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Is there any truth to the theory that diet can impact cancer?

Smartliving Guest asked this
July 14, 2011 at 9:17 AM

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This is an incredibly difficult question. Going from my own experience, personally and professionally, I believe the answer is yes. While the definitive cause of cancer has yet to be identified, we have found surmounting evidence linking lifestyle choices with this dreaded disease, including the very food we eat. It is estimated that at least 30% of cancer deaths in the U.S. are due to diet. Yet according to the New York Times, 40% of the calories consumed by children ages 2-18 come from junk food packed with calories and lacking in nutrition (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/magazine/28FOB-wwln-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=junk%20food&st=cse).

Foods believed to reduce your risk of cancer include a colorful array of produce (especially dark leafy greens!), beans, nuts, and seeds. Essentially a plant-based diet with little processed food. If you are not interested in going “veg”, consider becoming a flexitarian (http://www.dawnjacksonblatner.com/books/index.php) instead. Flexitarianism is basically “minimizing meat without excluding it altogether” (http://www.dawnjacksonblatner.com/books/index.php) as you learn to introduce a mouth-watering variety of plant-based proteins such as black bean burgers, quinoa, edamame, lentils and more. This is especially beneficial to your body as red meat and high-fat dairy have been found to induce inflammation, a known factor in countless chronic diseases.

Aim for 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day. If possible opt for organic produce, at least when it comes to the Dirty Dozen (http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php ) – those with the highest amounts of pesticides. USDA Certified Organic produce is free from pesticides, chemicals, and other additives which may increase cancer risk.

While 5 cups of produce may seem intimidating at first, it is truly achievable and I can definitely help get you started in the right direction! Though for those of you wishing for a quick fix I would like to point out that the sum of the parts does not always equal the whole. In other words, one apple has over 10,000 disease-fighting phytonutrients inside, thousands of which have yet to be identified. Therefore I pose my question, without basic recognition how can we possibly know which nutrients (or combinations of nutrients) are making the difference? The problem with processed foods is that after nutrients are stripped away, the manufacturer will often ‘enrich’ that broken down food by adding back a few single nutrients here and there. By eating more whole foods (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes – not the store) you will benefit from the complete package of nutrient synergy. I think we have to trust Mother Nature on this one.

Merely a generation ago, we discovered the direct link between tobacco products and cancer. As a result cigarettes have gone from sexy sticks to cancer sticks. I am hopeful that through education and awareness we may one day change the image of food burdened with chemicals and pesticides in the same manner.

To learn more about the diet-cancer link, I highly encourage you to head over to the website of a dear friend, respected dietitian, and cancer survivor, Diana Dyer (http://www.dianadyer.com/ ). Diana is not only the acclaimed author of A Dietitian’s Cancer Story (http://www.cancerrd.com/ ), she is also a passionate blogger and organic farmer growing a surprising variety of garlic, kale, and countless other brassica vegetables (http://www.365daysofkale.com/). This wife, mom, farmer, diet expert, and author is truly an incredible source of knowledge, inspiration, and hope for all.

Jessica Corwin MPH RDN Health Coach answered
July 21, 2011 at 9:17 PM
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