Studies consistently show that a good diet and regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease, but did you know you can also reduce your risk of cancer by eating well and regularly exercising? Our genes play a large role in whether we develop cancer (some cancer types more than others), but studies show, and our experts at the Winship Cancer Institute confirm, we can take action to lower our risk of developing many cancer types. By avoiding tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and staying active, you can dramatically reduce your risk of dying from cancer.
I hosted an online chat on the topic of healthy eating during the holidays this week, and in it we covered lots of topics related to nutrition, health, exercise and wellness. Below are some of the most important takeaways from the chat for you to apply not just during the holidays, but year round!
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. We may tire of hearing it, but maintaining a healthy body weight is essential to your health.
- As many as 1 out of 5 of all cancer-related deaths are linked to excessive body weight. Obesity is clearly linked with increase in several types of cancer, including breast, colon and rectum, edometrial, esophageal, kidney and pancreatic cancer.
- Regular physical activity is critical to your health and wellness. Physical activity can help reduce the risk of breast, colon, endometrial and prostate cancers.
- Adults should try to exercise for either 75 minutes per week at high intensity, or at least 150 minutes at moderate intensity each week. The latter equates to just two and a half hours of walking.
- Children should exercise one hour each day at moderate intensity, but 3 days a week at high intensity, and limit sedentary activities such as sitting, lying down, playing video games, watching TV, etc.
Maintain healthy eating habits by emphasizing consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. As I mentioned in the chat, all fruits and vegetables have protective and preventive cancer benefits. Here are some guidelines to consider when it comes to nutrition:
- Eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Choose whole grains as opposed to refined grain products (such as white rice).
- Limit red meat and processed meat.
- If you can’t get fresh produce, opt for frozen fruits and veggies over those in a can. Frozen produce is typically less processed and contains less sodium.
- If you’re looking for protein options other than meat, try beans, nuts, soy, eggs, yogurt, cheese, milk, and whole grains such as barley and quinoa.
Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol is a known risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
- Women should limit themselves to one drink a day.
- Men should limit consumption to 2 drinks per day.
For more from our chat, you can view the chat transcript here. Although we can not totally prevent cancer, we have the ability to reduce our own risk by taking action. Winship wants to help you win the fight against cancer by arming you with as much knowledge as possible! If you have additional thoughts, questions, or tips to share, please do so using the comments below.
Tiffany Barrett provides personalized nutritional advice to Emory Winship patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. Ms. Barrett also consults with patients who have completed treatment and wish to continue to build a strong and healthy diet. She earned her Bachelor of Science at Florida State University and a Master of Science at University of North Florida. Tiffany is a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and completed a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management.
- Top 8 FAQs: Nutrition’s Role in Fighting Cancer
- Healthy Eating Web Chat Transcript
- Emory Healthcare Healthy Recipes
- Winship Cancer Institute Healthy Recipes
- Nutrition Services at Winship
- Full List of American Cancer Society (ACS) Nutrition Guidelines (PDF)