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Up those fruit and veggies for cancer prevention

Up those fruit and veggies for cancer prevention

On the note of breast cancer awareness month in October and prostate cancer awareness this month, I decided to write something on cancer prevention and the correlation between cancers and diet.

One third of cancers are linked to diet, developing over a long period of time. There is growing evidence that excess body weight increases the risk of cancer at several sites, including kidney, endometrium, colon, prostate,  gallbladder, and breast in postmenopausal women.

Evidence from recent diet and nutrition studies showed that fruit and vegetable intake is critically important in risk reduction for many cancers. Antioxidants also protect the body against free radical damage. So very important to up the antioxidant intake through diet! The “5-a-day” rule should thus definitely be encouraged and even expanded to “5-a-day-minimum”!

Recent evidence also suggests that the percentage of fat in our diets is not a major cause of cancers of the breast or colon. Higher intakes of red meat and dairy products has however been associated with greater risk of prostate cancer, which may be related to their saturated fat content. Also, red meat consumption has been associated with the risk of colon cancer in numerous studies, but this appears to be unrelated to its fat content.

Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of upper gastrointestinal tract cancers, and even moderate amounts appear to increase cancer of the breast and large bowel.

The evidence is strong that remaining physically active and lean throughout life, consuming an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and avoiding high intakes of red meat, foods high in animal fat, and excessive alcohol will substantially reduce the risk of human cancer.

A Complete anti-cancer grocery list would include dark green, yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables, red grapes, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage), tomatoes, olive and canola oils, garlic, legumes and wholegrains.

To summarise here are recommendations for reducing cancer risk:

  • Eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Increase intake of fiber in the diet through wholegrains, legumes, fruit and starchy veg such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut, beetroot, carrots and peas.
  • Limit consumption of processed foods
  • Limit consumption of smoked or salt-cured foods.
  • Limit red meat consumption to 3 times per week.
  • Do not eat charred foods.
  • Consume alcohol in moderation.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco in any form.
  • Be active! Exercise at least 5 times per week for 30 minutes