Several decades ago, many doctors were fairly in the dark about the role that diet played in human health. In fact, most doctors received little education in nutrition and the role that vitamins and minerals play in staving off disease. Doctors were taught to focus on treating the symptoms of disease rather than preventing the disease itself!
In the year 2010, however, many doctors, like myself, take a more holistic approach and are far more aware of the link between their patient’s diets and the type of diseases they are at risk for. As I tell my patients, a healthy diet can greatly reduce their risk for the 3 biggest health concerns that face Americans today, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some specific diet information that I give my patients to reduce their risk for cancer.
Change Your Plate, Boost Your Health
First, you need to re-think the distribution of the amount of food you put on your plate. If you’re like my patients, you typically eat a large portion of animal food (beef, pork, fish, chicken, eggs), and a much smaller portion of plant-based food, namely vegetables, fruits, and/or grains. We’re going to change that ratio to this:
- 2/3 plate rule: Should be filled with high-fiber, high vitamin/mineral foods like whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat pasta) or legumes (chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, green and yellow peas), yellow/red/green vegetables (peppers, dark greens like spinach, collards, kale), high water content fruits (apples, plums, oranges, melon, apricots, peaches).
- 1/3 plate rule: Beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs (skip these if you include legumes and prefer vegetarian). The portion should be no larger than a deck of cards. Avoid processed meats like sausage, hot dogs, bacon that contain sodium nitrite a preservative associated with cancer. Also avoid burning or darkly barbecueing these animal proteins as high heat and animal protein produce high levels of heterocyclic amines that are cancer causing.
- Avoid microwave: When plastic trays are super-heated, they can release xenoestrogens, which can aggravate male/female hormone imbalances and increase cancer risk. If you must microwave, empty the food onto a glass plate and cover with wax paper. Or, buy non-plastic-tray frozen foods.
Think Local, Go Organic, Wash Well
Secondly, we want to avoid as many chemicals in our foods as possible. Many commercially produced (big company labels) fruits and vegetables contain pesticides, several of which are carcinogens. Commercial produce is not labeled as to what chemicals they’ve been exposed to, so assume they have been. Here are 3 options to avoid these chemicals:
- Wash produce before eating – there are produce “washes” available now that remove these chemicals. They are found next to your fruits and vegetables. Soak your produce in a deep pot (completely immersed) for 15-20 minutes. Then go over them lightly with a soft glass scrubber. Strawberries need more time as the seeds can hold chemicals.
- Buy Organic – organic produce costs a little more but they are grown without pesticides.
- Buy Local – locally grown produce is usually free from chemical preservatives because they do not have to travel far.
- Grow your own – if you have a sunny patch in your yard, a personal vegetable garden can be a very rewarding pastime. You have the security of knowing there are no carcinogenic chemicals in them and you can save a ton of money at the grocery store!
Fill Up On Fiber
Next, Americans are typically deficient in fiber and eat too much saturated fat. Fiber is key for a healthy, cancer risk lowering diet. Fiber helps quickly sweep carcinogens, and the saturated fats it attaches to, out of your bowel. Here’s how to do it:
- Aim for 25 grams a day – you must read labels to ensure you’re getting enough.
- Add more whole grains – oatmeal for breakfast, whole grain bread for lunch, brown rice or whole wheat pasta for dinner. See 2/3 plate rule above.
- Add more fruit and vegetables – the American Cancer Society states we should eat 5-6 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. I would go a little higher at 6-8. Try to eat some raw, except for tomatoes which release cancer-fighting lycopene when cooked.
Make Fats Work For/Not Against You
Fats, the right ones, should be part of a healthy diet. As I said earlier, Americans eat too much saturated animal-based fats and too little healthier, unsaturated fats. I recommend the following:
- Limit saturated fats – no more than 20 grams a day.
- Eat nuts – nuts contain good fats like Omega-3’s that are helpful in avoiding cancer as they stop inflammation. Just several nuts a day are all you need to reap their benefit. Avoid mold and carcinogenic aflatoxins from forming by refrigerating after opening.
- Use plant oils – like olive oil, coconut, flaxseed, safflower, to cook with. Keep temperatures low (less than 240 degrees) when cooking with these oils, or add them to foods later. Heat can turn all oils carcinogenic. Refrigerate and/or store in a cool, dark place to avoid rancidity.
- Add Omega-3’s – 1,000 mg every day, from fish, krill, or flaxseed oil.
And Don’t Forget…..
Water: My most basic, disease-risk-lowering diet recommendation of all. Our bodies, depending on our size, are about 70% water! We need lots of it everyday to keep our systems working properly including flushing out toxins and carcinogens.
Drinking enough clean, filtered water everyday can go a long, long way in keeping these agents out of your blood and digestive tract and prevent the buildup of them that can cause problems.
According to the Mayo Clinic, here’s how much to drink per day:
- Men: 13, 8 oz cups of fluid (including juice, but not coffee or colas as they dehydrate) per day.
- Women: 9, 8 oz cups of fluid per day.
If your urine is clear to very light yellow mid-day, your water/fluid intake is adequate. If it appears darker and heavier, you need more. Remember, sweating causes you to lose more fluids so you need to replace it to stay well-hydrated.
Supplements: A good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement that includes Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene, and Vitamin D. These are cancer-fighting powerhouses and should be part of your healthy diet every day.
There you have my recommendations for a cancer-risk reducing, healthy diet! They are easy changes that have a 3-in-1 bonus. Not only will they reduce your risk for cancer, but will also lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes!