Reduce cancer risk
Research shows that diet and lifestyle directly reduces cancer risk and cancer cell growth and development. http://wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-cup
How we eat, exercise and manage emotions influences cancer development and progression and even if we have inherited factors, diet and lifestyle changes will play a big part in reducing our cancer risk.
If you are living with cancer, what you eat can make a real difference to how you feel so you can live well with cancer, particularly by influencing the health of your immune system.
As recorded by ‘Penny Brohn, Living Well With Cancer’, 2015, “Disease recurrence and progression, symptoms and treatment side effects, plus the risk of related illnesses and overall quality of life are all affected by how we live our lives and nutrition plays a large role in this” http://www.pennybrohncancercare.org/living-well/
By enlisting the power of food to change the biochemistry of the body, we can help to manage cancer treatment side effects. So by combining conventional medicines with small and gradual lifestyle changes, huge health benefits can be gained. (It should be noted here that when going through treatment, a high intake of fruits and vegetables may not be ideal, however supporting ongoing health and resilience with nourishing soups and smoothies is very good. A Nutritionist can help you to make good food choices).
Foods to Choose to Reduce Cancer Risk
The first aim is:
- for a regular intake of rainbow colours of fruit and vegetables (2-3 portions of fruit and 7-10 portions of veg.)
- to include good quality protein at each meal of about the size of the palm of your hand,
- to include wholegrain and wholefood carbohydrates in the diet regularly
- for a daily intake of good quality Omega 3 oils (see below).
You can easily incorporate healthy foods into smoothies and soups as well as into conventional dishes.
Some Reasons to Change
Persistent inflammation creates an environment that favours tumour development and so foods that reduce inflammation should be part of your diet and these include:
- Eating oily fish (salmon, sardines, herrings, trout, mackerel), pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds which are all good sources of omega 3 oils help to reduce inflammation.
- Reducing all sugars, because these increase inflammation, cause weight gain and encourage cancer cell growth.
Vitamin D also helps in the process of reducing inflammation and while most vitamin D is generated from exposure to sunlight, some can be obtained from oily fish, shellfish, egg yolks, mushrooms and butter. A good vitamin D supplement is well worth taking during the winter months in the UK.
Cancer cells use angiogenesis (the creation of new blood vessels) to supply the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow. Angiogenesis occurs naturally in the body, however in cancers the rate of angiogenesis is abnormally rapid. Research has shown that some foods help to reduce angiogenesis and these foods include; onions, garlic, shallots, cruciferous veg. (brussels, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli), citrus fruit, spices, herbs and green tea. Adding these foods to the daily diet provides a regular anti-angiogenic benefit to help reduce cancer proliferation. Mediteranean herbs are particularly good.
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, brussels, cabbage, cauliflower, kale etc and it helps reduce cancer cell division by locking away an enzyme called elastase that influences cancer progression.
Folates are found in leafy green vegetables and used by the body to form healthy cell DNA. Lots of ‘greens’ in your diet can help the body resist the proliferation of cancer cells and support healthy DNA.
Obesity influences insulin resistance which is when the body no longer manages high levels of blood glucose, causing insulin to rise. Insulin can act as a growth factor for cells and especially those in the colon and when cells grow out of control they can become cancerous.
Stress and stressors increase the production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are formed as part of the body’s processes, but when there is an excess, cells can become damaged. Free radicals scavenge from cells of the body which can damage DNA and influence cancer development.
Lots of anti-oxidant nutrients in the diet, in the form of vegetables and fruits, particularly those of deep rich colours and fresh nuts and seeds are required to mop up the free radicals. Vitamin C and E, zinc and selenium rich foods are also important for their anti-oxidant value. Foods listed as high in ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbency capacity) are great in the diet daily, see USDA tables for more information http://www.orac-info-portal.de/download/ORAC_R2.pdf. (During chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments a diet or supplements very high in anti-oxidants may not be ideal – discuss this with your health professional or Nutritionist)
Variety and food enjoyment is very important to ensure a good range of nutrients are eaten and the diet is pleasurable. Don’t feel it’s essential to eat foods just because they are listed as good for you, but enjoy and be guided by your taste.
Always remember `the healthiest diet is one that delivers pleasure as well as balanced nutrients’ (Penny Brohn Cancer Care UK, 2015). Take time to sit, eat and savour food to aid digestion and get all the goodness you can from the food you are eating.
- World Cancer Research Fund International Report; Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Prevention of Cancer; a Global Perspective. Continued updates, 2015.
- ‘Nourish’, The Cancer Care Cookbook, Penny Brohn Cancer Care with Christine Bailey, 2013
- Penny Brohn Cancer Care UK