7 Cancer Prevention Tips for Your Diet

Reviewed by Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD
7 Cancer Prevention Tips for Your Diet

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Did you know you can reduce your risk of cancer by eating a nutritious diet? Research shows that as many as one-third of all cancer deaths are linked to lifestyle behaviors including diet and physical activity.

Eating well can help you prevent and beat cancer in a variety of ways. Tweet this If you have cancer, eating well can positively support treatment. This may help you live well for years to come after treatment.

Here are some general guidelines to help reduce your cancer risk through eating right.

Tip #1: Keep a Healthy Weight

One in five people who die from cancer have an overweight or obese body mass index. But, exactly how weight affects cancer risk is unclear. Excess weight increases your risk by 50 percent for endometrial cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Also, a higher number of postmenopausal women who are overweight develop breast cancer. Weight in the belly area is most closely connected with an increased risk of certain cancers. But, obesity is associated with cancer of the following ten body parts:

  • Colon
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Prostate
  • Rectum
  • Thyroid
  • Uterus

Tip #2: Limit Calorie-Dense, Nutrient-Deficient Foods

Reduce your intake of foods with added sugars and solid fats that provide a lot of calories but few nutrients. These foods include: sugar-sweetened beverages, processed snack foods and desserts. Calories add up fast with these sorts of calorie-dense foods, which can lead to weight gain and leaves little room for more healthful, cancer-preventive foods. 

Tip #3: Eat Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains and Legumes

Eating plenty of whole plant foods is linked with a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach and colon cancer. At this point, it's not clear which components in vegetables and fruits are most protective against cancer. So enjoy a variety of whole foods naturally-rich in nutrients. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and make at least half your grains whole grains.

Tip #4: Moderate Your Meat Portions

Some studies suggest a link between colon cancer and eating large amounts of red meat. This is especially true for processed meat such as ham, bacon and hot dogs. Your best bet is to enjoy animal protein in moderation. Enjoy a small portion of meat and fill the rest of your plate with whole grains and vegetables.

Tip #5: Focus on Plant Proteins

Beans and lentils are nutritious and affordable sources of protein and dietary fiber. Nutrient-dense plant-based proteins also include tofu and tempeh. Eating more plant protein than animal protein is associated with a lower risk of many types of cancers.

Tip #6: Limit Alcohol

Evidence suggests all types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of a number of cancers, including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast, colon and rectum. It's unclear exactly how alcohol affects cancer risk. It is considered more harmful when combined with smoking. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one drink daily for women and two for men. (A serving of alcohol is considered 1½ fluid ounces of hard liquor, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer.)

Tip #7: Eat Whole Foods

Whole foods are your best bet for reducing cancer risk. Research suggests the nutrients found naturally in foods offers a protective effect. The same findings do not appear to be true for supplements. Thus, the best sources of nutrients for cancer prevention are nutrient-rich whole foods and healthful beverages. Talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

For more tips on reducing your risk or managing diseases through nutrition, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.

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