A variety of factors – inherited, behavioral and environmental, etc. – can contribute to cancer development.
Although there are no guarantees, there may be ways to decrease your odds of developing this dreaded disease. Could one of them be as simple as eating the “right” foods and staying away from those that are “bad?”
Research has shown that up to one-third of all cancer deaths are related to diet, physical inactivity and unhealthy weight. Numerous studies have tried to find a link between certain foods and developing cancer. Others have pinpointed cancer-protective foods. In general, eating mostly plant-based foods, limiting consumption of red meat and processed foods, and limiting intake of sugar-sweetened beverages can help reduce the risk of many cancers.
Common foods thought to be cancer-protective include but are not limited to:
• Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale).
• Globe artichokes.
• Dark vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, beets, red cabbage).
• Grapes and red wine.
• Legumes (beans, peas, lentils).
• Berries, especially blueberries.
• Flaxseed (especially when ground yourself and consumed fresh).
• Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks and chives.
• Green tea.
There is nothing too surprising on this list. Likewise, this partial list of cancer-causing foods to avoid or limit may not come as a shock:
• All charred food.
• Red meat.
• Processed foods.
• Heavily salted, smoked and pickled foods.
• Sodas/soft drinks.
• French fries, chips and snack foods with trans fats.
• Additives like aspartame.
• Excess alcohol.
• Farmed fish.
In addition, it’s important to consider not just what you put into your body, but how much you eat. Eating smaller portions and in moderation is key. Regularly eating too much and joining the growing number of people who are obese can result in negative health outcomes.
Obesity is not just a cancer-risk factor; people who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart conditions and a variety of other health ailments. Thus, while it’s important to choose your food wisely, it’s also critical to watch portion sizes, eliminate unhealthy eating habits, and add exercise to your daily routine.
When it comes right down to it, your diet may have some effect on your chances of developing certain cancers. Living a healthy lifestyle, which includes making the right food choices, participating in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight will positively affect your overall health.
Dr. Katie Rasila is board-certified in medical oncology and hematology for Sutter Medical Foundation, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.