If you have concerns about cancer, perhaps because you have a family history of the disease or you are worried that your life style is putting you at risk, you may well want to consider swapping your normal food and drink choices for an anti-cancer diet. While some foods increase your risk of cancer, others can help you to fight the disease, or they can support your body so that your immune system is strengthened.
Everyone knows that certain lifestyle choices can increase the risk of health problems such as cancer. Lack of exercise, a poor diet, use of alcohol, and smoking have all been shown to directly relate to a large number of cancer related illnesses and deaths. Paying attention to your diet so that you eat protective nutrients can help to minimize your risk of cancer and other illnesses.
Get Your Five a Day!
Fruit and vegetables contain little or no fat and high levels of fibre - so they are great for boosting your immune system. Nuts, grains and beans are also good. Try to avoid processing raw food as this will strip it of its nutrients. Keep fruit and vegetables whole, with skins on where possible and grill, steam or eat them raw. Ensure that two thirds of your diet is made up with foods from this group.
Easy ways to add more plant based foods into your diet include: sprinkling fruit, nuts and seeds onto your breakfast, and adding beans and vegetables to your salads. Avoid smoothies and fizzy drinks and instead opt for fruit with the skin on. Snack on nuts and dried fruit or cut up some carrots, celery and peppers.
Opt for Organic Produce
Unfortunately, most commercially grown fruit and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, a number of which are known to contain cancer causing carcinogens. If you know that you are at risk from cancer you should avoid pesticides where possible. If you cannot choose organic food, make sure you wash all your fruits and vegetables with a vegetable brush. This won't eliminate all pesticide residues, but will reduce them.
Increase Your Fibre
Fibre is necessary to keep the food moving through your body and out the other end. On the journey, fibre picks up cancer-causing compounds and takes them along. Fibre is found in natural (not processed) fruits and vegetables, along with whole grain. There is no fibre in meat, dairy or sugar, or in "white" foods like white bread, white rice, and pastries so opt for brown rice and whole-grain bread. Eat fresh fruit such with the skin on. And try using beans instead of meat in casseroles.
Cut Down on Meat
You don't have to become vegetarian in order to eat a cancer free diet but it can certainly help. Research shows that vegetarians are about fifty percent less likely to develop cancer than those who eat meat. One reason for this is because vegetarians tend to eat more fibre than meat eaters. The second reason is that meat is high in fat, and high levels of saturated fat have been shown to raise the risk of cancer. Finally, many animals are fed on products that have been exposed to carcinogens and so it is impossible to know exactly what you are consuming with your steak or chop.
You can cut down your cancer risk simply by reducing the amount of animal-based products you eat. Along the way make a decision to choose healthier meats. Eat red meat only occasionally; reduce your portion size of meat and use a little bit of meat to add flavour to your meal, rather than focusing the meal on the meat. Always avoid processed meats such as sausages and hot dogs, and choose leaner cuts of meat wherever possible.
Gen up on Your Fat Consumption
Once you cut out meat you have taken a big step towards controlling the unhealthy fat in your diet. Fats that increase cancer risk include saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products such as red meat, whole milk dairy products, and eggs. Trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid and less likely to spoil. Trans fats are found in potato crisps, biscuits, crackers, chips and French fries, and doughnuts and cakes. For more info, read our post "5 Seriously Unhealthy Foods To Avoid"
The best fats by far are unsaturated fats. These are recognisable because they are liquid at room temperature. You find them in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids are also good for you as they fight inflammation and support brain and heart function. Good sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Your immune system is the key to fighting off the risk of cancer so it is vital to feed it the right foods. Boost the antioxidants available to your body by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. Pick the most colourful foods you can find because they contain phytochemicals, potent disease–fighting and immune–boosting nutrients.
There is no reason for your chosen foods to seem bland because by adding spices such as garlic, ginger and curry powder you add to the flavour and boost immunity. Other worthy choices include turmeric, basil, rosemary, and coriander. You can use them in soups, salads and casseroles to create really tasty dishes.
A final consideration is to drink plenty of water because water is vital for all bodily processes. Water stimulates the immune system, removes waste and toxins, and transports nutrients to all of your organs.
Cooking and Carcinogens
Carcinogens are the cancer-causing substances found in food that can form during the cooking or preserving process or in storage as food starts to spoil. Cured, dried, and preserved meats or burned or charred meats; smoked foods; and foods that have become mouldy may well contain carcinogens. With this in mind, take it easy when barbequing and bear in mind that cooking on a low heat is better for your food.
Image credit: marucyan / 123RF Stock Photo
October 31, 2016