One-third of annual cancer deaths could be due to poor eating habits. Yet more than half of all Americans aren't eating enough healthy foods, and too much unhealthy food.
Colleen Doyle, a registered dietitian and national director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. recommends making diet changes gradually. If you drink 2 percent milk, switch to 1 percent milk, which has the same amount of calcium. Try eating two vegetarian meals a week. Limit red meat to no more than three ounces a day.
- The most effective dietary step to reduce cancer risk is to eat five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Broccoli, Swiss chard, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and other types of cruciferous vegetables are power-packed cancer fighters. They're loaded with plant compounds (called phytochemicals) that help neutralize cancer-causing substances. These vegetables also are rich in antioxidants.
- The vitamin C in oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mangoes acts as an antioxidant, battling free radicals that can cause cell damage leading to cancer.
- Try to eat whole grains at least twice a day. They contain lignans, another antioxidant plant chemical. Include whole grain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal or other high-fiber cereals in your weekly meal planning. Grain products are particularly protective against cancer when you eat seven or more servings a day.
- Legumes (peas and beans) are also notable cancer fighters.
- Evidence suggests that drinking two cups of black or green tea may lower your risk of several cancers. Studies suggest that adding milk to tea may blunt tea's antioxidant benefits.
- Watch your weight. "Just being overweight increases your risk of cancer," says Doyle. For women, gaining weight after menopause also poses an increased risk for breast cancer.
Eating meat, poultry, and fish that are grilled has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. That's partly because fat from these types of food drips onto hot coals or stones, and the resulting smoke or flame causes the formation of carcinogenic compounds. Vegetables and fruits are safe to eat grilled because they don't form the compounds that occur in meat.
Melanie Polk, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education for the American Institute for Cancer Research, says although there's no reason to eliminate grilled foods, there are precautions you can take to make barbecues safer. She recommends:
- Choose lean cuts of meat and remove skin from poultry before grilling.
- Use tongs instead of a fork to turn food. Punctured meat will drip juices.
- Partially cook meat in the oven or the microwave oven before grilling to reduce exposure time to smoke and flames.
- Marinating foods may prevent carcinogens from forming, according to some recent studies.
- Never eat burnt food, especially if it's been grilled.
Continued on page 3: Limit Sun Exposure