Living a healthy life can be challenging when there are seemingly endless fad diets, do’s and don’ts, celebrity tips, and kitchen hacks. It can all seem a little overwhelming. The truth is that being healthy is not as difficult or restrictive as people are led to believe. These excessively restrictive diets cause many people to find healthy eating ‘too hard’ or not worth it. This is a particularly dangerous notion as diet is directly linked to cancer. Aside from quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet is the most effective way to reduce one’s risk of cancer. But what does it mean to eat healthy?
How can a healthy diet prevent cancer?
Research suggests that simple lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, could prevent 30-50% of all cancers. A healthy diet offers cancer-fighting nutrients, but also reduces the likelihood of obesity which greatly increases one’s risk of cancer.
Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, which can cause DNA damage that leads to cancer. Additionally, fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen and hormones that stimulate or inhibit cell growth. Naturally, hormones that interfere with cell growth can support the spread of cancer. High levels of estrogen are associated with increased risks of several cancers, including breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.
What foods are linked to cancer?
Eating too much of certain foods is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Such foods include:
Sugar and refined carbs – Researchers have found that a diet that causes blood glucose levels to spike is associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including stomach, breast, and colorectal cancers.
Processed meats and red meats – Processed meats, or meats that have been treated to preserve flavor by undergoing salting, curing, or smoking, and red meats have been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Overcooked foods – Cooking certain foods at high temperatures, such as grilling, frying, or broiling, can produce harmful compounds that contribute to inflammation. Most studies have identified the most harmful overcooked foods to be those high in fat and protein as well as highly processed foods.
What foods prevent cancer?
A holistic dietary approach is the best way to live a healthy life and prevent cancer. Fruits and vegetables are high in cancer-fighting nutrients. However, it is also suggested that flaxseeds, spices, beans, legumes, and nuts can aid in a cancer-free lifestyle. Keeping diets as natural and unprocessed as possible will ensure that the body receives a higher amount of nutrients and antioxidants and a smaller percentage of salt and complex carbohydrates.
Is there a diet that is best for living a cancer-free lifestyle?
It is important to remember that while there is likely a link between many foods and the risk of developing cancer, there is not a guaranteed diet that can prevent cancer in full. With that in mind, a great way to increase the amount of cancer-fighting nutrients in one’s diet is to emphasize fruits and vegetables in meals. It is best to eat these foods raw, as this will ensure that all nutrients are consumed. However, even boiled and steamed vegetables offer excellent health benefits.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, eating calcium-rich foods and lean meat can support a cancer-fighting diet. Instead of frying or breading meat, opt for grilling or baking to make meals healthier. Of course, this doesn’t mean that secret family recipe books need to be tossed. A healthy diet is all about balance, so a starchy or calorie-dense meal now and then is certainly acceptable. Monitoring serving size and pairing with exercise means that comfort foods can be enjoyed without guilt or worry.
What tips and tricks are there to support a healthy lifestyle?
A great way to dive into a healthy lifestyle is to enlist a nutritionist. Nutritionists are experts in food and nutrition who help patients choose meal plans and offer advice on the health effects of different foods. Of course, seeing a nutritionist is not always a simple solution. For those who are unable to see a nutritionist, the US Department of Agriculture offers a great alternative – MyPlate. MyPlate shows the user’s food group targets. It monitors what to eat and how much to eat within the calorie allowance based on the user’s age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity. It can also be immensely helpful to track one’s diet using a food diary. This increases accountability and allows reflection on diet choices.
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