If I told you that there were 10 diet and lifestyle recommendations you could follow to reduce your risk of developing cancer and improve chances of cancer survivorship, would you follow them? What if I told you that these same recommendations will also help reduce your risk of developing other chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and, ultimately, heart disease? If you said yes (or even maybe!)—you are in the right place!
As we continue to learn more about maximizing the nutrition in the foods we eat for optimal health, we find that, for the most part, the components of a healthy eating pattern are really very consistent. Even further—they are, in most cases, fairly intuitive. However, recommendations are only as impactful as our ability to consistently implement them in our lives. And, this is often where we struggle and need a little extra support.
So, this year, as National Cancer Prevention Month gets up and running, we are teaming up with the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) to highlight the latest and greatest in science-based recommendations on cancer prevention, along with tools to help you act – throughout February and beyond!
Where to start?
The first step is to learn about and implement the Healthy10 to reduce your risk of developing cancer, nourish your body during cancer treatment, and/or prevent cancer recurrence. What are the Healthy10? Ten diet and lifestyle steps we can all do in our own personalized ways. They are:
- Be a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans
- Limit consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods that are high in fat, starches, or sugars
- Limit consumption of red and processed meat
- Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
- For mothers, breast feed your babies if you can
- After cancer diagnosis, follow these recommendations if/when possible
While many of these recommendations are very straightforward, others may generate more questions. The following are additional nuances to these recommendations, based on questions posed by our patients:
- If you are unsure what your recommended weight range is, try a BMI calculator. This tool will tell you whether you are currently underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
- Physical activity recommendations are 150-300 minutes/week. Do what you can and work within your own strengths and limitations. Listen to your physician and your body.
- Processed meat should be eliminated, if possible. This includes those you may think are “healthier”.
- Red meat should be limited to no more than 12-18 ounces per week.
- Sugar-sweetened drinks are typically sodas and energy drinks. This recommendation is not referring to nutrition supplements your doctor or dietitian may recommend for additional calories and protein. They are also not referring to 100% fruit juice. Americans do not get enough fruit and 100% fruit juice counts towards meeting those recommendations!
Want to hear other experts weigh in on specific nutrition – cancer connections?
Check out these YouTube videos:
Headline Hype and Mixed Messaging in Cancer Research
Mixed Messaging on Breast Cancer Risk and Soy, Gluten and Dairy Intake
Diet and Cancer Prevention
What You Eat Matters
Obesity and Cancer Risk
After the knowing comes the doing!
These AICR resources and tools can help with this important step:
Want help narrowing down what behavior(s) to focus on? Take the Cancer Health Check! This short quiz will help you evaluate where you are already making progress toward recommendations and where you may need a helping hand.
Crave structure, community, and creativity when it comes to making diet and lifestyle changes? Look no further than the Healthy10 Challenge! It’s a free, online, engaging, and inspirational and will take you through the 10 steps in 10 weeks!
Are you a patient at Virginia Cancer Specialists? Contact our Scheduling Team at 703-208-3155 to meet with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists today!
Author: Shelley Maniscalco, Registered Dietitian