Eating right can help lower your risk of developing cancer.
If you have been diagnosed, eating well can provide you with positive energy to cope with treatments and improve your quality of life after treatment.
Here are some general guidelines you can follow to prevent cancer or reduce the cancer risk.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Having excess body weight puts you at a higher risk of cancers of the breast, stomach, colorectal, kidney, liver, prostate and endometrium. Although how weight exactly affects cancer risk remains unclear, being overweight or obese is often related to cancer-related deaths. So you should always strive and aim for a healthy weight with normal body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 22.9kg/m2.
2. Aim for 5 + 5 everyday
Since young, we were told by our parents that eating fruits and vegetables are good for our health. As we grow older, we now know that eating them in sufficient amount consistently can help to reduce our risk of getting cancers. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Do aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables of 5 different colours (green, orange, red, purple and white) everyday if possible!
3. Limit calorie-dense, nutrient deficient foods
Foods loaded with added sugar and solid fats provide a lot of calories with very minimal nutrients. For instance, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed snacks, desserts and deep-fried foods. These foods can cause weight gain unintentionally and leave little room for more healthful and cancer-preventive foods. Hence, do be conscious in controlling the portion size of these high-calorie foods while you enjoy them.
4. Eat meat in moderation
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and second in women worldwide. Studies have shown accumulated evidence to demonstrate the association between the consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton), especially processed meat and colorectal cancer risk. Hence, enjoy this protein in moderation and opt for a variety of lean white meat such as chicken or fish. Otherwise, consider eating plant-based protein sources such as beans, legumes and soy more often.
5. Limit alcohol
All types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of certain cancers such as mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, breast and rectum. Though the exact way of how alcohol affects cancer risk is not completely understood, alcohol can act as an irritant to the mouth and throat. It can also damage the liver leading to inflammation and scarring. Hence, limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink daily for women and two drinks for men. (One serving of alcohol is 45ml of hard liquor, 150ml of wine or 360ml of beer)
Should I take supplements?
Dietary supplements should not replace whole foods. No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself. It is the synergy of compounds working together in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection. Unless your body show signs of not getting enough nutrients or you are at risk of other conditions such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), anemia etc, you basically do not need extra supplements to achieve optimal health.
We hope this article gave you a fairly good idea of how you can change your lifestyle and habits and prevent cancer from affecting you.
National Cancer Institute
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
American Cancer Society
by Ang Hui Inn
Clinical Dietitian B.Sc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics, IMU Member of Malaysian Dietitians’ Association (MDA) Hui Inn received her credential in nutrition & dietetics from International Medical University (IMU), Kuala Lumpur. She is currently working in a hospital as a clinical dietitian. Her goal as a dietitian is to inspire, motivate and empower others on sustainable living through healthy diet and lifestyle. View all articles by Ang Hui Inn.