A Healthy Eating Plan to Prevent Cancer

by The Cooperative
Today, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. While genetics can play a role, lifestyle choices, such as nutrition, exercise, and tobacco use, all pave the foundation for your risk of developing cancer. Specifically, nutrition is essential to a healthy and disease-free future, and developing a healthy eating plan will flood your body with the necessary nutrients to combat cancer formation.
Foods that Sustain You
1.) When in doubt, eat the rainbow!
Want to keep cancer at bay? Load up on vibrant, nutrient-dense foods! Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that prevent cell damage and strengthen the immune system. For example, tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytonutrient that slows the growth of cancer cells. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies for every meal.
Try fueling your body with these brightly colored produce options:
  • Red: tomatoes, red peppers, strawberries, beets
  • Orange: carrots, sweet potato, peaches, pumpkin
  • Yellow: pineapple, bananas, yellow peppers, lemon
  • Green: kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Blue/Purple: blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, eggplant
2.) Make the most of your macros.
In addition to fruits and veggies, be sure to consume lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. These foods provide abundant fiber and minerals that promote healthy cell formation. When selecting these foods, remember that quality is key! Use the following as a guide for customizing your healthy eating plan:
  • Lean protein (1/4 of your plate): Lean protein is loaded with minerals such as zinc, which can hinder cell mutation and prevent infection.
    • Examples:
      • Animal protein: poultry, fish, eggs
      • Plant-based protein: beans, peas, lentils
  • Whole grains (1/4 of your plate): The high fiber content supports optimal digestion, encouraging the body to eliminate cancer-causing agents successfully.
    • Examples: brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat pasta
  • Healthy fats (eaten in moderation): Healthy or unsaturated fats enhance nutrient absorption and lower inflammation around the organs.
    • Examples: olive oil, nuts, avocado
Don’t stop here! Other healthy options are available depending on preference and dietary restrictions. Expanding your palate will ensure that you receive a wide variety of nutrients for optimal cell functioning.
3.) Keep your calories in check.
Being mindful of calories will support healthy body weight over time and lower the risk of chronic disease. The following tips can assist with your daily caloric intake:
  • Start with produce. Most fruits and veggies are low in calories and stay satiated for extended periods. Be conscious of canned fruits and veggies, as they may contain added sodium or sugar.
  • Eat the proper portions of grains, proteins, and fats, as they can be calorically dense. Not sure where to begin? Make the nutrition label your best friend!
  • Cook at home and use a smaller plate to control portion sizes.
  • Get up and move! You can burn extra calories by taking the stairs or walking on your break.
Foods that Sabotage You
Life happens, so healthy food choices may not always be feasible. However, some foods, such as processed foods, should be enjoyed in moderation. Processed foods are often packed with salt, artificial sweeteners, excess fat, and preservatives. Frequent indulgence can lead to vitamin deficiencies, toxin overload, and weight gain, all of which set the stage for stomach, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer, to name a few.
Therefore, a healthy eating plan will limit the following foods to once or twice per month:
  • Refined grains and highly processed foods: white bread, salty snacks, sugary treats and cereals, packaged or instant meals, fast food, processed cheese, frozen dinners
  • Processed meats: sausage, bacon, salami, hot dogs, lunch meat
  • Red meats: beef, pork, lamb
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, sports drinks
  • Alcoholic beverages
Healthy swaps can be made to ease the transition from junk food to healthy food. Instead of chips, you can snack on air-popped popcorn; instead of candy, you can enjoy a bowl of mixed berries. If you decide to indulge, opt for smaller portions or eliminate condiments.
Taking small, tangible steps to improve your diet will allow you to establish a long-term health transformation. Cancer can be a preventable diagnosis; it doesn’t need to be yours. 
By, Coach Kaleigh

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