Berna Harmse, a dietitian, shares seven tips to eat right.
International guidelines1 apply for those who want to reduce their cancer risk and for cancer survivors.
So, eating well may help you reduce your risk of cancer and beat cancer in a variety of ways. If you have cancer, eating well can positively support treatment. This may help you live well for years to come after treatment.
1. Keep a healthy weight
One in five people who die from cancer have an overweight or obese body mass index. But, exactly how weight affects cancer risk is unclear. Excess weight increases your risk by 50% for oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Weight in the belly area is most closely connected with an increased risk of certain cancers. But, obesity is associated with cancer of the following: colon, gallbladder, kidney, liver, pancreas, prostate and rectum.
2. Limit calorie-dense, nutrient-deficient foods
Reduce your intake of foods with added sugars and solid fats that provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. These foods include: sugar-sweetened beverages, processed snack foods and desserts. Calories add up fast with these sorts of calorie-dense foods, which can lead to weight gain and leaves little room for more healthy, cancer-preventive foods.
Eat fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and legumes
3. Eating plenty of whole plant
foods is linked with a lower risk of lung, oral, oesophageal, stomach and colon cancer. At this point, it’s not clear which components in vegetables and fruits are most protective against cancer. So, enjoy a variety of whole foods naturally-rich in nutrients. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and make at least half your grains wholegrains.
4. Moderate your meat portions
Some studies suggest a link between colon cancer and eating large amounts of red meat. This is especially true for processed meat, such as ham, bacon and hot dogs. Your best bet is to enjoy animal protein in moderation. Enjoy a small portion of meat and fill the rest of your plate with wholegrains and vegetables.
5. Focus on plant proteins
Beans and lentils are nutritious and affordable sources of protein and dietary fibre. Nutrient-dense plant-based proteins include chickpeas, almonds, quinoa, chia seeds, and edamame beans. Eating more plant protein than animal protein is associated with a lower risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer.
6. Limit alcohol
Evidence suggests all types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of various cancers, including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, breast, colon and rectum. It’s unclear exactly how alcohol affects cancer risk. It’s considered more harmful when combined with smoking. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink daily for women and two for men.
7. Eat whole foods
Whole foods are best for reducing cancer risk. Research suggests the nutrients found naturally in foods offers a protective effect. The same findings don’t appear to be true for supplements. Thus, the best sources of nutrients are nutrient-rich whole foods and healthy beverages (e.g. water and freshly squeezed fruit and veg juices). Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org)
1. World Cancer Research Fund, World Cancer Society, American Institute for Cancer Research, and American Cancer Society.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Berna Harmse
Berna Harmse is a private practicing dietitian. She holds a MSc in Dietetics, and has a special interest in oncology nutrition. She is also an external lecturer at Stellenbosch University Division of Human Nutrition.