Healthy food is at the basis of all wellbeing and a weapon in your arsenal for the fight to prevent cancer. As indicated by all international guidelines, proper nutrition is crucial for the prevention of diseases, whether oncological or not. A healthy diet though is only one (although very important) of the habits you can adopt to help prevent cancer.
A review of all scientific studies on the link between nutrition and cancer has lead the World Cancer Research Fund, along with numerous other researchers around the world to published a handbook for the prevention of cancer. In order to follow a proper nutritional plan, it is essential that we pay close attention to what we eat and the products that we buy while shopping at the supermarket.
Before we list the 10 rules that everyone should consider following we will focus on one thing everyone could be doing to help themselves decide what to eat.
Often, in haste and with unconditional trust in the products we know, we do not pay much attention to the “label”. This nutritional label is a very useful and informative tool for us as consumers and everyone should make a habit of reading it at least once for every item they usually purchase. “The labels on packaged products, such as fruit, vegetables and fish – explains Dr. Salvatore Gulizia, hygiene biologist and member of Core Quality at the Unit for Oncology at Humanitas – represent the identity card of the products offered on sale and they are regulated by the European Legislation”. The same goes for all processed foods and will help you determine which are ok to incorporate in your diet and those which will not help you prevent cancer.
10 rules to follow that can help prevent cancer
- Maintain an ideal weight that can be calculated using the BMI (Body Mass Index), which reflects the proper weight condition for an individual. It is easy to find a BMI calculator online with instructions on how to use it and benchmarks for you to know how close you are to your ideal weight.
- Maintain daily physical activity by walking briskly for 30 minutes. If this is the least you could do then know that it is enough to make all the difference in your health.
- Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks. All industrial products are considered “calorie bombs” and contain an excessive amount of fat and sugar. A very light rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t look like something someone could have made in their kitchen then it has probably been over processed and is not good for you.
- Limit consumption of red meats (lamb, pork, and beef). It is recommended not to exceed 500 grams per week and avoid preserved meat (canned meat, sausages, and hams).
- Consume lots of vegetables (they are rich in fiber and an excellent sources of vitamins and mineral salts). Around 600 grams per day divided into five portions is recommended. Try to incorporate fruits and vegetables of all colour in your diet. A lot of the colors in fruits and veggies are a result of antioxidants that will help you immensely in the battle against cancer.
- Limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Try to avoid it altogether as it is linked to several different types of cancer, however, for those who occasionally do consume it, it is recommended to drink moderately. By moderately we mean don’t exceed a glass of wine a day for women and no more than two for men.
- Avoid smoking. It is no secret that there is a correlation between smoking and the development of cancer of the mouth, bladder and stomach, as well as many other respiratory diseases. If you are a smoker seek advice from your physician as there are many way with which they can guide you through the first few months of quitting.
- Limit consumption of salt (5 grams per day). Pay particular attention to industrial products, especially meats and other preserved foods. Salt is present in almost all processed foods and taking a good look at the nutritional label will show you how much sodium (salt) you are taking in one serving. Remember its maximum 5 grams a day not per serving!
- Maintain a steady intake of nutrients. It is important to follow a healthy, well balanced diet by increasing the variety of products and their seasonality. Local markets will give you a clear idea of what is in season, try to incorporate new items into your diet in the form of a snack or by learning new recipes.
- Breastfeed children for at least six months. There is evidence that shows breastfeeding a baby for at least six months can help prevent obesity and other related conditions in the child’s future. For the mother, evidence shows breastfeeding protects the onset of breast cancer at any age.