers; however, there is a strong consensus that a diet containing unsaturated fats, high fiber, and good carbohydrates is a proven tool to reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer.