Most health problems are unavoidable but the truth is we have more control of our health than we may think. One’s lifestyle and food choices can aid in fighting off cancer regardless of whether he or she has a family history of the disease or are already suffering from the disease.
Most cancer cases are directly related to unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and habits such as smoking and excessive drinking. What one eats or does not eat has a great influence on the health which includes the risk of developing cancer.
Whereas some foods will increase cancer risk; there are other food choices that will support the body as well as boost the immune system. The food that one consumes influences the risk of many cancers such as those of stomach, mouth, food pipe, bowel and breast.
1. Plant-based diet
Plant-based foods are regarded as cancer-fighting powerhouses since they contain less fat, have more fiber and have more nutrients that fight cancer. These three constituents work together to support immune system and aid the body in fighting off cancer. The diet constitutes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is advisable that these foods be taken in their most natural state as possible to achieve full benefits i.e. they should be less processed for example eat a mango instead of mango juice, be minimally cooked, less peeled and do not mix with other ingredients. Two thirds of your plate should be filled with whole grains, beans, vegetables or a fruit whereas meat, fish and other dairy products should not be more than a third of the plate.
2. Saturated and unsaturated fats
Saturated and Trans fats (partially hydrogenated) are two most damaging fats as they increase the risk of cancer. They are mainly found in animal sources such as whole dairy products, eggs and red meat. Cutting down on red meat automatically reduces amount of unhealthy fats. Unsaturated fats on the other hand are from plant source and very healthy. They include olive oil, nuts, avocados and canola oil. You can avoid bad fats by trimming excess fats off meat; reduce intake of red meat and other dairy products, choose leaner meat like fish and limit intake of fast foods.
Also known as roughage or bulk is part of the plant found in fruits, vegetables and grains and cannot be digested by the body. Fiber keeps the digestive system clean and healthy as well as aid in moving food through the digestive system. By doing this it also moves out the compounds that cause cancer before they cause harm. The more unprocessed and natural the food is, the more the roughage it contains. Examples of high fiber, cancer-fighting foods include legumes e.g. black beans, kidney beans and lentils. Fruits e.g. apples, pears, mango, e.t.c. Whole grains e.g. oatmeal, popcorns, brown rice, whole bread, and whole-wheat pasta. Vegetables e.g. dark green leafy vegetables, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, peas e.t.c are all a good source of fiber.
4. Cancer-fighting diet
There are certain ingredients present in food that aid in strengthening the immunity as well as protect against cancer.
- Antioxidants- these are powerful vitamins that fight against cancer and also help body cells work optimally. They include beta-carotene, vitamin E and C, selenium and are majorly found in fruits and vegetables.
- Phytochemicals- these nutrients fight disease and boost immunity. Found in colorful vegetables and fruits. Different colors have different phytochemicals.
- Some flavors and spices contain cancer-fighting nutrients e.g. ginger, garlic, turmeric, rosemary, basil and coriander.
- Water is essential in stimulating immune system, removing waste and toxins as well as transporting nutrients to the body organs.
These are substances that are likely to cause cancer. They can be natural e.g. aflatoxin or be found in chemicals such as pesticides. Organic and locally grown produce are considered carcinogen-free.
6. Obesity/overweight /exercise
Many types of cancer are related to overweight and obesity e.g. breast, bowel and womb cancers. The fat tissues in people who are obese or overweight may produce high levels of hormones such as insulin and estrogen which can in turn increase risk of certain types of cancers. It is thus important that one maintains a healthy weight and keep their BMI at check. Being physically active is very beneficial to our health since is reduces the cancer risk. Moderate activity such as brisk walking and dancing will not cost you much but will rather add you health.
Healthy living may not be a guarantee against cancer but it’s a sure way of reducing its risks.