Cancer Nutrition Means Fighting
Cancer by Eating Healthy
Eating for life? Eating to improve your chances of a long and healthy life, cancer-free? Yes, you can do it.
At a time when we are overwhelmed by conflicting diet and health messages, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) have some good news: by making the right food choices, you may reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Unfortunately, cancer and heart disease take the lives of more Americans than all other disease and causes of death combined! Each day, about three out of every four deaths in the United States will occur as a result of cardiovascular disease or heart disease (like heart attacks and strokes) and cancer. This need not be. Although no diet can ensure you won't get a heart attack, stroke or cancer, what you eat can affect your health. This has been shown by research of the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (two of this country's National Institutes of Health), along with the research of other scientists.
How does a person eat for life? It's easier and more enjoyable than you might think. The practical ideas in this booklet show you how to make healthful, tasty, and appetizing food choices at home and when you're eating out. They are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These seven basic guidelines are:
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Maintain desirable weight.
- Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
- Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber.
- Avoid too much sugar.
- Avoid too much sodium.
- If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
The first two guidelines form the framework of a good diet: eat a variety of foods so that you get enough of the essential nutrients you need, and eat only enough calories to maintain desirable weight. The next five guidelines describe special characteristics of a good diet-getting adequate starch and fiber and avoiding too much fat, sugar, sodium, and alcohol. Although the guidelines are designed for healthy adult Americans, these suggestions are considered especially appropriate for people who may already have some of the risk factors for chronic diseases. These risk factors include a family history of obesity, premature heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood cholesterol levels.
This report focuses on five guidelines that are particularly related to the prevention of heart disease and/or cancer: eat a variety of foods; maintain desirable weight; avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; eat foods with adequate starch and fiber; and avoid too much sodium. Going on a marine diet is a good, healthy and cancer-fighting diet for life.
Keep in mind that staying healthy requires more than just good nutrition. Regular exercise, getting enough rest, learning to cope with stress, and having regular physical checkups are important ways to help ensure good health. Checkups are especially important for early detection of cancer and heart disease. Another important way to reduce your risks of heart disease and cancer is not to smoke or use tobacco in any form. Controlling high blood pressure (hypertension) can also greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Remember, three of the major risk factors for heart disease are largely under your control. They are smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol.
How Do the Foods We Eat Affect Our Chances of Getting Cancer and Heart Disease?
There is much still to be learned about the relationship between the foods we eat and our risk of getting cancer and heart disease. The NHLBI and NCI are conducting a great deal of research to find out more about this relationship. There is, however, a lot that we know now. The relationship of diet to cancer and the relationship of diet to risk factors for heart disease are summarized below:
Obesity . . . We know that obesity is associated with high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, Extreme obesity has also been linked to several cancers. This means that if you are obese, losing weight may reduce your chances of developing these serious diseases or conditions. If you already suffer from hypertension and are overweight, weight loss alone can often lower your blood pressure to normal levels. Because fat (both saturated and unsaturated fat) provides more than twice the number of calories provided by equal weights of carbohydrate or protein, decreasing the fat in your diet may help you lose weight as well as help reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. Today, most Americans get about 37 percent of their daily calories from fat. Many experts suggest that fat should be reduced to 30 percent or less of calories.
Heart Disease . . . We know that high blood cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease, especially as it rises above 200 mg/dl (milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood). The evidence is clear that elevated cholesterol in the blood, resulting in part from the foods we eat and in part from cholesterol made in the body, contributes to the development of arteriosclerosis, a disorder of arteries that results in their narrowing and in reduced blood circulation. This condition can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
We know that blood cholesterol levels are greatly influenced by the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol found in many of the foods we eat. These raise blood cholesterol levels. (Of the two, saturated fat seems to be the major dietary factor which affects blood cholesterol.) To reduce your blood cholesterol level, it is important to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat and cholesterol are often found together in foods. Saturated fat in the U.S. diet is provided primarily by animal products such as the fat in meat, butter, whole milk, cream, cheese, and ice cream. There are a few vegetable fats--coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel and palm oils which are also high in saturated fat. Cholesterol is found only in animal products eggs, meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. Plant foods such as vegetables, grains, cereals, nuts, and seeds do not contain cholesterol. A few foods are high in cholesterol but relatively low in fat--for example, egg yolks and liver.
Watch out for items in the grocery store that are labeled no cholesterol or, contains no animal fat." They may still contain a large amount of fat or saturated fat. Examples are peanut butter, solid vegetable shortening, nondairy creamer, and baked products like cookies, cakes, and crackers. For people trying to lose blood cholesterol level, these foods should be chosen less often.
We know that substituting unsaturated fatty acids (which are usually liquid and usually come from plant sources) for saturated fats can help reduce high blood cholesterol. Safflower, corn, soybean, olive, and canola oils are major sources of unsaturated fats. The omega-3 fatty acids which are found in fish and seafood, may have a favorable effect on blood fat and reduce the risk of heart disease. No one is sure yet.
We know that there is an association between too much sodium in the diet and high blood pressure in some individuals. Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in some foods and is added to many foods and beverages as salt or other additives. Most sodium in the American diet comes from salt. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2 grams of sodium. In countries where people eat only small amounts of sodium, high blood pressure is rare. We also know that when some people with high blood pressure greatly reduce their sodium (salt) intake, their blood pressure will fall. Because Americans generally eat much more sodium than they need, it is probably best for most people to reduce the amount of sodium they eat. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a safe and adequate amount of sodium in the diet of the average adult is between 1 and 3.3 grams daily.
Some recent studies indicated that the substitution of mono saturated fats, such as those saturated fats may lower blood cholesterol.
Cancer . . . The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 80 percent of all cancers may be related to smoking, diet, and the environment.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that about one-third of all cancer deaths may be related to the foods we eat. Studies at the National Cancer Institute suggest that eating foods high in fiber may reduce risks of cancers of the colon and rectum. Adult Americans now eat about 11 grams of fiber daily according to NCI studies. NCI recommends that Americans increase the daily amount of fiber they eat to between 20 and 30 grams, with an upper limit of 35 grams. The NCI also emphasizes the importance of choosing fiber rich foods, not supplements. Good sources of fiber are whole grain breads and bran cereals, vegetables, cooked dry peas and beans, and fruits.
We know that diets high in fats of all kinds have been linked to certain cancers, particularly those of the breast, colon, lining of the uterus, and prostate gland. Some studies have suggested that fat may act as a cancer promoter (an agent that speeds up the development of cancer).
There is some evidence that diets rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotene (the plant form of vitamin A) may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. The evidence we have about vitamins A and C comes from studies of these vitamins as they are found in foods. That is why NCI recommends that you eat a variety of foods rich in vitamins rather than relying on vitamin supplements. Good sources of vitamin A include yellow-orange vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin; and yellow-orange fruits such as peaches, cantaloupes and mangoes. Sources of vitamin C include dark-green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and watercress; broccoli and asparagus; and tomatoes. Some fruit sources of vitamin C are oranges, lemons, grapefruit, peaches, berries, and cantaloupe.
There is some evidence that vegetables in the cabbage family may help protect against cancer of the colon. These vegetables are also good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Cabbage family vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, turnips, mustard greens, turnip greens, kohlrabi, watercress and radishes.