As a Registered Dietitian, I know that food is a powerful tool for disease prevention. While no one food is considered a cure-all, a plant-based diet incorporating fresh produce, whole grains, and legumes, may help lower one’s risk. Additionally, certain lifestyle factors can be preventative. Below are some foods and healthy habits to incorporate.
Foods to Eat
Healthy eating is an essential part of keeping your body disease-free. Try incorporating some of the foods below into your cancer-free diet.
Dark Leafy Greens
Examples: spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard
Every dietitian can agree on one food – leafy greens. The darker, the more nutritious! Leafy greens are low in calories, fat and sodium while being rich in the good stuff – vitamins, minerals and free-radical fighting antioxidants like carotenoids. Antioxidants help scour potentially harmful free radicals from doing damage to cells and DNA. While free radicals are formed naturally through metabolism, they can also be brought on the environmental factors like pollution and lifestyle habits including smoking.
Examples: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
Berries may be small in size but they are among the highest antioxidant-containing fruits. They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and phytochemicals, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Besides their antioxidant’s ability to combat oxidative damage in the body, which is linked to aging, heart disease and certain types of cancer, their fiber content plays a powerful role as well. Dietary fiber can act in several ways to reduce cancer risk including aiding digestion, elimination and supporting weight management.
Examples: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and carotenoids. During food preparation, chewing and digestion, the glucosinolates in these veggies are broken down into active compounds that have been examined for their anti-cancer effects including helping protect cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens and combating inflammation. Some research suggests that individuals who eat greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables may put themselves at lower risk of certain types of cancer including prostate, colon, and lung.
This powerful flavoring agent may also be an effective cancer fighter. Some studies have linked garlic consumption to a reduction in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract including stomach, colon, esophagus, and pancreas. Some of its effects may stem from its ability to enhance DNA repair and reduce cancer cell proliferation.
In addition to eating the right foods, here are some healthy lifestyle tips that can help with disease prevention.
Getting to and staying at a healthy weight is key to reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Being overweight or obese increases one's risk of several types of cancers including breast, colon, esophagus, kidney and more. A healthy weight is determined roughly by BMI (body mass index), a ratio of one’s height in meters to weight in kilograms. A healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9.
It is no secret that exercise is important for our health. It can help with weight management, improving cardiovascular health, increasing metabolism and helping with stress management. Healthy adults should aim for at least thirty minutes of sustained physical activity, daily.
Forgo Unhealthy Vices
Smoking and alcohol in excess can affect one's risk of various types of cancer and chronic diseases. Smoking cessation counselors are a valuable resource is helping one to abandon the habit. Alcohol can increase one's risk of certain types of cancers including those in the mouth, colon and breast cancer. If you choose to drink, women should limit themselves to no more than one a day and men to no more than two a day.
Be Mindful With the Sun
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin because we are able to produce it through sensible sun exposure. Having adequate vitamin D levels may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
References: cancer.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC526387/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737735/