Worldwide, cancer is one of the leading causes of death. In the year 2020, 10 million deaths were reported due to cancer. In a country like India, where medical support is scarce in various primitive towns. It becomes a foremost responsibility of the nation to provide awareness, care, and support to people. Outwardly, we notice ignorance even by well-educated people in flourishing cities about the critical concern of Cancer.
This non-communicable disease is a rising emergency in India. More so 70% of cancers are environmental. These environmental factors are preventable by lifestyle changes. Out of environmental factors such as tobacco consumption, dietary and other malpractices. Dietary habits account for 10-20% of cancer in India!
On this World cancer day, creating awareness regarding preventable factors would be valuable for all.
What is the role of nutrition in preventing and treating cancer?
Upper gastrointestinal cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, lungs are linked with dietary habits. Along with cancer of the stomach, large intestine, and breast are predominantly associated with unhealthy diets.
Preserved meats, refined carbohydrates subsequently high intake of trans fat. These trends are linked with the rising reports of lifestyle disorders.
Good nutrition comes through healthy dietary habits involving the recommended amount of nutrients per day. It helps in strengthening the immunity, growth, and development of an individual.
Check out how nutrition helps in building immunity: How to boost immunity
Prevention of cancer by incorporating foods that reduce oxidative damage (prevent cell damage), stimulate immune production needs to be done.
Plant-based foods containing phytonutrients (foods containing lycopene, catechins, isoflavonoids, etc.) have anti-cancer effects. We will learn more about foods to prevent cancer ahead.
In treating cancer, post-operative care through nutrition involves a major role. It is important to speed up the recovery and also protect as the person still has weakened immunity. The inclusion of a neutropenic diet (cooked and pasteurized) is done to avoid any infections and support the body.
How nutrition can reduce the risk of cancer?
Diet is the modifiable determinant in reducing the risk of cancer. As several nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients prove to lower the cancer risk.
Risks of cancers were seen to be lower in individuals who actively consumed good amounts of vegetables and fruits and indulge in healthy eating practices.
For instance, colorectal cancer can be prevented by consuming plant sources- vegetables, fruits, and legumes in the diet. Reducing the high fat and processed foods and instead including complex and fiber-rich foods.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber helps in maintaining gut health and prevent diseases like diverticulosis, which can further lead to serious consequences.
Can lifestyle changes prevent cancer?
With the growth of westernization and industrialization in India. The consumption of processed, frozen foods has exponentially increased. Along with the consumption of alcohol, smoking, and low physical activity. Southeast Asians are at risk of several lifestyle disorders and cancer. High-fat foods, processed food, and low activity leading to weight gain are spur to cancers.
Constant exposure to carcinogens and xenobiotics (toxins), in the form of pesticides, pollution, and contamination. It is difficult to fight off medical emergencies.
The only way to prevent cancers through these environmental exposures is by voluntarily remodeling our lifestyle.
How to prevent cancer naturally?
Lifestyle changes reduce the risk factors, preventing the entry of carcinogens into the body. (Carcinogens are cancer-causing compounds) Avoid Smoking or tobacco, Reduce Alcohol consumption, Fast foods/sugary food products to be reduced. These food products often have transfat that increases the stress to the body.
Further, low physical activity, excess body weight, poor nutrition should be worked on.
- Organic food choices.
- Fresh and seasonal foods.
- Healthy cooking methods should be consisdered.
You might wonder: Does your weight affect your cancer risk? The answer is yes!
Medical studies show the relation between obesity and the risks of cancer. More body fat, more the risks of developing specific cancers. Women, with normal body weight, are 4 times safer than obese and overweight women, to develop endometrial cancer. (Endometrial- lining of the Uterus)
Further obese, overweight are more likely to develop liver, kidney, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, etc.
As fat mass (adipose tissue) tends to interfere with the homeostasis of the body- interfering hormones, insulin functioning, cell impairment, as well as causing a low-level chronic inflammation which is one of the markers for cancers.
What are foods that are linked to preventing cancer?
- Power of plants!
Vegetables and fruits- containing Vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients.
Several phytonutrients present in tomato, citrus fruits, capsicum, green tea have anticancer effects on the body.
Further several vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cruciferous veggies are abundant in vitamins, folate, and fiber.
Further to know How do antioxidants help in fighting cancer?
Read fruits, the basket of natural confectionery – and learn more about antioxidants.
- Wholesome grains!
Opt for whole grains, legumes, several varieties of pulses. These are not just rich in several essential amino acids but also blessed with fiber. Whole grains make our meal complex in nature helping to deal with blood sugars, improving digestion, and maintaining gut health.
- The magic ingredients!
Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic, Coconut are blessed with phytonutrients and a functional treasure of healing properties. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and even analgesic in nature. Curcumin found in turmeric prevents and controls tumor formation.
- The benefits of Vitamin D for cancer patients are proven to be protective against developing certain cancers. Vitamin D inhibits tumor formation (prevents the growth of cancerous cells)
Our body can naturally produce vitamin D on exposure to the sun, also dietary sources of vitamin D are- oily fishes, organ meat, fortified foods.
The cell damage (oxidative damage) by free radicals progressively leads to cancer. This oxidative damage can be controlled by antioxidant-rich foods.
(free radicles are formed in the body naturally and increased production occurs when improper lifestyle is adopted)
Know more about the “Can-Do” & “Can-cel” foods through our free resource sheet. Download the free resource given below
What are some healthy choices for Cancer prevention?
- Attack the rainbow- eat at least 500-600 gm of fruits and vegetables every day.
- The C Cube- Curb consumption of carcinogens! Avoid smoking, tobacco, and reduce alcohol intake.
- Maintain your BMI- if you do not fall under the normal category of BMI ranges. Consult a professional dietitian and get your healthy weight.
- Reduce Stress- constant mental, physical stress increases inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation will mark the onset of cancer.
- Active lifestyle- try not to be a Couch potato, and be physically active. As simple as walking while being on a call, doing household chores can help.
These are some of the Best habits to prevent cancer. Inculcating these behaviors in your day-to-day life will strengthen your immunity and help your body to flourish and thrive in times of vulnerability.