From John Sacco, MD, a radiation oncologist with OHC who is also board certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine
February 14, 2017
Did you know that what you eat each day can affect your risk of developing certain cancers? According to the American Cancer Society, about one-third of all cancer-related deaths in the United States are linked to diet and excess weight, along with inactivity.
No matter what your diet looks like today, there are some simple changes you can make to reduce your chances of developing cancer. Having a healthy, plant-based diet can also help those who are in remission from cancer prevent reoccurrence of this chronic disease.
Here are a few of my suggestions for improving your diet and reducing your risk or cancer:
- Eat more plants and less animals. While no single food can prevent or fight cancer on its own, research shows that vegetables and fruits protect against a range of cancers because they contain the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep our bodies healthy and strengthen our immune system. They are also a good source of photochemicals, which help protect our cells from damage that can lead to cancer. There are many ways to add more plant-based foods to your diet. A nice visual reminder is to aim for a plate of food that is at least two-thirds whole grains, vegetables, beans, or fruit. Dairy products, fish, and meat should take up no more than a third of your plate. If you want to learn more about plant-based diets check out Michael Pollen’s The Ominivore’s Dilemma.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help fuel the proper functioning of our bodies and especially the brain, so cutting out carbs from your diet like many fad diets suggest isn’t always healthy. However, it’s important to avoid refined carbohydrates from foods made with white sugar, white flour, white pasta, white rice, and concentrated fruit juices. You can get the carbohydrates you need to fuel your body through vegetables and fruits because they are loaded with fiber and evidence suggest that diets high in fiber prevent cancers and promote weight control.
- Increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. A growing body of research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cancer and help manage certain cancers. For good health, Americans need to eat more foods containing omega-3 like fatty fish, fish oil, walnuts, seafood, and spinach, and avoid foods with omega-6 fatty acids which are often found in oils, fast food, processed snack foods, and pastries. Since many cancers are linked to chronic inflammation, increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is important as it reduces inflammation in the body.
- Follow the rainbow. When eating for disease prevention, the best health tip you can follow is to “follow the rainbow,” meaning that you should include as many colorful foods in your diet as possible. The beautiful colors found in vegetables and fruits are the results of antioxidants, which protect our body from the damage of free radicals and build a shield around them so they are unable to damage the cells in our bodies, which can cause cancer and other chronic diseases. While it’s impossible to keep bodies from accumulating free radicals, by eating more whole foods we can borrow their antioxidant super powers to reduce aging and diseases.
February is Cancer Prevention Month so we are kicking off our “Taking Control of Your Health, Body, Mind and Spirit” blog post series. Stay tuned for monthly posts from me on a variety of cancer-prevention topics including exercise, mindfulness, spirituality, family and friendship, and genetics.
To learn more about reducing your risk of cancer or OHC’s cancer treatments, please browse our website and download our patient newsletters. Or call us toll-free at 1-844-424-6673.Comments (3)