Diet: Eat healthy to stay healthy
Choosing nutritious foods is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of developing cancer. The right combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can give you all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need to stay healthy. If you don’t want to give up meat, limit your portion sizes. Our nutritionists offer the following suggestions:
The rule of thirds: If you’re ready for a fully plant-based diet, that’s a good option. If not, fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit and save the remaining third for lean animal protein like fish and chicken.
Limit red meat: If giving up pork, lamb, deer, buffalo and beef is out of the question, try to eat no more than 18 ounces a week, because red meat has been linked to colorectal cancer.
Whole grains vs. refined grains: Refined grains start out as whole grains but are processed to give them finer texture and longer shelf life. Necessary nutrients like dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins are removed. Whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice contain the entire grain kernel and are better choices.
Avoid processed meat: Hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage and most deli meats are processed to give them longer shelf lives. Salting, curing, fermenting and smoking do add flavor, but they also create carcinogens that raise your risk of colon cancer.
Plant-based proteins: Some plant products, such as soybeans and quinoa, contain all nine essential amino acids that your body needs. Others are less complete, so it’s good to eat a variety.
- Soy products: Tofu, edamame and tempeh are great sources of protein and also contain calcium and iron.
- Lentils: Red and green lentils are rich in protein, fiber, iron and potassium.
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): Chickpeas can be eaten hot or cold. Chickpea paste, also known as hummus, is a protein-rich sandwich spread or dip.
- Peanuts: Full of protein and healthy fats that may improve heart health, peanuts do more than help prevent cancer.
- Almonds: Almonds are full of protein and rich in vitamin E, which is great for skin and eyes.
- Spirulina: A type of blue-green algae, spirulina is rich in protein, iron, B vitamins and manganese.
- Quinoa: This grain is full of protein, magnesium, iron, fiber and manganese. It can fill in for pasta in soups and stews, be sprinkled on a salad or eaten as a main course.
- Chia and hemp seeds: Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Try adding them to smoothies or sprinkle them on salads or yogurt.
- Rice and beans: Separately, rice and beans are incomplete sources of protein. But combine them and you get 7 grams of protein per cup.
Avoid alcohol: The National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two.