Daily habits like diet and exercise can affect your risk for cancer more than you may realize. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), poor diet and inactivity are two key factors that can put a person at a higher risk for cancer.
Eat a Healthy Variety of Foods
Although eating healthy foods does not guarantee cancer prevention, it can certainly help reduce your risk. Making wise decisions about what you eat not only provides your body with the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs, it also helps make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
The ACS has some guidelines to consider in regards to what you eat from day to day, including:
1. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Some foods that have shown potential for reducing cancer risk include cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower; leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard, and romaine lettuce; garlic, tomatoes, berries, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal.
2. Avoid adding too much extra fat or sugar on top of the healthy foods.
If there is one that you’re not particularly fond of, see if you can find another food in the category that you like better.
3. Choose lean meats like fish and white-meat poultry over red meats like beef, pork, and lamb.
Focus on baking, broiling, or poaching meats rather than frying or charbroiling. If grilling, avoid cooking meat until it becomes black and charred (charred meats have been shown to create cancer-causing chemicals, called HCAs and PAHs). The American Institute for Cancer Research states that studies show 18 ounces of red meat per week should be the limit for most people.
4. Limit refined carbohydrates in the foods you eat.
Not all carbs are bad. However foods that have been processed to remove the naturally occurring nutrients should be limited or avoided all together. You will find refined carbs in foods such as: white flour, white bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, snack foods, regular pasta (use whole wheat as a better option), sweets/candy, and breakfast cereals with added sugar.
5. Minimize your intake of processed meats.
This includes meats such as bacon, ham, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs. Read the package for an ingredients list. If you occasionally choose one of these foods try to select one with no nitrates or nitrites added, known to create cancer causing compounds in meat.
6. Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories.
Keep in mind that “low-fat” or “non-fat” doesn’t necessarily mean the food is low in calories and may often be loaded with sugar. When eating high-calorie foods, opt for smaller portions.
7. Limit your intake of alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.
For most adult men, no more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day and for women, no more than 1 per day. Try to cut out soft drinks entirely. They have no nutritional value and can help you lose weight very quickly. Be sure to check the labels on juices and sports drinks too. They are often filled with sugars.
Physical activity, or exercise, can also help lower the risk of various types of cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer.
The ACS recommends limiting sedentary behavior such as sitting or lying down for long periods of time (more than one hour at a time while awake) and increasing physical activity. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week if the exercise is of vigorous intensity (or an equivalent combination). Children and teens should be encouraged to be active for a least an hour a day, every day.
Some examples of moderate-intensity activities you can do may include:
- Walking, dancing, ice and roller skating, horseback riding, canoeing, leisurely bike riding, and yoga
- Volleyball, golfing, softball, baseball, doubles tennis, and downhill skiing
- Mowing the lawn and gardening
- Light manual labor around the workplace
Vigorous-intensity activities could include:
- Jogging or running, fast bicycling, circuit weight training, aerobic dance, martial arts, jumping rope, and swimming
- Soccer, field or ice hockey, lacrosse, racquetball, basketball, singles tennis, and cross-country skiing
- Digging, carrying or hauling masonry, and carpentry
- Heavy manual labor around the workplace or home
What to Do Now?
You may not find it possible to add all of these suggestions into your daily routine. That’s OK. Even making small changes in your diet and activity level can be beneficial. The idea is to eat better and be more physically active than usual, so start small and work your way up if you need to.
Remember, even small steps toward a healthier you are better than none! If you have any questions or would like to talk to a cancer specialist in Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA contact Compass Oncology to schedule an appointment.