Posts Tagged ‘nutrition to prevent cancer’

Antioxidant Foods and Cancer Prevention: Fact or Fiction?

Nutrition to Fight CancerAntioxidants are all the rage. Our news outlets put out one story after another — some claiming these powerful chemicals can help lower our risk of cancer, improve heart health and even have anti-aging properties — while others suggest antioxidants aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Separating fact from fiction can be difficult and leave many of us scratching our heads.

How Antioxidants and Free Radicals Work Together

Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules with an unpaired electron. To stabilize (oxidize), free radicals take electrons from other molecules, damaging them in the process and turning them into free radicals themselves. This triggers a cycle of cell damage and causes stress to your body.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. While we’re used to hearing about the harm free radicals can cause us, the truth is they’re also necessary for our health. They help our bodies fight infection, repair tissue injury and even fight aging. However, if high levels of free radicals are present in the body, they can increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

That’s where antioxidants come in. According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants are chemicals that can safely interact and neutralize free radicals in our bodies, lowering the overall amount and slowing oxidation.

The Best Sources of Antioxidants

Antioxidants occur naturally in many different types of food, including:

  • Dark green, leafy veggies, like kale spinach and collard greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
  • Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries
  • Green tea
  • Purple, blue and red grapes
  • Orange vegetables, including sweet potatoes, carrots and acorn squash
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, such as soybeans, lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans and kidney beans
  • Herbs and spices, like turmeric and garlic

Research has also recently studied whether antioxidant dietary supplements can offer the same boost as foods that have high levels of naturally occurring antioxidants. Most of this research has been inconclusive, leading to confusing headlines. Until we understand more, it’s best to choose foods high in antioxidants rather than supplements so you get the most benefits of these powerful chemicals.

Easy Steps for Adding Antioxidants to Your Diet

Boost your health by following these simple tips:

  • Add berries to oats or yogurt at breakfast
  • Try making a smoothie with berries, cherries, spinach and a splash of coconut water or 100 percent juice
  • Grab whole grain breads and buns
  • Challenge yourself to try one new fruit or vegetable high in antioxidants at least once a week
  • Fill your plate with fresh fruits and veggies
  • Treat yourself to a cup of green tea
  • Add healthy herbs and spices to veggies or meat

Learn More

Navigating the ins and outs of antioxidants and how they can benefit your health can be confusing. A dietitian can help answer questions and create a customized nutrition plan that meets your needs. At Winship Cancer Institute, we have a team of dietitians available to support patients before, during and after treatment.

Learn more about our services or schedule an appointment with a dietitian by calling 404-686-4441.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia — the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

A Heart-Healthy Diet Also Helps Prevent Cancer

Heart Healthy Diet Helps Prevent CancerA good diet is about fueling your body, eating real food and limiting processed foods. Good nutrition plays a crucial role in our well-being by helping maintain a healthy weight, and improving our immune system to prevent disease. In fact, nutrition guidelines for cancer prevention are similar to those for preventing other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

What do I mean by “real food”? Although some people have a stricter definition of it, I think a realistic goal is to eat foods that are as close as possible to their natural state, such as whole grains instead of processed white flour. Avoid packaged foods with a long list of unfamiliar ingredients. As a registered dietitian, I recommend eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and legumes like beans. Select a variety of whole foods naturally rich in nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts are particularly good to eat as are tomatoes, berries, beets, peppers, apples, squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

Strive for two thirds of your plate to consist of plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. The remaining one third of each plate should consist of lean high-protein foods such as fish, tofu, beans, or lean meats. No single food is the perfect one for cancer prevention, but a combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals can offer good protection according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Make better choices when including fat in your diet. Consume monounsaturated fats, avoid saturated and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats (plant based) include olives, olive oil, canola and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and have an anti-inflammatory and blood thinning effect. Good sources are salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, walnuts and flax.

Avoiding foods that are bad for your heart can also help reduce cancer risk. Stay away from foods that are salted, cured, processed or smoked. Instead, choose lean animal products including chicken, fish, turkey and red meat cuts such as sirloin or loin. Limit refined carbohydrates and sweetened drinks. Both increase chances of being overweight and offer little nutritional value. Most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods rather than salt we add as a seasoning. Read food labels to learn exactly how much sodium is in a product. Everyone should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).

The way in which you prepare your food can also make a difference in your overall health. Baking, broiling, microwaving, and poaching are preferable to grilling, frying, and charbroiling. If you enjoy the flavor of foods off the grill, try baking or broiling them first then put them on the grill briefly before serving.
Fueling your body with real food, limiting processed foods and beverages, and getting regular exercise will go a long way toward preventing cancer and heart disease, the top two causes of death in the United States.

Author: Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LD, Nutrition Specialist, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Tiffany Barrett, MS, RD, CSO, LDAbout Tiffany Barrett
Tiffany is a Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and completed a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. At Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, her role is to provide nutrition assessments and education for oncology patients and families during and after treatment. Tiffany graduated from Florida State University with Bachelor of Science and completed a dietetic internship at the University of North Florida combined with a Master of Science.


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Foods That Fight Breast Cancer For You!

Nutrition to Fight CancerOur experts at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating a healthy diet and exercise plan into everyday life, not only for cancer and disease prevention, but also maintenance to prevent recurrence after treatment.

Winship oncology nutritionist, Tiffany Barrett, recently sat down with CNN to discuss foods that help in the fight against cancer, no matter what stage. Some key advice: include a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, eat whole grains, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and soy in moderation.

Check out the video below to hear the full version of Tiffany’s discussion on breast cancer fighting foods.

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