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Cancer and Nutrition – DOs and DON’Ts

Current medical literature projects that between 30 and 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by simple lifestyle and dietary choices. This is a clear indication that if we want to reduce the social and economic effects of this global burden, nutrition is the place to start. A lot of the time, people find [...]

Current medical literature projects that between 30 and 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by simple lifestyle and dietary choices. This is a clear indication that if we want to reduce the social and economic effects of this global burden, nutrition is the place to start.

A lot of the time, people find it hard to stick to a healthy regimen because they see it as a strict program, which is far from the truth. In most situations, common sense and moderation are actually enough.

For example, sugar and glucose have been linked with cancer. While there is evidence that people suffering from diabetes have an increased risk, because of their insulin levels, carbohydrates will always be a necessary macronutrient for the body. Just try to avoid consuming too many refined sugars and you should be fine.

The same can be said about meat. This is another essential element in any diet, yet certain types are more harmful than others. Hot dogs, ham, salami, other forms of deli meats, basically those that have been additionally processed, have been shown to increase the chance to colorectal cancers.

Another factor is the cooking method. There have been claims that certain methods that use high temperatures – grilling, frying, barbequing, can produce more harmful compounds, like heterocyclic amines (HA) and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Some advocate that steaming, stewing or boiling preserve more of the nutrients and should be favored.

Dairy is generally considered a healthy food source, but even so, there are theories saying that it can lead to prostate cancer. The connection seems very weak, and most studies seem to have the same conclusion: “High intake of dairy products and calcium may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, although the increase appears to be small”.

Obesity and being overweight are known to be the single biggest risk factor for cancer worldwide. In the U.S., weight problems account for 14% and 20% of all cancer deaths in men and women, respectively, according to one article. The good news is, being somewhat active and eating healthy will also keep you in proper physical shape.

When it comes to what you should eat, the list is quite long. Obviously, start with vegetables and fruit. Some studies actually suggest that vegans have a lower risk of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage contain sulforaphane, which has been used to shrink tumors. Tomatoes and carrots have also been linked with decreasing risk for prostate, stomach and lung cancer.

Nuts are another staple of many healthy diets. They offer a lot of minerals and antioxidants that fight diseases. Olive oil is a great source of fatty acids and vitamins. Part of the Mediterranean diet, it has proven its anticancer properties. If you are looking for an alternative protein source to red meat, maybe try fish. Studies regularly show that it can reduce colorectal cancer by up to 12%.

Ketogenic diets have been recently proposed to combat cancer, though there is insufficient data at the moment to make a clear recommendation. These are low carb programs that are quite effective at helping with losing weight due to their fasting window.

All and all, there is no miracle food or plan that can guarantee your safety. Eating greens, fruit, whole grains and staying away from processed meats, refine carbs, alcohol as much as possible can lower the risk of developing most forms of the disease.

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