- We’ve all heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’. I sometimes feel my patients see me as a miserable spoilsport, always nagging them to give up the things they enjoy. I know it’s natural to crave ‘forbidden foods’, so I tend to take a pragmatic approach along the lines of suggesting that, it’s not what you eat today, it’s what you eat every day that counts.
The good news is that there is a dramatic increase in the average life expectancy. The down side is that as we live longer, up to half of us are prone to cancer. You can’t guarantee avoiding it, but research suggests, simple diet changes could improve your odds.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’. I sometimes feel my patients see me as a miserable spoilsport, always nagging them to give up the things they enjoy. I know it’s natural to crave ‘forbidden foods’, so I tend to take a pragmatic approach along the lines of suggesting that, it’s not what you eat today, it’s what you eat every day that counts.
If you love chocolate, reward yourself with an occasional treat, but make sure you don’t invent special occasions every day!
For most cancers, there’s threshold of alcohol intake above which your risk starts to increase. Sticking to recommended limits (or quitting it if possible) won’t increase the risk of most cancers, except breast cancer. Any regular alcohol intake rises a chance of getting breast cancer, so try quitting it if possible.
There is emerging scientific evidence that some foods could play an important role in cutting your risk of cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that more than two in five cases of breast, colon, stomach and pancreatic cancer could be prevented with the right combination of diet, exercise and weight control.
It’s a complicated area, and not all foods ‘work’ for all cancers. What’s more, it’s hard to develop studies which show completely conclusive benefits where diet is concerned. If one form of cancer runs in your family or you are particularly worried about it, there may be a diet combination for you.
• A ‘Mediterranean style’ diet which is high in fruit and vegetables and other sources of fibres, with limited salt, white meat (mostly found in fresh fish), is likely to protect against a host of cancers and other conditions, from heart attack to piles and diverticular disease of the bowel. Use this as your starting point.
• Vitamin D is vital for strong bones and may have a role in reducing the risk of heart attack, depression and multiple sclerosis as well. But it seems getting enough vitamin D may also cut your risk of colon cancer as well.
• Green tea may protect against breast and prostate cancer as well as several cancers of the digestive track. It seems to be down to high levels of natural chemicals called catechins, which mop up free radicals and block tumours from growing. So this simply means, the more you take green tea, the lower your risk.
• Tomatoes are largely emerging as a ‘super food’, courtesy of a natural chemical called lycopene, which may cut the risk of prostate cancer. Unlike many vitamins, which are broken down by cooking, lycopene is still present in cooked or processed tomato foods.
Finally, these days scientists recognise that, different body organs respond to different triggers, so they are producing supplements tailored to individual cancers. If you have concern about individual cancer, you might want to consider a supplement. But remember that not all supplements are the same. It is advisable to consult your doctor before consuming them.