Nutrition & Cancer Prevention

By: Anita Wallak, MS,RD,LDN

Can What You Eat Really Help When It Comes To Cancer?

The dreaded “C” word that no one wants to hear after the words “you have.” What most people don’t realize is that the right diet can prevent some cancers.

There is no direct link between a particular food and whether is causes or prevents cancer. However, research has shown that the way we grow, harvest, process, store and cook our foods as well as the types of foods we eat can increase or decrease our risk of developing certain cancers.

Meats/Poultry: Pasture raised, grass fed & finished, meats/poultry are best in small to moderate amounts. Braising and cooking at a moderate temperature is best to prevent cancer causing chemicals like Heterocyclic Amines & Glycation End Products. These chemicals form when cooking meats at high temperatures. High consumption of processed meats like deli meats, bacon & hot dogs, particularly the ones with nitrates & other chemical preservatives, are linked to cancer.

Dairy:  Conventional dairy products are linked to cancer whereas grass fed & finished milk products, raw milk and fermented milk products like kefir are not.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are grains and grain products, sugars, fruits and vegetables. Sugar and refined carbohydrates like cereal, pasta and bread increase your risk of developing cancer whereas beans & legumes have shown an anti cancer effect due to its high fiber content. Fruits and vegetables that are organically grown and in season are very protective against cancer. In fact, higher intakes of the right plant based foods are associated with decreased cancer risk.

Other cancer fighting foods: Fish, nuts, flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and spices such as cinnamon & turmeric are all foods that when eaten regularly can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.

A Very Important Factor To Consider: Your Weight

Being overweight or obese can increase your cancer risk for 3 reasons

  1. Increased weight = increased insulin resistance = increased cell division
  2. Increased weight = increased levels of inflammatory factors (cytokines) = a chronic inflammatory state = increased cell division
  3. Increased weight = increased fats cells = increased Estrogen levels = increased risk for female related cancers in postmenopausal women

What To Remember

A holistic dietary approach and maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way to reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Mass produced, highly processed, pesticide riddled, hormone laden, conventional foods are linked to an increased risk of cancer while organically grown, local, fresh, pastured and natural foods are linked to a decreased risk of cancer.

Anita Wallak is the founder of Eat Right To Live Right and is a Registered & Licensed Dietitian in the State of North Carolina. She has her MS in Nutrition and has been in the field of nutrition for 20 years. She is a member of Dietitians of Integrative & Functional Medicine and The American Dietetic Association.

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