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How a well-balanced diet can help prevent cancer

Couple cuts vegetables for a salad together.
Blog

/ by Sean O'Nan, MS, RD, LD

Did you know that a well-balanced diet can help prevent cancer?

People who are overweight or obese have increased risk for developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and even some types of cancer. Excess body fat is associated with increased insulin resistance, changes to hormone production, possible alterations in immune function and chronic inflammation – all of which can play a role in the development of cancer.

The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) have published recommendations about ways you can change your current diet and reduce your risk for developing cancer in the future. Start with these three tips and learn more about each below:

Consume a plant-based diet

Limit red meats to less than 18 ounces per week, and avoid all processed red meats. Red meats contain heme iron, which can indirectly damage DNA. Studies have also shown that cooking these meats at high temperatures is carcinogenic in people. “Processed meats” have been found to increase risk of colorectal cancer by around 17 percent per 100 grams consumed.

In addition, you should try to eat at least five servings of non-starchy fruits and vegetables each day.

As you plan your meals, limit processed foods with extra salt. Excess salt intake may damage the protective lining of your stomach, which can increase inflammation.

Avoid foods that promote weight gain

Say no to fast food, and cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks and teas/coffees with added sugars).

Make physical activity a part of your daily routine

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day – this includes brisk walking.

These recommendations are especially important for cancer survivors as they are already at higher risk for developing a secondary type of cancer. Making lifestyle modifications can often be difficult, so having a good support system at home can help increase your chances of long-term success. Start by setting a long-term goal and make small, gradual changes to help ease the transition from old food habits.

For additional information regarding diet and nutrition for cancer patients at Markey Cancer Center, please call 859-323-2798 and ask to speak with a registered dietitian.

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