Eat to beat cancer with this easy-to-follow diet

Experts believe that more than half of cancer cases can be preventable. A healthy diet can go a long way in hedging against cancer

Racha Adib
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Experts believe that more than half of cancer cases can be preventable. As high as 30-40 percent of these cases are directly linked to an unhealthy diet and the rest are related to tobacco use, infections, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

If there were a perfect diet to lower our risk of getting cancer, what would it look like?
It would contain a lot of the right foods that fight off this disease and very little of the foods that promote it.


Five-a-day for fruits and vegetables

According to one study, eating lots of fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of mouth, throat and lung cancer, as well as some types of stomach cancer by about a quarter. A recent study suggested nearly one in 20 cancer cases may be linked to diets low in fruit and vegetables.

What can you do?

Get five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. One serving of fruits is equivalent to a fruit the size of a tennis ball, while one serving of vegetables is equivalent to a cup of raw vegetable or a half cup of cooked vegetables.

When choosing your fruits and vegetables, eat a rainbow of colors to get a wide range of nutrients represented by these colors.

Keep in mind supplements do not substitute an unbalanced diet and could at times even cause harm.

Fiber up

Eating foods rich in fiber can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by 25-40 percent. A recent study found more than one in ten bowel cancers are linked to a low fiber diet.

How much fiber do you need?

Women should aim for 25 grams per day and men should get 38 grams per day.


Foods with an adequate amount of fiber include: Bran cereal, ½ cup, which has 10g, whole grain bread, 2 slices, which has 6g, brown rice, cooked, one cup, which has 3.5g, burghul, cooked, one cup, which has 9.6g, broccoli, cooked, ¾ cup, which has 7g, squash, raw or cooked, ½ cup, which has 3g, three pitted prunes, which have 1.9g, white beans, cooked, ½ cup, which has 8g, three dried figs, which have 10.5g, Blueberries, one cup, which has 3.6g, peas, cooked, one cup, which has 13.4g and spinach, cooked, ½ cup, which has 7g.

Hold the Red Meat

Too much red meat in your diet can increase your risk of bowel, stomach, and pancreatic cancer. This goes back to a chemical compound called haem that gives red meat its red color. haem can stimulate the bacteria in our stomach to produce chemicals known to cause cancer.

Processed meat, such as sausages and salami, are even worse for you. Most processed meats are preserved by nitrites, a chemical that has been frequently linked to stomach cancer.

Should you cut red meat entirely?

Not necessarily. Some evidence suggests that the effects of haem can be countered by the green pigment chlorophyll, found in green vegetables. So why not add green salad or steamed broccoli next to your steak.


Reduce the amount of meat in your diet by using beans or chicken instead of meat in your recipes.

Shake that salt habit

Eating too much salt may damage the lining of your stomach and increase your risk of stomach cancer. It’s also associated with the bacteria Heliobacter Pylori responsible for stomach ulcers and cancer. In the UK, a high salt diet is to blame for nearly a quarter of stomach cancer cases.

The current recommendation for sodium is 2,400 milligrams a day for adults. One bouillon cube typically contains 1200 mg sodium, half your recommended intake. While one serving of salami, equivalent to 4 slices, contains 900 mg sodium. If you don’t look out, you can easily go over the recommended amount.

How can you eat below the recommendation?

The most effective way to reduce you salt intake is by switching from processed food to fresh food. One cup of canned corn on average contains 730 milligrams sodium.

When choosing packaged foods, look for the nutrition claims “no salt added” or “low sodium.” If you can’t find these phrases you can always rinse canned corn or any other high salt item.

And in order to resist shaking that salt shaker, adding spices can be an effective replacement. Just make sure there’s no hidden sodium in your spice selection.

Avoid the bad fats

Fats are a necessary part of our diet but high-saturated fat diets can increase our risk of breast cancer, according to two large studies.

Fat in our diets probably affect the risk of breast cancer by increasing the levels of the female hormone estrogen in our blood, and too much exposure to estrogen is a major risk factor for breast cancer.


Cut down on saturated fats in fatty meat, biscuits, chips, full fat dairy and butter. Choose lean cuts of meat, skimmed milk, and low fat dairy. Replace butter with canola oil.


The World Health Organization classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen. Alcohol can cause seven types of cancer.

Research shows that people who use both alcohol and tobacco together have much greater risks of developing cancers than people who use either alcohol or tobacco alone. In fact, for oral and pharyngeal cancers, the risk is exponential.

How much is allowed?

No amount. The more we cut down on alcohol, the more we reduce the risk of cancer. Overall, you should remain within the guidelines of about one standard drink a day for women and two for men.

Infographic: Cancer on the rise worldwide
Infographic: Cancer on the rise worldwide

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