Cancer is believed to be related to lifestyle. Diet is only one component of an overall lifestyle that can have an impact on health; other components include smoking, consumption of alcoholic beverages, exposure to sun, physical activity, and stress.
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research have made the following lifestyle recommendations to decrease risk of cancer:
- Eat a nutritionally adequate and varied diet, based primarily on foods of plant origin. In particular, eat five or more servings a day of a variety of vegetables and fruits and avoid excessive red meat consumption. Red meat should provide less than 10 percent of your total energy needs or less than 3 ounces daily.
- Avoid being underweight or overweight and limit weight gain during adulthood to less than eleven pounds. It is also important to maintain physical activity. If occupational activity is low or moderate, take an hour's brisk walk or similar exercise daily.
- Limit consumption of salted foods and use of cooking and table salt. Use herbs and spices to season food.
There is no magic pill that will help prevent cancer, but a healthy diet can. Supplements seem like an easy way to bolster vitamins, minerals and fiber in your diet, but research shows that consuming these nutrients in wholesome foods is the best way to achieve cancer protection. There are many reasons to promote getting nutrients from foods rather than from pills.
- Many compounds may work together in food that will not be found together in pills.
- Toxicities and nutrient imbalances are less likely to occur when nutrients are derived from foods. For example, high intakes of some nutrients may decrease absorption of other nutrients.
- There may be compounds in foods that are protective against cancer but have not been discovered yet. Finally, foods offer more than cancer protective substances - protein, carbohydrates and fat provide energy and tissue building capabilities.
Therefore, dietary supplements are probably unnecessary, and possibly are not helpful, for reducing cancer risk.
Plant-based foods produce a wide variety of compounds that are refer to as phytochemicals which help to prevent and treat numerous health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Because of the number of phytochemicals and the complexity of the chemical processes they are involved in, researchers face the challenging task of trying to determine which phytochemicals in foods are truly beneficial to health which may fight cancer and other diseases, and which may even be harmful. They are also working on ways to increase the levels of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, but they are not sure how the chemicals work in relation to other nutrients in foods or how much is needed for cancer protection. Therefore, eating a whole variety of plant-based foods is the key to getting those phytochemicals that we need.
Experts also stress that diet, regardless of how healthy, may reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases but other crucial factors such as genetics and the environment, clearly play a role as well. Nowadays, much of the fruits and vegetables are contaminated by pesticides but most experts agree that the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweigh any risks.
Vegetarianism based on sound nutrition principles can be a healthier choice, but neither vegetarians nor non-vegetarians have a monopoly on healthy eating. Vegetarians are just as diverse in their health status as are non-vegetarians. Similar health benefits can be gained from both well-selected non-vegetarian and vegetarian diets.
Unless they choose a proper balance of foods, strict vegetarians are at risk for several deficiencies, especially vitamin B12. The other nutrients at risk include riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and essential amino acids. Since B12 is present only in animal foods and a limited number of specially fortified foods, vegetarians should probably take B12 supplements prescribed by a physician.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organisation which encourages vegetarianism, is offering a free download of its 16-page book entitled Healthy Eating for Life: Food Choices for Cancer Prevention and Survival. The URL is: http://www.cancerproject.org/resources/hefl/hefl_handbook.php
Many adults and children do not like vegetables. Some interesting ways to increase consumption of plant-based food are as follows :
- Juicing - fruits, vegetables, sprouts, wheatgrass
- Sprouting - growing and eating sprouts
Though the causes of cancer are still being debated, environmental and industrial pollution could be one of the possible causes of cancer.