Colorful Eating to Decrease Risk of Cancer

Colorful Eating Food Chart | The Silver Pen

Colorful Eating Food Chart | The Silver PenEarlier this week, I participated in the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Twitter Chat about eating during and after cancer treatment.  It was a super engaging and interesting “discussion”.  Btw, I’m still amazed that I actually have conversations via social media.  But the Silver Lining is that I DO have conversations and have met some wonderful people on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram!

Anyhoo, I thought that I would share some of the questions and answers:

  1. What is the recommended diet for women who have experienced breast cancer?
    • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
    • Decrease fat intake to < 30 percent of calories
      • Limit the intake of highly saturated foods such as beef, lamb, organ meats, cheeses, cream, butter, ice cream
      • Decrease food containing trans fatty acids, such as commercially prepared baked goods, crackers and margarine
      • Increase your intake of poultry, fish and vegetarian proteins (legumes and lentils). Increasing your intake of fish to 3 times per week will increase    omega-3-polyunsaturated fat intake. Research has suggested that these fatty acids may inhibit the growth of breast tumors.
    • Minimize intake of cured, pickled and smoked foods
    • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
    • Alcohol consumption should be done in moderation, if at all
  1. Which diet is right for my nutritional needs?
    • A healthy diet is best…for people with cancer, after cancer…and, I would argue, to decrease your chances of developing it in the first place!
    • This diet, outlined below, promotes overall health and may help protect against different types of cancer and other diseases.
      • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (Survivors who are overweight or obese should limit high-calorie foods and beverages and increase physical activity to help with weight loss.)
      • Eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
      • Choose 100 percent whole grain foods (such as 100 percent whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, millet and quinoa).
      • Limit red meat and processed meat. Choose chicken, fish or beans more often.
      • Limit “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats). These are found in foods such as red meat, fatty deli meats, poultry skin, full fat dairy, fried foods, margarine, donuts and microwave popcorn.
      • Eat “good” fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). These are found in foods such as olive and canola oil, nuts and natural nut butters, avocado and olives.
      • Limit alcohol intake to less than one drink a day for women and fewer than two drinks a day for men.
  2. How do you maintain eating healthy during high stress times?  Ex: the holidays.
    • Recognize what’s happening. When stressful events or thoughts trigger the urge to eat, stop and evaluate first. Are you hungry or not? Rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10. Ask yourself when was the last time you ate, to see if your body needs food right now. “Often, negative emotions trigger what feels like hunger but is really just a habitual response to eat to get rid of negative feelings,” says Elissa S. Epel, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and a researcher on stress and eating.
    • Call on a substitute. To make stress eating less automatic, you need to find better ways to deal with everyday hassles and ongoing tensions. Choose a healthy stress-busting alternative such as going for a walk or run, listening to music, calling a friend for a chat, brushing your cat or dog, or just sitting quietly.
    • Plan Ahead: Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. If you plan ahead, you can head off temptation for unhealthy holiday eating. For example, if you’re going to a party or an event where you know you’ll be tempted, eat some healthy food first so you won’t show up starving and have only decadent options at your disposal. Learn your triggers, and have strategies for combating them.
    • Have a sweet tooth? Fruit provides natural sweetness that can reduce your urge for high sugar items.
    • Exercise Your Right To Get A Workout: Exercise can be a good stress reliever, and is great for the waistline as well, of course. Another thing that many people have mentioned is that when they workout, they find themselves craving the ‘naughty foods’ less, perhaps if for no other reason than they don’t want to undo the good they did when they were working out. Whatever the reason, exercise brings multiple benefits, and is a great ally in the war against poor holiday eating habits. Enlist exercise, and see the benefits for yourself.
  1. Organic vs. non-organic?  How do you make these food choices? Concern about the possible effects of food additives on health, including cancer, is one reason that many people are now interested in organic foods. Whether organic foods carry a lower risk of cancer because they are less likely to be contaminated by compounds that might cause cancer is largely unknown. Several studies have looked at the nutrient content of organic versus conventionally grown fruits or vegetables, and while some studies suggest a higher nutrient content, others suggest no difference. It is not known if the nutritional differences that have been reported would result in health benefits such as a reduced cancer risk. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains should form the central part of a person’s diet, regardless of whether they are grown conventionally or organically. While there is not a significant amount of evidence that organic food makes a huge difference in ones diet, it is better to error on the safe side when FBC is in your life!!
  1. How do you get started with and sustain healthy eating habits?
    • Aim for balance. Most days, eat from each food group—grains, protein foods, vegetables and fruits, and dairy. Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you feel satisfied.
    • Look for variety. Be adventurous. Choose different foods in each food group. For example, don’t reach for an apple every time you choose a fruit. Eating a variety of foods each day will help you get all the nutrients you need.
    • Practice moderation. Don’t have too much or too little of one thing. All foods, if eaten in moderation, can be part of healthy eating. Even sweets can be okay.
    • Don’t try to change everything at once
    • Set an easy goal you can reach, like having a salad and a piece of fruit each day.
    • Make a long-term goal too, such as having one vegetarian dinner a week.
  1. What foods support immunity or help prevent/treat side effects?
    • The more color the better!! This means eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and beans. Plants have more fiber and less fat that most other foods, which is why they are the most nutritious for you. Plant-based foods are low in fat and high in fiber, allowing them to support your immune system and help your body fight off cancer.
    • Fiber foods!! Fiber is the part of plants (grains, fruits, and vegetables) that your body can’t digest. Therefore, fiber keeps your digestive system clean as well as helps food move through your digestive tract smoothly. This means that fiber also moves cancer-causing compounds out of your body before they can create any harm. So bulk up!! Eat more brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta, fruit, vegetables, and beans.
    • Check out my blog post called Anti-Cancer foods. It gives more information about specific foods that are right in disease-fighting and immune boosting nutrients

* Adapted from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research and encourages higher standards in research.


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