On 4 Feb it was world cancer awareness day. So, I thought that before the month of February is over, it would be fitting for me to write a post about some practical things that you can do to help to reduce your cancer risk. The development of cancer is a complex process with many contributing factors such as genetics, environment etc. Some of those things are not under our control. But then there are certain things that ARE under our control, such as diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. This article focuses on the dietary and lifestyle changes that you can make to help to reduce your cancer risk.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Having your body weight in the healthy weight range for your height will help to reduce your cancer risk. If you are overweight, work towards losing weight. If you are struggling to lose weight and have been struggling for a while...don't give up! Contact me and let me help you in your health journey.
- Be physically active as part of everyday life
Make physical activity something that is a part of your everyday life. Aim to do some form of exercise that gets your heart rate up, gets you out of breath, and gets you sweating for 30 – 60 minutes 5 times per week. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy doing, and that way it will be sustainable for you to incorporate it as a part of your life. Over and above that, try to be more active as you go about your day, and limit sedentary behaviours such as watching TV.
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily
Fruits and veggies are jam-packed full of fantastic anti-oxidants, fibre and many other compounds which play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Aim for 2-3 fruits per day (not more, as too much fruit sugar is not good), and at least 3 vegetable portions per day. Include some vegetables/ salad with your lunch and supper daily...you can even include veggies at breakfast by putting some peppers, spinach, mushroom and onion in an omelette, or blending some greens into a breakfast smoothie.
- Avoid/ limit refined carbohydrates. When you eat carbohydrates, choose unprocessed whole-food options.
Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates by limiting intake of sweets, chocolates, baked goods, and other processed food such as high sugar cereals. Don't fall for the marketing of sugary cereals that are labelled as 'whole-grain'! True whole-grains are whole-foods such as oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa etc. Sugary 'high fibre' cereals are not the best option to go for...choose the whole-food whole-grains. For example, oats with breakfast, whole-grain crackers with lunch, and brown rice with supper.
- Limit intake of red meat, and avoid processed meats such as viennas, polony, bacon.
Limit red meat intake to not more than 3 times per week, and avoid processed meats that are preserved with Nitrites.
There is a link between nitrite intake and increased risk of certain cancers. If you do eat processed meats, let it be on rare occasions, rather than regular intake.
Focus on eating more fish, chicken, eggs and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas).
- Limit alcohol intake.
If alcohol is consumed, it should be limited to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women, with at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.