Cancer – Diet Choices to Prevent Cancer
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Research has shown that a healthy diet can lower your risk of certain cancers. It also may help prevent other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. One benefit of good nutrition is that it helps you maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are at risk of more health problems. In general, a high-fibre, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Path to improved health
Can certain dietary choices reduce my risk of cancer?
There are ongoing studies regarding diet and health. Researchers continue to explore whether certain foods and nutrients can reduce the risk of cancer. Results are not consistent and vary by person. The following things may help.
- Fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach, and colon cancer.
- A diet that focuses on foods such as fish, fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains may protect against cancer.
- Calcium and vitamin D may lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Folic acid may protect against cancer
What specific things can I do to improve my diet?
You can reduce your risk of health problems by eating a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (dried beans and peas), nuts and seeds. For protein, eat moderate amounts of fish, poultry, lean meats, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
Certain fats should be part of a healthy diet. They can lower your risk of disease. “Good” fats can help lower your total cholesterol level. “Good” fats include:
- Monounsaturated fats—Found in canola, olive, avocado and peanut oils, and in other nut oils. Also found in legumes, olives, seeds, nuts, nut butters and fresh avocados.
- Polyunsaturated fats—Found in vegetable oils like corn, sunflower and safflower oils, as well as in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, corn, soybeans, and many other kinds of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids—usually found in “oily” fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Also found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
You should avoid or limit “bad” fats. These include trans and saturated fats. They are found in fast food, fried food, snack foods, and baked goods. “Bad” fats can increase your total cholesterol level.
What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are substances found in plant-based foods. Some experts believe that they can reduce your risk of cancer. They may also support bone, heart and brain health. Common types of phytochemicals include vitamin C and folic acid. Less common types are isoflavones, flavonoids, phytosterols, and others. Good sources of phytochemicals include:
- whole grains
Things to consider
Should I take herbs or dietary supplements?
It’s easy to get excited about claims that the latest dietary supplement will prevent or cure cancer. However, advertising claims that a supplement will prevent or cure cancer are not likely to have been verified. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before adding herbs or supplements to your diet. Making extreme changes to your diet may actually put you at risk for new health problems.
While foods that are rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene are very healthy, research does not support taking Vitamin E supplements for the prevention of cancer or other chronic illnesses. Most Canadians can get the vitamin E they need from foods. People who smoke or have a high risk for lung cancer should not take beta-carotene because it can increase the risk of lung cancer. There is no current evidence that shows that taking multivitamins can help reduce your risk of cancer.
What foods can increase the risk of developing cancer?
Although there isn’t clear evidence about whether specific foods prevent cancer, research shows that certain foods can increase your cancer risk. These include the following:
- Heavily processed meats, such as ham, bacon, sausage, salami and bologna, can increase your risk of colorectal cancer if you eat them too often.
- Foods that are high in saturated fats can contribute to weight gain. Being overweight increases your risk of many types of cancer.
- Alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colorectal area. If you do drink alcohol, do not have more than 2 drinks per day if you are a man or more than 1 drink per day if you are a woman. One drink is 341 ml (a 12-ounce bottle) of beer (5% alcohol), a 142 ml (5-ounce) glass of wine (12% alcohol) or 43 ml (1.5 ounces) of distilled alcohol (40% alcohol).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Canadian Cancer Society
Toll Free 1-888-939-3333
Health Canada – Canada’s Food Guide