Discover the Link between Nutrition and Cancer Prevention
This article originally appeared in Be Well, a health
information newsletter published for members of the Greater Marlborough
"Natural remedy for cancer discovered!" Now, that got your attention, right?
Researchers all over the world are looking for that magic cure. There is an
increasing amount of research, however, demonstrating that diet plays a much
more important role in the fight and prevention of cancer than previously given
credit. Every year, about 1.3 to 1.4 million people are diagnosed with cancer.
Most health experts now believe about one-third of all cancers are caused by
"To put it another way, unhealthy eating habits can shorten your life," said
Barbara Casaceli, RD, LDN, Marlborough Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Department,
who works with patients every day addressing weight management and nutrition
"Being overweight or obese increases one's risk for heart disease and
diabetes, but what many don't know is that it can also increase the risk for
certain cancers. Hand-in-hand with being overweight are often issues of poor
nutrition," said Ms. Casaceli.
The prescription for better health is to follow a low-fat, high fruit and
vegetable-based diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are
naturally low in fat, chock-full of fiber, and filled with cancer-fighting
antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals are nutrients found in plant-based foods. There are thousands
of these health-promoting, naturally occurring substances in plants, including
vitamins, minerals, and many other substances that are important for cancer
prevention. Only plants, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes,
nuts and seeds, contain these healthful phytochemicals. And research shows that
the more plants, and therefore the more phytochemicals you eat, the lower your
risk of cancer and other diseases.
"I encourage my patients to cut down on fatty foods, added fats and oils,
particularly saturated fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of
breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Also to look for healthy substitutes for
dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, which have been implicated
in the occurrence of breast and colorectal cancers," Ms. Casaceli explained.
Alisa Himelfarb, MS, RD, LDN, also an outpatient dietitian explained, "Beyond
eating plenty of plant foods, focus on a variety for optimal cancer prevention
benefits. If you only eat foods that are familiar to you, you'll miss out on the
maximum cancer fighting benefit other foods have to offer. Try to branch out by
trying something new or different such as eating kiwis, dark cherries, mangos
Further stressing variety in her patient's diets, Ms. Himelfarb asks, "Not
counting potatoes, peas and corn, what vegetables do you regularly eat? Do you
eat fresh spinach and broccoli every week? What about the other green, leafy
foods, such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens and bok
choy? Do you include asparagus and squash? Again variety in the type of
vegetables is important."
"As we all know making changes are not always easy. We try to encourage our
patients that small changes really do work. The bad habits did not occur
overnight and neither will correcting them," concluded Ms. Casaceli.