Some of the foods on this list may surprise you...
While little is known about what exactly causes cancer, there are some things researchers know for a fact can contribute to a person’s likelihood of getting cancer. For example, cigarettes, long known to be a carcinogen that is extremely bad for one’s health, also increases the smoker’s risk of developing cancer, specifically in the throat or lungs.
Cancer research has long been underway, which is why it’s no surprise that the Journal of the American College of Nutrition recently published cancer prevention guidelines to follow. While many are no-brainers for maintaining overall health, there are a few that may surprise you.
1. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Narrowing it down to a specific produce item is impossible because it’s the vitamins and nutrients of all fruits and veggies that build up a person’s health. Benefits of this food group include the consumption of antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals, and weight control. If you’re really interested in getting serious about vegetables, focus on eating dark, leafy greens, such as broccoli, spinach, and kale, because they are packed with nutrients.
2. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Overconsumption of alcohol is notoriously bad for people, but regular people do it everyday in moderation. Alcohol is strongly linked to mouth, esophagus, breast, colon and liver, and the more one drinks, the higher the risk. Besides the risk of cancer, alcohol can damage the liver and cellular DNA. Despite this warning, enjoyment needs to be balanced well with caution, as drinking alcohol in moderation isn’t the worst thing you can do to your body.
3. and 4. Avoid Red and Processed Meat
Many gawk at the fact that eating meat in excess can be bad for you because our ancestors indulged in meat, so why can’t we eat it whenever we want? Well, first of all, it turns out that our ancestors ate a lot more plant material than meat, so that argument is moot. Furthermore, the World Cancer Research Fund said that evidence of links between eating red meat and colorectal cancer was “convincing,” which is the highest link possible. Cutting down on meat doesn’t mean giving it up all together, though. The WCRF recommends 500 grams of cooked meat or less each week, and those who like to eat red meat more often can substitute it with fish or chicken.
When you do eat red meat, however, be sure not to overcook it when grilling or frying it. Overcooking it causes the food to react in a different way, and could produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs are strongly linked to causing breast, lung, colon, stomach, and prostate cancer in research.
5. Women: Eat Soy to Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer that women get, making it something that most women want to do everything they can to avoid it. Though the WCRF listed evidence of soy’s effectiveness in reducing the risk of cancer as “limited,” there is much evidence to suggest that soy’s chemical structure helps in preventing cancer.
The theory is that soy has phytochemicals called isoflavones, which is a fact, which essentially inhibit a woman’s natural estrogen from stimulating cell growth. Soy can be used as a substitute for other meats that increase someone’s risk for cancer, and instead consumers can eat edamame, tempeh, or tofu.
Women who are being treated for estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid soy supplements because they contain high concentrations of isoflavones.
6. Men: Limit or Avoid Dairy Products to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
This is another example of balancing the risk of getting prostate cancer while still enjoying a normal lifestyle with a diverse diet. Dairy products are in an abundance of foods, so avoiding it can be difficult but worth it. However, what’s a bit confusing is that there is “limited” evidence to suggest that dairy can increase a person’s risk of cancer and it is even more “probable” that milk and calcium can reduce someone’s risk of colorectal cancer.
If you’re unsure how to proceed, you should first look at your family’s health history. If they have a history of either colon or prostate cancer, go from there. In the colon, calcium can bind to potentially carcinogenic compounds in the intestine, making them insoluble and easily excreted. Calcium can also directly influence cell development, slowing down proliferation. These are all good for reducing the risk of cancer. However, calcium can also lead to a decrease in vitamin D production. Vitamin D is important for keeping prostate cancer cell growth in check, so calcium could be an enemy for those with a family history of prostate cancer.
Other ways to reduce your risk
There are also a plethora of other ways to prevent cancer, such as regular physical activity and not carrying too much weight in your midsection. Up to one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily can reduce your risk of colon or breast cancer by 20-40%.
To sum up the way to surely reduce your risk, here’s one sentence that captures the gist of it: Eat mostly plant foods close to their natural state, keep active, drink responsibly, stay safe in the sun, and don’t smoke. A complete lifestyle change can be difficult, but take small steps to ensure your future health.
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