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Nutrition Newsletter
Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services Newsletter

Eat Healthy to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer Today!

Caroline Steele, MS, RD, CSP, IBCLC

In honor of Cancer Control Month, the registered dietitians at CHOC Children’s encourage you to focus on what you can do to reduce the risk of cancer in your family.  Some risk factors you can control include your weight, your physical activity level, and the foods you eat.  Taking small steps may be enough to significantly reduce your risk of cancer.

Food and Cancer
Food has a three-way impact on cancer. Eating well can:

  1. Lower your risk for developing cancer.
  2. Positively influence and support cancer treatment.
  3. Once treatment is complete, help you live well for years to come.

Diet and Cancer Prevention
Healthy eating can reduce your risk of getting cancer.  The good news is that nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention are similar to those for preventing other diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Here are some tips to help reduce your risk:
Keep a Healthy Weight
Exactly how weight affects cancer risk is unclear.  However, being at a healthy weight (not overweight or underweight) reduces your risk.  A registered dietitian can help you determine a healthy weight for you.

Reduce Your Intake of Fat and Sugar
These foods tend to provide a lot of calories but few other nutrients.  Too much of this type of food leaves little room for more healthy foods that may have properties that help protect against cancer.

Eat Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, and Legumes
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, including beans, is linked with a lower risk of certain types of cancers.  Fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables daily and be sure to eat a variety.  Look for all different colors as these often provide different nutrients.  Encourage your family to try something new each week!  Choose whole grains and higher fiber breads, cereals, and pastas.

Limit Intake of Red Meats and Processed Meats
Red meat is a great source of protein as well as several vitamins and minerals.  However, eating too much red meat may increase the risk of certain types of cancer.  Keep portions to 3-4 oz a few times per week.  Try reducing your meat portions at each meal and substitute with beans, grains, and vegetables. 

BUT…what if someone in the family has cancer?
Work with a registered dietitian to help determine what foods would be the best to compliment the cancer treatment and help relieve any symptoms of discomfort.

What about Supplements?
Studies have shown that whole foods are your best bet for reducing your risk of cancer, not supplements.  It is believed that a combination of factors in the foods are actually what is protective against cancer—not just one individual nutrient.


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