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5 diet choices you can make to lower your cancer risk

A man chops tomatoes in his kitchen.
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/ by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center

February is Cancer Prevention Month, and with a few lifestyle choices and some nutrition know-how, you can be well on your way to reducing your risk for cancer.

Being overweight or obese is linked to an increased risk of many cancers, so you should also aim for about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise spread out over the course of the week.

Along with increased physical activity, making a few dietary tweaks can help you maintain a healthy weight, too. Here are five tips to get you started:

As always, continue to follow any diet restrictions recommended by your physician.

1. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, beans, and legumes each day.

A diet rich in these foods, which contain fiber and other beneficial vitamins and minerals, can reduce your risk of cancer. Focus on whole, fresh fruits and vegetables. Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option, too, as long as there are no added ingredients.

2. Choose whole grains instead of refined products.

Opt for whole grain versions of bread, pasta and cereal, along with brown rice instead of versions of these foods made from refined grains (such as white bread, pasta and white rice).

3. Avoid sugary drinks and limit high-calorie, calorie-dense foods.

A diet high in added sugar can contribute to excessive weight gain. Limit your intake of sugary beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks) as well as calorie-dense foods like fast foods, cookies, cakes, ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets.

4. Limit alcohol consumption.

There is now strong evidence that links alcohol to an increased risk for many cancers, including cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast and colorectum. For those who drink alcohol, consumption should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as either 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1/2 oz. of distilled spirits or hard liquor.

5. Go easy on red and processed meats.

There is some evidence that suggests red meat consumption can cause colorectal cancer, but moderate consumption will not increase your cancer risk. If you eat red meat, eat smaller portions and leaner cuts of meat. Or opt for fish, poultry or beans instead. And try to cut back on processed meats like bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs, too.

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