Epidemiological studies have shown that 70-90% of all cancers are environmental. Lifestyle related factors are the most important and preventable among the environmental exposures. Research has clearly shown the role of diet in cancer:
- Risk of cancers is found to be lower among individuals who consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, starchy foods (wheat , jowar, carrots, etc) with only moderate amounts of red and processed meat
- Risk is higher among those who consume excess amounts of red and processed meats, drink excess alcohol and are overweight/ obese.
How can one reduce the risk of cancer?
Here are some steps that can be taken:
- Maintain weight close to ideal/ standard for height. It is best to remain consistent through adult life
- Consume plenty of and variety of fruits and vegetables
- Increase intake of dietary fiber from different food sources
- Consumption of red meat & processed meat should be reduced
- Quit smoking. It is one of the major triggers for cancer.
- Avoid consuming alcohol.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
- At least 5 portions a day are recommended
- They can be consumed as fresh with minimal processing to retain maximum nutrients
- All seasonal fruits and vegetables should be consumed to obtain overall benefits
CEREALS, BREAD & POTATO
- They must constitute only 1/3rd of the plate
- This includes rice, wheat, pasta, maize, oatmeal, noodles, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc
- Maximize on whole grain intake (e.g whole wheat bread, jowar, bajra, ragi, etc) from this food group to get more fiber
MEAT , FISH & ALTERNATIVES
- Low fat options can be adapted such as
- Lean meat/ chicken
- Steamed instead of fried fish
- Egg whites instead of whole eggs
- Fish especially fresh water fatty fish (e.g salmon, mackerel, herring) need to be emphasized
- Atleast 30-35g of the above mentioned fish variety should be consumed 2-3times/week to obtain good quality fats which are protective against certain cancers
- Red meat such as beef, lamb and pork and processed meat products such as sausages and burgers are to be consumed in moderation
- 90g/per day (8-10 portions/week) of cooked portion is considered average healthy intake while about 140g/day (12-14 portions/week) is considered very high intake
MILK & MILK PRODUCTS
- This group includes milk, curds, yoghurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cream , etc
- These products are rich in many nutrients including protein, retinol, calcium, etc
- However, they are also rich in saturated fats and hence removal of cream or low fat options should be chosen
- Unsaturated fat don’t contribute to cancer and may in fact have some anticancer properties while saturated fats may promote cancer and raise cholesterol levels.
So limiting your diet to unsaturated fats, found in plant foods, such as legumes; vegetable oils that are high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive, peanut and canola oil and seafood, such as salmon and tuna, that is high in omega 3 fatty acids can be of great benefit
4th February is World Cancer Day. It aims to save millions of preventable deaths every year by raising awareness and education about the disease.
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