Nutrition plays an important role in cancer prevention. Eating a healthy, balanced diet provides you with macro and micro-nutrients that your body needs & help you keep a healthy body weight. Keeping a healthy weight is important, because obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.
Diet can also directly affect cancer risk. Some foods, such as processed and red meat and salt-preserved foods, can increase the risk of developing cancer. While others, such as fruits, vegetables and foods high in fiber can reduce the risk of cancer.
Numerous studies have linked nutritional factors with a risk for developing several types of cancer. The cancers most strongly associated with nutritional factors include cancer of the breast, prostate, colon and rectum, oral cavity, lung, endometrium, and cervix.
Research shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of cancer. More than half of us are overweight or obese. This put us at increased risk for breast, colorectal, esophageal, gall bladder, liver, kidney, pancreatic and uterine cancer. Maintaining healthy weight reduces the risk for cancer and all diseases. Loosing few kilos if you are overweight or obese will have positive effect on your overall health.
A healthy body weight will be different for everyone.
Body mass index (BMI) is a tool used to help decide a person is under weight or over weight. BMI is calculated by dividing the weight (in kilograms) by the height (measured in meters squared). The category of BMI is shown below:
Waist circumference (WC) is another indicator of health risk associated with excess abdominal fat. In general, the risk of developing health problems, including cancer, increases as WC increases above 102cm (40 inches) in men and 88cms (35 inches) in women.
Healthy body weight and cancer
Eating a healthy diet – lots of vegetables and fruits, lots of fiber and little fat and sugar will help you keep a healthy body weight. Research shows that maintaining a healthy body weight reduced your risk of developing cancer. Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant food
Tips to maintain a healthy weight:
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. It’s a habit you get used to, and every day its getting easier. The important thing is to get started now.
It is recommended to consume these foods due to their antioxidants and high fiber content which is required for the GI health.
What is a dietary fiber
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies' enzymes. Fiber is grouped by its physical properties to soluble fiber which dissolve in water forming gel that slows down digestion and insoluble fiber which does not dissolve in water; it is the bulky fiber that helps to prevent constipation.
Benefits of fiber
Fiber and cancer risk
Research shows that vegetables and fruits probably protect against a range of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and lung
Fiber help to speed up ‘gut transit time’ - how long it takes food to move through the digestive system so decrease the contact time between the food and GIT, also help people maintain a healthy weight because they are low in calories.
Tips to increase fiber intake
Sugars are carbohydrates that provide energy for the body. The most common sugar in the body is glucose which your brain, major organs and muscles need to function properly.
Is sugar good or bad
Added sugars (sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) that is added to foods during processing, cooking or at the table is high in calories with NO essential nutrients, so it considered bad sugar.
Foods containing natural sugar, like fruit and unsweetened milk and yogurt, do provide nutritional value and are not linked to excess weight, in part because they are more filling and less likely to be eaten to excess.
Recommended daily intake
The World Health Organization recommends that both adults and children reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake. A reduction to below 5% of total energy intake brings additional health benefits
Sources of sugar
Natural sugar: found naturally in foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose)
Added sugar candy, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, dairy desserts, sugar sweetened drinks, soft drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks and juice drinks
Sugar and cancer risk
Does sugar feed cancer? This is one of our most frequently asked questions. There is no strong evidence that directly links sugar to increased cancer risk, yet there is an indirect link.
All cells in our body — including cancer cells — need sugar (glucose) from our bloodstream for fuel. We get that blood sugar from foods containing carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy sources. Some glucose is produced within our bodies from protein.
But eating a lot of high-sugar foods may mean more calories than you need, which leads to excess weight and body fat. It is excess body fat that increases risk of many mcommon cancers. That is why AICR recommends eating a diet rich in nutritious and filling foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans and replacing sugary beverages with low- or no-calorie drinks
Tips to cut down on sugar
What is Salt
Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl)
Health outcomes of consuming too much salt
Eating too much salt is claimed to raise blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Recommendation for salt intake
Daily intake of salt should be less than 2,400 milligrams equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt/day
Salt and cancer
Studies have shown that high salt intake (table salt – salt-preserved food) can damage the lining of the stomach which increase the chance of developing stomach cancer.
Tips to cut down on salt
Importance of protein
Everyone, and certainly those who have been diagnosed with cancer, must consume adequate calories and appropriate amounts of protein to maintain healthy immune system. Protein is important for your body to avoid infection and help in quick recovery.
Foods high in protein
Most healthy adults need between 45 and 60 grams of complete protein per day, which should account for 10 to 35 percent of their daily caloric intake. However, this requirement depends on the person’s medical and physical condition however, cancer patient needs high protein.
Red processed meat and cancer
Red meat refers to beef, lamb, veal and goat. Eating more than 0.5 kg (cooked) of red meat per week is associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, moderate intake—less than 18 ounces per week—does not increase the risk.
Processes meat is referred to meats that are preserved by smoking, curing or salting or by the addition of preservatives such as bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages. Many studies have showed that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day can increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18% (cancer.org) which is equivalent to about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog.
Tips to eat less meat but high protein diet
High protein meatless meals and snacks
veggie wrap with hummus on whole grain bread for lunch
Cashew Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu
Black Bean Salad