The standard American diet rates very poorly in promoting good health. We see this quite plainly in the skyrocketing incidence of obesity and related ailments, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, there is growing awareness in the scientific community that the high-fat, high-salt, sugar-sweetened, and highly-processed foods that comprise the average American’s diet actually increase the risk of developing several forms of cancer.
Colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers, cancer of the oral cavity, head and neck cancer, uterine cancer, kidney cancer, and stomach cancer are just some of the cancers that can be associated with poor diet. Looking at the numbers for colorectal cancer alone, approximately 52,000 cases diagnosed each year are diet-related.
Charu Trivedi, MD, of The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers, explains, “On a scale of one to 10, the standard American diet gets a rating of one, meaning it’s very unhealthy. Thirty-two percent of the diet comes from animal fat, and 57 percent consists of processed plant foods. Only 11 percent comes from whole grains, beans and lentils, and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are foods known to help prevent cancer.”
Being overweight or obese, in and of itself, puts people at much greater risk of developing cancer, and the higher the body mass index (BMI), the higher the risk. In fact, 13 different cancers have been linked to being overweight/obese, and each year approximately 600,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with an overweight- or obesity-related cancer.
Among the foods Dr. Trivedi advises against are processed and packaged foods, noting that the ingredients manufacturers add to increase the shelf life of these products contain carcinogens. She also cautions against heating oils when cooking, which produces carcinogens, and emphasizes that not all oils are equally healthy. Olive oil and sunflower oil are preferable to other choices. White flour, white rice, and sugar are on her list of items to limit, as is salt, being both harmful to cardiovascular health and cancer-causing when consumed in excess. Meat should be kept to a minimum as well, with about three ounces being an appropriate serving size.
Alcohol consumption is another major dietary risk factor for developing cancer. Dr. Trivedi states, “Alcohol is linked to many different cancer types, including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, bladder, colon, and liver. Not only are there carcinogens in the alcoholic products themselves, but once alcohol is consumed, it’s broken down by the body to form acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Alcohol contributes to breast cancer risk by increasing the level of estrogen in the body. It also impairs absorption of nutrients.”
The current recommendation is to limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. For the purpose of these guidelines, one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 40-proof liquor.
On the flip side of the coin are foods that should be consumed for their cancer-protective properties and other health benefits. Perhaps not surprising, this list contains a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Examples include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts; carotenoid-rich vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash; lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes and watermelon; allium vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks, chives, and shallots; citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit; berries; bell peppers; almonds and walnuts; and leafy greens (the darker the green, the better).
Dr. Trivedi recommends choosing organic foods whenever possible, since they should contain no cancer-causing additives, pesticides, or herbicides. Cancer-protective benefits are also seen in fermented foods, such as yogurt and beans and lentils that have been soaked, as well as alkaline foods, which encompass all fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits.
Summing up her best nutritional advice for anyone wanting to reduce cancer risk, Dr. Trivedi states, “Maintain a healthy weight; limit your consumption of calorie-dense foods; make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes the major portion of any meal; limit alcohol; limit salt and sugar; keep meat to a minimum; and watch your portion sizes.”
The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers, located at 4126 N. Holland Sylvania Road, Suite 105, has 11 physicians, 4 Research Nurses, and 7 nurse practitioners on staff and can provide imaging and laboratory diagnostic services, chemotherapy services, and IV services. The cancer center also has satellite centers in Maumee, Napoleon, Bowling Green, and Monroe.
The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers has earned Patient-Centered Specialty Practice level 3 recognition and Oncology Medical Home recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Oncology homes align systems and resources with coordinated care focused on cancer patients and their needs. This reduces fragmentation, supports shared decision making, and improves the patient experience. They are the first oncology practice in the state of Michigan and the second oncology practice in the state of Ohio to receive this recognition.
For more information, please call The Toledo Clinic Cancer Centers at 419-479-5605. ❦