The Big C. Cancer affects all of us. It’s hard to find anyone who has not lost a loved one or suffered the terrifying diagnosis themselves. Cancer is on the rise worldwide. According to the World Health Organization in 2018 global cancer has risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths worldwide. That means one in five men and one in six women (a staggering 38% of men and women according The National Cancer Institute) will develop cancer during their lifetime. But what about preventable cancer?
What if changing your diet and your lifestyle could reduce your odds?
Although no one has yet to pinpoint one single cause of cancer, a new study published May 22, 2019 (JNCI Cancer Spectrum) has found that poor diet is associated with over 80,000 new cases of cancer in the US. That’s about 5% of all new cases that can be directly related to the foods we choose to eat (or not). Its already been acknowledged that excessive alcohol contributes to about 4-6% of cancers and excessive body weight is associated with about 7-8% and physical inactivity is associated with about 2-3% so this new study puts dietary choices on par with some of the notable cancer-causing lifestyle factors.
Who had the highest risk? Men between the ages of 45-64.
A diet high in red meat consumption, high processed meats (bacon, sausage, cold cuts), and is low in whole grains, and low in dairy increased the risks of colon cancer. Low intake of fruits and vegetables risks of cancer of the mouth, pharynx and larynx. High intake of processed meats was linked to an increase in stomach cancer. High in sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, sugary juices and beverages was included because it is already known that drinking these sugar laden drinks increases obesity and obesity is linked to 13 different kinds of cancer.
The study’s main findings found that the largest number of cancer cases were for colorectal cancer, followed by cancer of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, uterine cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancers. And of all the diet related cancer causes, 16 % were due to obesity.
Here are some practical ways to lower your risk and some of the other foods that you can ADD to your diet to help prevent your risk.
Reduce or eliminate red meat and processed meats from your diet:
Lowering your intake of red meat and processed meats of any kind is a great first step in helping to choose a healthier diet to prevent cancer. Instead of red meat and cold cuts for protein sources, choose poultry (fresh chicken or turkey), plant-based proteins like beans on a daily basis and eat Omega 3 fatty fish like Wild Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna at least 2-3 times per week. Use whey protein powder or a plan- based protein powder with a low-fat dairy product and make a smoothie for a quick protein boost that will help you stay full, hydrated and give you a protein boost. (add fruits, veggies and a bit of oatmeal for a real powerhouse meal).
Eat Whole Grains:
What exactly is a “Whole Grain”? Grains can be divided into 2 categories:
1. Whole Grains: A whole grain means it includes the entire grain in its natural form- the kernel, the bran, the germ and the endosperm. This is the total grain. Examples of Whole grains include whole wheat, corn, brown rice, oatmeal and whole oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, air-popped popcorn, whole-wheat breads, pasta, tortillas or crackers. The key is to look for the word “Whole” when reading the ingredients. Don’t be fooled by the words on the package like “7 grain” or the look of something (it could be colored brown to fool you). Read the label!
2. Refined Grains: When a grain is refined it is processed and they strip the bran and the germ away from the grain and leave only the endosperm. Unfortunately, they also strip away all of the nutritional benefits and the fiber. Refined grains include white flour, pastas, white rice and most processed breads and cereals.
The easiest way to improve your intake of whole grains is to slowly begin to switch out the refined grains with a whole grain substituter pasta, experiment with quinoa in a salad and dabble with some buckwheat or barley and add to your soups and salads. Begin each day with a bowl of oatmeal. Air pop some popcorn for a satisfying crunchy snack (without adding butter or a ton of salt).
Increase those fruits and veggies:
The American Heart Association recommends at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruit EVERY DAY! Are you getting that much? ALL fruits and vegetables have protective qualities for cancer so the more you eat, the better but here are some of the top fruits and veggies for cancer prevention:
Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables include: Arugula, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard greens, Horseradish, Kale, Radishes, Rutabaga, Turnips, Watercress and Wasabi.
According to the National Cancer Institute eating a plentiful amount of cruciferous vegetables can lower your risk of colorectal cancer, prostrate cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer.
Berries: Berries are loaded with antioxidants which are those ‘free radical fighters”. Our bodies create free radicals as a normal process of metabolism and we also get free radical damage from the environment like second-hand smoke and pollution and radiation. Free radicals damage cells. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, goji berries are all super high in antioxidants and can easily be found in summer months or fresh frozen all year round. Top off your oatmeal, make a smoothie, add to salads or just eat them fresh as a wholesome and naturally sweet snack.
Cut out the sugar laden foods and drinks:
We know that high intake of sugar is related to obesity. Obesity is linked to at least 13 different types of cancer and is rapidly replacing smoking as the greatest our nation’s greatest preventable cause of cancer. When you cross the line in your weight gain to where your BMI is 30 or more, you are considered “Obese”. Obesity is not just being overweight. Obesity is now considered a disease state in and by itself. More than 35 % of adults are now considered to be obese and the rate of obesity is rapidly expanding. That extra padding is not just ‘fat tissue’. Excess body fat is an organism that produces all kinds of hormones and inflammatory factors that disrupt body and cell function. It has been established that adults who drink just one soda a day are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese and children who drink those sugary juice boxes or other sweetened drinks are 55% more likely to be obese or overweight, it doesn’t exactly work out that way. Oddly enough, diet soda drinkers have a higher rate of obesity than those who don’t drink them. And diet soda is linked to breast, colorectal, uterine, kidney and pancreatic cancers.
If it’s the ‘fizz’ you miss when quitting soda, try switching to naturally flavored seltzers or squeeze a lemon, orange or lime into plain seltzer.
Get a double dose of cancer prevention by switching to water. You need to drink ½ your body weight in fluid ounces every day to properly hydrate. Not only do you lose the risk of becoming obese from all that soda, drinking adequate amounts of water in and by itself helps to prevent certain cancers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that low intake of water is linked to bladder, colorectal and breast cancer.
If you find water not flavorful enough for your soda taste buds, try adding fresh squeezed citrus fruit like lemon, orange or limes.
When you increase your intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and water and eliminate lots of red meat, processed meats and sugary drinks you not only decrease your risk of obesity, you also significantly reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. Get the support of your Rolling Strong Coach either on-site or remotely and they can help you set goals and establish these new healthy habits with support and education.
By: Cindy Luisi WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach