Cancer and Your Diet: Making the Right Choices
Learn the Difference
When it comes to making nutritional decisions, some foods may help reduce your risk for certain cancers. Other foods may increase your cancer risk. It can pay to take time to learn the difference.
Click through the slideshow to see which cancer-fighting foods to include in your diet, and which foods to limit or avoid.
Foods to Include: Broccoli
Mom was right when she told you to finish your broccoli. It’s a “cruciferous” vegetable that has been linked by multiple studies to lowering the risk for colorectal, lung, and stomach cancers. Other cruciferous veggies thought to have cancer-fighting properties include cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. In fact, a study from Michigan State University showed that women who ate four servings of cabbage or sauerkraut weekly were nearly 75 percent less likely to get breast cancer than those who ate fewer servings.
Foods to Include: Tomatoes
Though research has been inconclusive, the American Institute for Cancer Research reports that tomatoes and tomato products may reduce the risk of a variety of cancers, including gastric, ovarian, pancreatic, breast, and prostate. This is because the compound lycopene, found in tomatoes, may help prevent the cell damage that leads to cancer. Lycopene is most easily absorbed from cooked tomatoes. Add chopped tomatoes to your salad or to your pasta with tomato sauce to reap these possible benefits.
Foods to Include: Berries
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are chock-full of antioxidants, with blueberries being the richest in cancer-fighting compounds. According to the National Cancer Institute, research is still underway to determine if the presence of antioxidants in berries and other fruits translates to a clear reduction in cancer risk. In the meantime, you should make berries part of your nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Add them to your morning cereal, a salad, or a smoothie.
Foods to Avoid: Red Meat
Unfortunately for fans of hot dogs and cold cuts, studies have convincingly shown a connection between cancer and consumption of processed meat, as well as beef, pork, and lamb. Harvard Medical School reports that a study of nearly 150,000 people between ages 50 and 74 revealed that high consumption of processed and red meats was linked with an increased risk of colon and rectal cancers.
Foods to Avoid: Alcohol
Drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day substantially increases your risk for developing a number of cancers. Alcoholic beverages are one of the few dietary factors that show a clear link to breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS reports that women who drink two to five drinks per day increase their risk of developing breast cancer by about 1.5 times. If you have a family history of breast cancer, aim to limit yourself to one drink or less.
Foods to Avoid: Saturated Fats
Although the research is still being debated, evidence is mounting to suggest that high-fat diets may increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Findings from a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that breast cancer patients who eat at least one daily serving of high-fat dairy—such as full-fat cheese, milk, or ice cream—have a nearly 50 percent increased risk of dying from breast cancer. Try to limit or avoid these high-fat foods and substitute healthier sources of fat instead, such as those found in nuts, avocadoes, and fish.
Each year, more than 500,000 people in the United States die from cancer, according to the ACS. So take the time to learn which foods may help reduce your risk for certain cancers, and which may increase your risk. With a little extra effort in choosing your foods wisely, you can decrease your cancer risk and improve your long-term health.
What could be more important than that?