According to a study from JAMA Oncology, half of all cancer deaths are preventable. This is great news, but currently in the United States one person per minute loses their life to cancer. We must empower ourselves through cancer prevention, education and making lifestyle changes to lead healthier lives.
American Cancer Society (ACS) serves as one of many resources for Stand Up To Cancer and provides “Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity” to prevent overall cancer risk. The four cornerstones are:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life. However, for those who are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has benefits and is a good place to start.
- Be physically active. Specifically, ACS recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week, ideally spread throughout the week. Sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, television watching and other forms of screen-based sedentary entertainment should be limited.
- Eat a healthy diet, with emphasis on plant food. Further advice in this area includes:
- Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit the amount of processed meat (such as lunch meats and cold cuts) and red meat in your diet.
- Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits daily, amounting to 5-9 servings.
- Choose whole grains over refined grain products.
- If you drink alcohol, limit your intake. ACS recommends no more than one drink per day for women or two per day for men.
Some of these recommendations may seem familiar, as they overlap some of the guidelines for healthy blood pressure, optimal heart health and diabetes prevention. So, following them not only reduces your overall cancer risk, but can prevent other chronic diseases. The key is how to implement these guidelines.
My Story and Experiences
As a registered dietitian nutritionist who is a breast cancer survivor, I now view nutrition and fitness quite differently than I did prior to my diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong….I ate purposefully for the most part, aiming to eat a variety of nutritious foods and only eating more indulgent foods on the weekends. I have also always enjoyed being physically active, but my diagnosis changed the way I think about food and activity.
Although I have maintained a healthy weight most of my adult life, I am at an age where this is more of a challenge than ever before. As much as I enjoy sweets, my intake has been markedly decreased. Savoring a special sweet treat on a weekend is much more rewarding than grabbing some ordinary boxed cookie from my pantry regularly…and results in not consuming extra calories routinely.
Exercise, as mentioned earlier, was something I always did for stress relief, bone density improvement and to preserve muscle mass. But now I view exercise as a soldier that will help me fight off cancer risks, and vast research proves the power of exercise in the war against cancers. So, rain or shine, tired or energetic, I diligently plow through workouts, visualizing the strength I gain from exercise to beat cancer and win.
I also pay a bit more for minimally-processed meats with no added nitrites to use in sandwiches. Ideally, when time allows, I slice up freshly-prepared meats for sandwiches instead of packaged lunch meats.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are my plant “superheroes.” They contain nutrients and antioxidants that can decrease cancer cell formation and actually inhibit the growth of microscopic cancers. Now I hyper-focus on fruits and vegetables, recognizing they are part of my “armor” in the battle of avoiding reoccurrence.
My grain choices have primarily been whole grain for years, but now I aim to have all my grain products be 100 percent whole-grain products. I also enjoy experimenting with various grains in the kitchen.
Cynthanne’s Personal Strategies and Favorite Food Products to Fight Cancer
For minimally-processed sandwich meats:
- Applegate Natural and Organic Meats
- Use freshly sliced prepared meats/poultry as a Deli meat replacement.
To ensure a minimum of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits (but the more the better!):
- Create “meal patterns” such as one fruit serving at breakfast; one vegetable serving at lunch; one fruit serving as part of afternoon snack; and one fruit and two cups of cooked or raw vegetables with dinner. Added bonus–when ordering an entrée salad out, ask for spinach as your lettuce greens to boost the nutrient content.
- Favorite food products:
- Any unsweetened frozen berries/fruits to add to smoothies
- Reduced sodium canned beans
- Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 (a colorful blend of eight fresh vegetables finely chopped; sold in the refrigerated produce section; makes a fantastic Asian slaw with added edamame and slivered almonds).
To increase whole grains:
- Uncle Sam’s Cereal and Post Shredded Wheat are both low sugar cereals and are 100 percent whole-wheat products. Topped with berries, they are satiating powerhouses.
- Ezekiel Breads. My personal favorite is toasted Ezekiel Cinnamon and Raisin bread topped with almond butter and sliced banana.
- Ronzoni Healthy Harvest 100% whole-grain pasta. Top it with a bottled marinara sauce of your choice for ease, but add fresh mushrooms, diced bell pepper, canned tomatoes and sliced olives to add more nutrients.
- McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal with Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran cooked together with diced apples, pears and assorted dried fruits added to the cooking water. Topped with nuts, this makes a most satisfying breakfast!
These are just a few practical ideas I hope help you implement the American Cancer Society Guidelines and lessen your cancer risk as well as other disease risk. Bon appetite!
For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.