An article in the Cancer Research Update noted that about 42% of cancer cases and 45% of cancer deaths in the United States are linked to lifestyle related risk factors including excess weight, poor diet and physical inactivity. A quick google search will reveal an overwhelming number of ideas for how to lose weight and an equally large number of opinions on the “best” diet to prevent cancer or cancer recurrence.
First, it’s important to note that there is no “superfood” or food group when it comes to preventing cancer. The body of research on food and cancer is growing, and the American Institute for Cancer Research offers some basic diet guidelines*:
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
- If consumed at all, limit daily alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
- Don’t rely on supplements to protect against cancer.
So you’re doing all that already? Great! But is there a way we can eat even better in order to reduce our risk of cancer? Have you ever thought that in addition to taking certain foods/substances out of your diet that you should add certain foods or increase how much of a certain food you eat?
Researchers seem to think so.
In a recent Newsweek article, the subject expert discussed the proposed benefits of an anti-angiogenic diet. Angiogenesis is the process by which the body creates new blood vessels. Research is showing that in a number of diseases, the body has failed to either grow enough blood vessels or has too many blood vessels going to certain areas in the body. When there are too many blood vessels, conditions, like cancer, may be fueled. The expert goes on to suggest that certain foods have naturally occurring properties that may help cut off blood supply to the tumor and prevent further growth. Some of the foods that may be beneficial include many different fruits & vegetables, green tea, olive oil, ginger, walnuts, almonds and flaxseed.
There’s been a lot of research on anti-inflammatory diets over the years, much of it related to cancer and other chronic diseases. That’s because chronic inflammation is strongly associated with the development of many cancers. A diet high in processed meat (hot dogs, sausage), red meat (burgers, steaks), refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pastries), fried foods, margarine, shortening or lard, soda & other sugar sweetened beverages tends to promote chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory diet includes foods such as: fruits (especially berries and citrus) and vegetables (especially green leafy broccoli, cauliflower), beans, nuts (almond, walnuts), fish (especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna), green tea, flaxseed and some spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic and turmeric. These foods seem to protect the body against developing chronic inflammation.
Hopefully as you read this, you noticed that in both examples many of the same foods were recommended. This leads us to some basic diet recommendations of foods we can add into our diet on a regular basis. While this list is growing and changing as more research emerges, this will get you off to a good start:
- Include at least 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.Eat a variety of colors and textures.
- Add spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and garlic whenever possible.
- Include 2-3 servings of fish each week (salmon, mackerel and tuna)
- Add flaxseed to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt.
- Add in nuts (almonds, walnuts) and beans, lentils and peas.
- Drink 1-2 cups of green tea each day.