World Cancer Day takes place on the 4th of February every year. It aims to unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer and in turn save millions of preventable deaths by raising awareness and education about the disease.
While cancer prevention is continuingly being researched, we do know your chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices you make. In fact, it’s been shown that as many as one-third of all cancer deaths are linked to diet and physical activity. Other than quitting smoking, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are eating healthy, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life.
Here are some general dietary guidelines to help reduce your cancer risk with your food choices:
Maintain a healthy weight – 1 in 5 cancer related deaths is connected to being overweight or obese. Weight in the abdominal area is closely linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and cancer of the pancreas and uterus, as well as breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
Limit high calorie, low nutrient foods – foods with added sugars and fats should be limited and are best avoided. These provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. These calories can add up fast leading to weight gain, leaving no room for healthier, cancer-preventive foods. Examples of these foods include sugar-sweetened beverages, processed snack foods and desserts.
Eat fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and legumes – these are packed with fiber and have been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers. Enjoy a variety of these naturally nutrient-rich foods. Make at least half of your plate vegetables and remember to choose wholegrain starches. This will also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Control your meat portions – processed meats such as polony, hot dogs and viennas, as well as red meat, have been linked to colon cancer. Enjoy protein in moderation and remember to choose lean protein foods. Remember plant-based sources of protein such as beans and lentils more often.
Limit alcohol – evidence suggests alcohol may increase your risk of a number of cancers, especially when combined with smoking. Remember to limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men daily. One drink is equal to 340ml of beer, 120ml sweet wine/sherry or 60ml spirits.
What about supplements? Enjoying a variety of whole foods is your best bet for reducing cancer risk, not supplements. Research suggest nutrients found naturally in foods offer more of a protective effect.
Visit a Registered Dietitian for more comprehensive guidelines and a personalized meal plan to accompany it. You can make a booking here.