The Shopping Basket: A Tool To Control Your Cancer Risk
By Stephanie Perruzza MS, RD, CDN
As a dietitian, I am keenly aware of the impact that food and nutrition have on health and well-being, and I am truly passionate about educating others in this aspect. With April being Cancer Control Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some information on what you can do to reduce your cancer risk. Many of us have been affected by cancer in some way, and it’s empowering to know that eating a well-balanced diet with an emphasis on plant foods is one thing that you can do to help reduce your risk – and it’s easy to do, just grab a shopping basket.
Research shows that 1 in every 3 cancers is linked to poor diet and lack of physical activity. The guidelines for reducing your cancer risk are similar to that of reducing other chronic diseases.
1. Fill ½ your plate with fruits and vegetables. This includes non-starchy vegetables and the more variety the better to ensure you are getting an array of vitamins and antioxidants. Good options include tomatoes, beets, broccoli, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, as well as berries, grapes, and citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges. “Eat the rainbow” every day and you’ll be sure to get a wide variety in your diet!
2. Eat fiber-rich foods. In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as whole wheat breads or pastas, oatmeal, barley, brown rice to name a few contain ample amounts of fiber. Beans and legumes are also a great source of fiber.
3. Choose lean protein. Select chicken, fish, eggs and vegetable protein sources such as beans, legumes and unsalted nuts when possible. Limit your intake of red meats and if you do consume, choose leaner cuts that include the words “loin” or “round” and have smaller portions.
4. Avoid saturated and trans fats. Full-fat dairy, cheese and processed food items like luncheon meats, bacon, sausage and snack foods contain saturated fats. When reading food labels look for and avoid partially-hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list.
5. Limit sodium. Canned products such as soups and vegetables are often high in sodium. Look for low-sodium soup varieties, and rinsing canned vegetables before use can reduce the sodium content by about 40%.
In addition to focusing on diet, there are a few other factors to keep in mind:
• Maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk for cancer if you are overweight or obese. Together, engaging in regular exercise and making healthy food choices can help with weight control.
• Limit Alcohol. Studies have shown that consuming alcohol in excess can increase your risk of certain types of cancers. Limit your intake to no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two per day for men, preferably with a meal.
• Exercise Regularly. Aim to get 30 minutes each day or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week as a general goal.
• Avoid Tobacco. Smoking and chewing tobacco has been linked to various types of cancer specifically oral cavity and lung. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
Editor’s Note: Nutrition consultation is also part of Northern Westchester Hospital’s Health & Wellness Program. The Health and Wellness Program is designed to support our patients in parallel to their medical treatment plan after they receive a diagnosis of cancer. Patients of NWH physicians have access to the Program at no charge.