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Cancer Prevention on a Plate

By Nancy Spaulding-Albright RD, CNSD, LD/N

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As care providers, it is very easy to put your health last. Unfortunately, this might catch up to you through some sort of medical problem of your own and then the home situation can become even more complex. There are many diseases we have no way of avoiding, so it is important to be pro-active in reducing our risk for the preventable ones. The current statistic is that up to 60-70 percent of cancers could be prevented with the right dietary and lifestyle habits. Behavioral factors such as cigarette smoking, dietary choices and physical activity affect the risk of cancer at all stages of its development. In the famous words of Pamela Peeke MD, MPH “Genetics may load the gun but environment pulls the trigger.”

Everyone should be familiar with the National 5 A Day for Better Health Program from the National Cancer Institute to increase our intake of fruits and vegetables. Many health professionals believe it would be even more protective if our intake went up to nine-plus servings. Often, people believe they could never eat that much produce but they may not realize what a portion size is considered. When it comes to vegetables it is one-half cup cooked, one cup raw or six ounces of vegetable juice. For fruit, it is one small piece of fresh fruit, one-half cup canned/chopped or six ounces of juice.

If you can reduce your risk by 30-40 percent just by eating five servings of delicious fruits and vegetables a day, wouldn’t you want to? Another side benefit is that people find they lose weight when they consume a more plant-based diet. The increased fiber and fluid content of these foods, fills you up with fewer calories. Such a deal!

Now a word on Phytonutrients

Every day, new evidence supports the idea of including plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant based proteins in our daily diet. Besides contributing vitamins, minerals and fiber, these plant foods also contain phytonutrients, naturally-occurring plant chemicals that promote wellness and decrease the risk of many diseases. “Phyto” means plant in Greek. Call them the vitamins and minerals of the new millennium if you will. Let’s look a few…

  • Cruciferous Family (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts) – Sulforaphane and Brassinin has shown to boost the body’s ability to defuse potential carcinogens and Indoles which may reduce the production of estrogen or change existing estrogen to the least harmless.

  • Chili Peppers – Capsaicin- May block DNA from carcinogens, natural decongestant, expectorant, blood thinner and may lower cholesterol. Rates of stomach cancers are especially low in populations that consume a lot of peppers.

  • Garlic and onions – Allicin and Diallyl Disulphide - Lowers cholesterol, thins blood, reduces blood pressure and has anti-viral/bacterial properties. Eat as much as you feel comfortable with. Garlic is so popular it has a hotline, 800-330-5922! Garlic pills can act as a blood thinner so use them smartly if you are taking other medications or supplements that have the same effect such as aspirin, coumadin or vitamin E.

  • Legumes – Contain various phytochemicals and protease inhibitors which may help prevent cancer. Soybeans would fall into this group as well with their isoflavones, daidzein and genestein. Reduce your risk of cancer by eating lower on the food chain!

  • Spinach and other leafy greens – Contain Glutathione, Lutein, Zeaxanthin which can help reduce risk of lung cancer, macular degeneration and contribute to an enzyme needed for strong immune function.

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