Cancer Prevention Through Nutrition
My name is Jessica Venhuizen and I am currently a Montana State Dietetic Intern. Disease prevention through nutrition is one of my passions in the nutrition field, especially the topic of cancer prevention. A well-balanced diet and regular physical activity can be key for prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases, including cancer.
According to the Cancer Research Organization, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States.1 More than one million people are diagnosed each year.1 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 30-50% of cancers can be prevented.2 This includes avoiding risk factors, increasing physical activity and adhering to recommended dietary behaviors.2,3
While there might not be one specific cancer preventing food, an overall healthy diet pattern can make a significant difference in prevention. Your food patterns include quantities, proportions, variety and frequency in which foods are consumed.
Some healthy habits for your plate and an overall healthy diet include:
- Eating a variety of vegetables and fruit with your meals.
- Choosing whole grains instead of refined grains such as pastries and white bread.
- Limiting consumption of processed and red meats.
- Choosing poultry and fish in place of red meat.
- Limiting consumption of sugar sweetened beverages such as soda, sports drinks and juices.
- Limiting processed and packaged foods.
- Limiting alcohol consumption to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.
These changes can often seem overwhelming! Start by making some of these healthy swaps in the kitchen:
- Avocado for Mayo
- Olive, Avocado, or Coconut Oil for Vegetable Oils
- Lettuce Wrap for Tortillas or Buns
- Fresh Fruit for Juice
- Dark Chocolate for Desserts
- Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini Noodles for Pasta
- Brown Rice, Quinoa or Cauliflower Rice for White Rice
- Baked Sweet Potato or Potato Fries for French Fries
In addition to your overall diet there are other things that can help prevent cancer and improve your health:
- Participating in a means of regular physical activity that is sustainable and you enjoy. This can be anything from running, high intensity workouts, dancing, walking, sports or yoga. Aim for 30-60 minutes per day.
- Life is busy make managing overall stress a priority. This can include meditation or just learning to say no when your life feels busy and too full.
- Avoid using tobacco products.
- Breastfeed babies if possible.
- Limit sun exposure and use SPF of 30 or higher.
- Be sure to receive regular health screenings.
You have the power to help prevent many chronic diseases by making healthy lifestyle changes! It is time to get started and take your health into your own hands!
For more information read “7 Cancer Prevention Tips for Your Diet” by Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN, on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/cancer/7-cancer-prevention-tips-for-your-diet
- Cancer facts. Cancer Research Institute Web site. https://www.cancerresearch.org/faq?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIqf29t5-44wIVWR-tBh2yxQhjEAAYAiAAEgI3IfD_BwE. Updated 2019. Accessed January 10, 2021.
- Cancer: Cancer Prevention. World Health Organization.https://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/
- Lawrence H Kushi, Colleen Doyle, Marji McCullough, et al. American cancer society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62(1):30-67. doi: 10.3322/caac.20140.