Your dietary guide to cancer prevention

Today I am writing about a topic that concerns a lot of people these days. Cancer. Unfortunately, more and more people are being diagnosed with different types of cancers. But this was not the case with our grandparents, was it? They all lived a healthy life well into their 80s.

Junk food like burgers, pizzas, pastas, aerated drinks, ready to eat foods, biscuits, bread and bread products, meat and its ilk, dairy products, lack of whole grains, increase in sugar consumption, among other factors, contribute to a lack of nutrition in our body. As a result, we fall sick. One of these sicknesses is the deadly cancer.

We all have cancer cells in our bodies. This is something we cannot do anything about. But we can surely take precautions so that these cancer cells do not take over our bodies. WHO states that a significant percentage of cancers can be prevented by following a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco, leading an active lifestyle, and limiting alcohol intake. Here are six dietary guidelines for cancer prevention by researchers which were chronicled in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The study author Neal Barnard, MD, president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University school of medicine and health sciences, says that the key recommendation is to build meals around fruits, vegetables, and legumes as plant-based foods provide an antioxidant boost and help promote a healthy weight, reducing the risk for all types of cancer in the long run.

Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Consuming 35 grammes of dairy protein each day, the equivalent of one large cup of cottage cheese, increases risk of prostate cancer by 32 per cent. Drinking two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 per cent.

Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast. One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 per cent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 per cent.

Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. Each 50-gramme daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 per cent. Each 120-gramme daily serving of red meat, equivalent to a small steak, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 28 per cent.

Avoid grilled, fried and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas. Four types of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form from creatine and amino acids in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures.

Consume soy products to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer. When choosing soy products, opt for natural forms, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic tofu, as opposed to soy protein concentrates and isolates, common in powders and pills. Chinese women who consume more than 11.3 grammes of soy protein, equivalent to half a cup of cooked soybeans, each day during adolescence have a 43 per cent reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with women who consume 1.7 grammes. Research in Shanghai shows that women with breast cancer who consume 11 grammes of soy protein each day can reduce mortality and risk of recurrence by about 30 per cent.

Emphasise on fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer. Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with an 18 per cent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of lung and stomach cancers.

Women who consume the highest quantities of any kind of fruit or vegetable reduce breast cancer risk by 11 per cent. A high intake of tomato products has been shown to reduce risk of gastric cancer by 27 per cent. Garlic and other allium vegetables, such as onions, significantly reduce risk for gastric cancer, while a diet with high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables doubles the risk.

Some components in soybeans, green tea, turmeric, grapes, tomatoes, and other plant foods have the ability to regulate apoptosis (a natural process for destroying unhealthy cells), an important pathway for cancer prevention.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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