An estimated nine out of every 100 cancer cases, or 9 per cent, may be prevented by changing one’s diet, according to the Cancer Research UK and other cancer societies. Image Credit: FoCP

Dubai: It’s much easier to eat healthy now than suffer the consequences of unmindful, unhealthy eating later, an anti-breast cancer advocate said.

These consequences could be a host of diseases and disorders — that are largely preventable — and cancer is one of them.

In the US, one in five cancers diagnosed are related to body fat, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.

Cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth due to mutations or changes in the genes in the cell. The uncontrolled growth results in extra cells crowding out normal cells and forming a mass of tissue called tumours.

Every living cell in the body needs nutrients to function properly. So the food we eat has a direct effect on our cells, along with the other things we do to our body.

An estimated nine out of every 100 cancer cases or 9 per cent may be prevented by changing our diets, the Cancer Research UK and other cancer societies said. Maintaining a healthy body weight could also prevent five out of 100 cancers.

“Nutrition, exercise and some other environmental factors play a huge role in preventing and managing cancer,” Pink Caravan ambassador and fitness expert and chef Zena Habi told Gulf News.

“In fact, eating a healthy diet and staying active are one of the American Cancer Society’s recommendations when it comes to preventing cancer as some food components might damage the DNA such as processed and genetically engineered foods, or help in decreasing the toxic load of the body caused by toxins such as pesticides or herbicides,” Habi, who also has a comprehensive Nutrition Diploma from the US, added.

Though having a balanced nutrition and healthy lifestyle has been the battle cry of many health advocates through the years to prevent cancer, many people still fail to do it.

So to change a habit, one just needs to make a decision and stick to it, Habi said.

“It’s much easier than they think. They can start with eating all the vegetables on their plate. Then they can limit their liquid calories and experiment with green smoothies. They can reward themselves after a week of commitment to the healthier lifestyle plan and find a friend who is interested in changing his/her lifestyle and exchange notes,” Habi said.

Avoiding “cancer-causing foods” on top of keeping a healthy diet is also key. “We are surrounded by cancer-causing foods such as refined sugar, processed meat, fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, hydrogenated oils found in ready-made cakes, biscuits etc, farmed fish, salted, pickled and smoked foods, red meat, canned goods, and genetically modified organisms or products,” Habi said.

Although more research is needed to better understand the direct impact of diet on breast cancer risk, according the Breastcancer.org, calories from fat in high-fat diets can be suspect.

Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for breast cancer. This is because overweight women’s extra fat cells produce oestrogen that can cause “extra breast cell growth” that increases the risk of breast cancer.

People who want to prevent cancer, therefore, will do themselves a whole lot of good if they declutter their kitchen cupboards and fridge of these harmful foods, Habi said.

“There is no one-size-fits-all diet plan. People have different biochemical needs. They can opt for an organic whole food diet keeping in mind foods that decrease cancer risk factors.” (See box)

“It’s easier to tweak their diet now and reap its benefits than to suffer the consequences later on.”

Eat these foods for a healthier you

Fruits and non-starchy veggies (such as lettuce, spinach and cauliflower) to decrease the cancer risk of lung, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and stomach.

Tomato products to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

Carotenoid-containing foods such as carrots, plums and apricots to decrease the risk of lung, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus cancers.

Allium products such as onion and garlic to decrease the risk of stomach, colon and rectum cancers.

Vitamin C-containing foods such as strawberries, red bell pepper and Brussels sprouts to decrease the risk of oesophagus cancer.

Fibre-containing foods such as whole bran flakes, oatmeal and black beans to decrease the risk of colon and rectum cancers.

Folate-containing foods such as broccoli, peanut butter and lentils to decrease the risk of pancreas cancer.

Milk and calcium supplements to decrease the risk of colon and rectum cancers.

And a high level of physical activity to decrease the risks of colon, breast and endometrium cancers

Stay away from these foods (they can cause cancer)

  1. Processed and red meat.
  2. Charred food.
  3. Food and drinks that promote weight gain such as sugary drinks and sodas, artificial sweeteners.
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption.
  5. Genetically modified products, trans fats.

Make these simple changes

  1. Tempted to eat potato chips? Be smart and munch on baby carrots or celery instead.
  2. Liven up your scrambled eggs by adding broccoli, tomatoes or zucchini.
  3. Quit the sodas; and opt for fruit smoothies or fruit-infused water with chia seeds for added fibre.

Source: World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, Breastcancer.org