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Physical Wellness

The Importance of Proper Nutrition and its Role in Cancer Prevention

Cancer is the most prevalent cause of death in America, second to heart diseases. It disrupts the patient’s everyday life and affects their family members, guardians, friends, and caretakers. The causes are well-known, and so, cancer prevention is possible. According to research, many types of cancers identified in the US are connected, in one way or another, to inadequate nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, a surplus consumption of alcohol, and being overweight. These are the main determinants that can put you at risk for cancer. You must make clear and regular changes to enter the safe zone.

Cancer Prevention and Healthy Living – Cancer.net

Cancer-Causing Foods: What You Must Avoid!

Your food choices can either make or break you. The better you eat, the lower your risk of ending up in the claws of debilitating diseases. There are several nutrition tips that you can follow to fix your diet, including balancing quantity and quality.

To reduce your risk of cancer, you will have to cut down your processed food intake. Processed foods such as frozen or ready meals, meat products, and refined grain products like the commonly eaten white bread, cookies, donuts, and cakes can be detrimental to your health if consumed in excessive amounts.

In the world of today, processed foods are unavoidable. But you can hamper their adverse effects by eating smaller quantities. Avoiding junk food can help you steer clear of cancer and heart diseases.

Young couple eating junk foods in a grocery isle. Avoid junk foods for cancer prevention.
Avoiding Junk Food Can Help You Steer Clear of Cancer and Heart Disease (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Controlling your daily calorie consumption is a foolproof way of staying healthy. The more calories you take in, the harder it becomes for your body to burn them, especially if you don’t exercise regularly.

Another category of cancer-causing foods focuses on the glycemic index. Foods with lower GI are not as processed as foods with a higher GI. That means anything with a high glycemic index will be digested more quickly and produce a sudden spike in your sugar level. This sudden increase can cause diabetes, which drastically increases your risk of cancer.

If consumed in moderation, high glycemic index foods like sugary drinks, French fries, dates, and pretzels won’t produce any significant harmful effects. However, it is best to choose the safer option and stick with lower GI foods, including peaches, low-fat yogurt, peanuts, and apples.

Some foods are high in calorie content, either due to the added sugar or saturated fats. You need to be extra careful with these foods. Saturated fats are mostly found in animal-derived food items such as dark chicken meat, beef, lamb, pork, and dairy products, including cheese, ice cream, whole milk, and butter.

Raw meat assortment - beef, lamb, chicken on a wooden board
Saturated Fats are Mostly Derived From Dark Chicken Meat, Beef, Lamb, Pork and Dairy Products. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Some tropical oils like cocoa butter, coconut oil, and palm oil also have many saturated fats. These fats directly affect your cholesterol level. In cancer prevention, every single change can make a difference. Therefore, if you understand what saturated fats are and where they can be found, you can avoid taking in too much of them.

Benefits of Antioxidants & High Fiber Foods

The above warnings are but the tip of the iceberg. There are so many varieties of foods that you can eat to replace junk food and gain maximum benefit. So fixing your diet does not have to be boring, strict, and monotonous. There are some delicious alternatives that won’t just taste good but will make you feel good too.

One such group of food is antioxidants. When oxygen is broken down in the human body, it releases unstable molecules. Your body can cope with most of these unstable molecules, but if there’s an overload of them, they might inflict irreversible damage to your body.

What Are Antioxidants? – Baycrest Health Sciences

This breaking down of oxygen is known as oxidation. And it can be sped up by certain food items, stress, smoking, alcohol, and environmental stress. The foods mentioned above with a high glycemic index, processed and red meat, and cooking oils can also increase the oxidation rate.

This building up of free radicals or unstable molecules is what boosts aging. They damage cells and weaken the body. With age, the body becomes less capable of fighting these free radicals, and so it degenerates more quickly.

These free radicals can alter DNA and trigger certain chronic diseases like cancer, asthma, and diabetes. But you can counter their effects, slow them down, and decrease oxidative stress by consuming foods rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that prevent oxidation and stabilize free radicals. They can prevent free radicals from causing damage and support your metabolism in getting rid of them. Low consumption of antioxidants can lead to a further increase in free radicals known for wreaking havoc.

