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
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.
Grapes – Contain Resveratrol, Quercetin,
anthocyanin and catechin, all exhibit anti-oxidant
properties. Resveratrol also appears to inhibit tumor
growth at various stages in the cancer process. Red
grapes and red wine appear to be somewhat better than
the white versions as far as flavanoid content. Purple
grape juice and grapes work well too if you abstain from
Tomatoes – Rich in the carotenoid,
Lycopene. Cooking tomatoes with a little dietary
fat such as olive oil, improves the absorption of
Lycopene. It appears to reduce the risk of colon,
prostate, bladder and possibly breast cancers.
Tea – Polyphenols, Catechins and
Flavanoids in green and black versions appear to reduce
the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke. A compound
called epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) found in tea
appears to block an enzyme needed for cancer cell
These foods and many more deserve a
newfound respect for the health benefits they can
provide. Taking numerous dietary supplements is not the
key to disease prevention but learning to put your fork
in the right foods just may be.
The American Cancer Society Guidelines
on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention are as follows:
Choose most of the foods you eat from
Limit your intake of high fat foods,
particularly from animal sources
Be physically active: achieve and
maintain a healthy weight
Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages
if you drink at all
(Other risks such as smoking, sun
exposure, occupational carcinogens etc. are not
specifically nutrition-related so they are not addressed
in these guidelines.)
Reliable Cancer and Nutrition Resources
American Cancer Society 800-227-2345
American Institute for Cancer Research
American Dietetic Association Consumer Hotline
National Cancer Institute
Oncolink (University of Pennsylvania)
Nancy Spaulding-Albright RD, CNSD,
LD/N is a nutritionist practicing in Eustis Florida.
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