Eating well can lower your chance of developing cancer. In fact, nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention are similar to those for preventing other diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Here are some general guidelines to help reduce your cancer risk with diet:
Keep a Healthy Weight
Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. Being overweight or obese is related to as many as one in five cancer-related deaths. Exactly how weight affects cancer risk is unclear. Weight is most closely connected with cancers of the breast in postmenopausal women, colon, , kidney and esophagus. A connection also exists with cancers of the pancreas, gallbladder, thyroid, ovary and cervix.
Limit Calorie-Dense, Nutrient-Deficient Foods
Reduce your intake of foods with added sugars and fats that provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. Calories add up fast with calorie-dense foods, which can lead to weight gain and leaves little room for more healthful, cancer-preventive foods.
Eat Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains and Legumes
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, including beans, is linked with a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach and colon cancer. At this point, it’s not clear which components in vegetables and fruits are most protective against cancer. So enjoy a variety of whole foods naturally-rich in nutrients. Fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Also, eating a diet rich in these plant-based foods can help you stay at a healthy weight.
Limit Intake of Red Meats and Processed Meats
Red meat is an excellent source of protein plus several vitamins and minerals. But eating too much red meat may increase cancer risk, especially for certain types. Eat fish, poultry and beans more often. When you do eat meat, choose lean cuts and limit your intake to no more than 18 ounces (cooked weight) of red meat like beef, pork, lamb per week. Studies show this amount does not raise cancer risk. Downsize your meat portions and flavorfully fill your plate with beans, grains and vegetables.
Evidence suggests all types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of a number of cancers, including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast and colon. It’s unclear exactly how alcohol affects cancer risk. It is considered more harmful when combined with smoking. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 to 3 drinks a day for men and 1 to 2 drinks a day for women.
Consume Less Salt (Sodium)
Besides affecting blood pressure, eating too much salt increases your risk of stomach cancer. Most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, rather than salt we add as a seasoning. Read food labels to learn exactly how much sodium is a product. Limit yourself to 2000-3000 milligrams a day.
Written by: Saundra Gaskey, RD