Selection of antioxidant rich foods, like berries, broccoli, nuts, and other fruits.
Antioxidants are Molecules That Prevents Oxidation and Stabilize Free Radicals (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Most of these antioxidants are vitamins like vitamin E and C that cannot be produced by your body. Therefore, their primary source is your diet. Berries are the most common antioxidant-rich foods. The benefits of berries are endless, which make them a must-have on your list.

Antioxidants are thus essential nutrients that can be found in foods such as:

  1. Nuts
  2. Spinach
  3. Strawberries
  4. Egg yolk
  5. Carrots
  6. Tomato

One important thing should be noted here: i.e., oxidation occurs naturally when you exercise. Excessive exercise can cause oxidative damage. Persistent oxidative stress caused by overstraining can result in cell damage. So moderation in both diet and exercise is necessary to live a healthy life.

A healthy diet is incomplete without high fiber foods. As opposed to refined ones, high fiber foods control sugar and cholesterol levels, keep your digestive system clean, ease bowel movement, and flush out carcinogens.

High Fiber Foods
High Fiber Foods Control Sugar And Cholesterol Levels, Keep Your Digestive System Clean, Ease Bowel Movement, And Flush Out Carcinogens. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

There are two main types of fiber, both of which are plant-based. Insoluble fiber, as the name suggests, does not dissolve in water. It is the kind used in preventing constipation. Wheat, cereals, carrots, and celery are good sources of insoluble fiber.

The second kind controls blood sugar and cholesterol since it can dissolve in water. Soluble fibers are found in barley, oatmeal, berries, and citrus fruits. Natural foods have more dietary fiber in them than processed ones. White rice, white bread, and pastries are low in fiber content.

Low consumption of fiber disrupts your digestive system, makes it harder to control sugar levels, and decreases immunity. A fiber-rich diet is linked to a lower risk of colorectal and stomach cancer.

Thus, antioxidants and fiber-rich foods are an unbeatable duo that will help you in cancer prevention.

Here is a nine-minute video that shows more ways you can increase your antioxidant intake.

Alcohol Consumption & Cancer Prevention

Several breast cancer awareness campaigns have mentioned how alcohol can put you at risk. And that is true for other types of cancers too. Mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, and rectum cancers are all associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

Whether it’s red wine or white wine, beer or cocktails, all alcoholic drinks put you at significant risk of cancer. This is because your body breaks alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is only bad news.

Acetaldehyde is a chemical that prevents your DNA from working correctly. DNA ensures the average growth of cells in your body, so once DNA is damaged, a rogue cell can appear anywhere, also known as a tumor.

Friends having a round of drinks in a pub
Limiting Alcohol Consumptions Can Drastically Reduce Your Risk of Cancer (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Limiting alcohol consumption can drastically reduce your risk of cancer. It’s best to avoid drinking it if you’re taking any medication, but if you cannot live without alcohol, consult your doctor to see whether the alcohol will react with the prescribed medicine or not.

To be on the safe side, don’t drink at all if you already have an underlying health issue because alcohol can only make it worse. Pregnant women must stay completely clear of alcohol. If you don’t drink, don’t start now because there are more health risks than benefits linked to alcohol.

Try replacing alcohol with water, fruit juices, and protein shakes. Drinking enough water every day is essential for staying healthy and energetic. Plus, you won’t get any hangovers or nausea after drinking a glass of plain water or fruit juice.

Conclusion

To reduce your risk of cancer, you should avoid processed foods as much as possible. Replace them with citrus fruits, nuts, berries, and other antioxidant and fiber-rich items. You should regulate your calorie intake as well and avoid overconsumption of alcohol.

Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle are the key to lowering your risk of cancer. Because a large number of the cancers diagnosed in the US are related to overconsumption of alcohol, inadequate physical activity, and improper nutrition, there are steps we can all take today to lead healthier, and hopefully cancer-free, lives.

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