Nutrition and Cancer

This entry was written by Kathryn Allen, registered dietitian and speaker for LBBC’s FREE teleconference starting at 12:00 p.m. (EDT) today: Managing Weight After Breast Cancer:

Many people ask – can eating right really help fight cancer? And if so, which foods are the best or the worst to eat? The answers to these questions are relatively simple but putting the recommendations into action seems to be the hardest part.

Eating is directly related to body weight. Eating more calories than you burn can result in weight gain. Being overweight is strongly correlated with an increase in cancer risk. Abdominal body fat has an even stronger connection with cancer risk as well as risk for diabetes and heart disease.

If there is a decrease in body fat as a result of simply controlling or reducing calorie intake, you can reduce cancer risk. Anything that comes from a plant has cancer fighting properties! The substances found in plant foods otherwise known as “phytochemicals” have a surprisingly potent effect on disease prevention. If your mother told you “eat your vegetables” now is the time to really listen to her and if you have already been listening then she deserves a big “thank you.”

Plant foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are typically lower in calories and more filling. This is especially true if you are eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grains are typically low in calories and also very filling depending on their fiber content. A simple rule of thumb is this: the more heavily processed the food, the higher the calories.

Another concept that is simple but not easy for many people to put into action is portion control. A friend of mine told me about the differences between American eating habits and those in his country. It should not be a big surprise that the subject of very large American portions in restaurants came up. We seem to feel deprived if the portions appear too small!

Here is some advice from my friend: “In our country, we are taught to eat until we are 80% full not until we are 110% full like here [America].” 

I’m not sure why, in a country where obesity has been named an epidemic, there is so much concern about filling up to the max and then some! I know someone who lost 60 pounds over the course of nine months. I thought perhaps she’d participated in the latest fad diet but instead she ate all the foods she usually does but cut everything by one-half.

There is no real list of good foods or bad foods, but too much food can lead to no good. If we could re-train ourselves to eat a little bit less of the calorie-rich foods and a little more of the nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods, we could all feel a little more satisfied and be a lot healthier.

Join LBBC via internet or over-the-phone at 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) today! Listen to Kathryn’s medical advice on why breast cancer treatment leads to changes in weight and bone density, dietary and fitness recommendations for stage of recovery, and practical strategies for incorporating healthful eating and fitness in your daily routine. Call 610 645 4567 to register.

One thought on “Nutrition and Cancer

  1. Wow,

    I agree that portion control is important as a component of weight loss but to make a sweeping comment that there’s no real thing as good foods and bad foods ignores a lot of the literature out there for other types of diseases and cancers.

    Nutritionists are not all in synch on this topic, so it makes things even more confusing.

    I like the rules of thumb (I’m a stage IV colon cancer warrior) to eat local and in season, to avoid factory processed meats and factory farmed animals, to avoid added sugar if you’re actively in treatment for cancer.

    I ate (and was quite healthy outside of the cance) a low carb, high protein diet to manage for heart disease that runs in my family and ended up getting colon cancer at 48, which does not run in my family. And I worked out 5-6 times per week.

    So it’s also important to realize that good (or “good enough”) nutrition is not 100% of the mix that helps/harms us.

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