Healthy Lifestyle

Fight cancer with food: your three essentials

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By Ellen Grimlie, RD, LN

March 4, 2014

Ellen Grimlie is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist at Sanford Health. 

200401681-001No single food can protect you against breast cancer. It’s the healthy balance of all the foods in your diet that offers the strongest defense.

Since we’re all looking for ways to maintain a healthy weight and reduce our disease risk, here are three important tips to keep in mind.

1. Eat at least 2 ½ cups of non-starchy vegetables and fruit each day.

The more variety, the better, because veggies are high in phytochemicals and vitamins that are though to have protective properties.

Choose purple, red, orange and dark green vegetables such as spinach, butternut squash, pumpkin, red pepper, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts, broccoli and all varieties of cabbage, are also important.

Keep in mind, however, that all vegetables aren’t created equal. Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas are higher in carbohydrates and calories, so it’s better to eat a limited amount of these.

2. Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

It’s best for your health to steer clear of refined products, like white bread and white pasta. These products have been so processed that they provide little nutritional benefit, and may actually sabotage your efforts to stay at a healthy weight.

A better option is to explore the endless variety of whole grains. Quinoa (KEEN-wah), for example, has become very popular because it’s not only gluten free, but it’s a complete protein, meaning that it provides all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Couscous, which is actually a small grain-shaped pasta, is another delicious options. Plus, it cooks in just five minutes. Wheat berries are great in salads, or try making some pilaf with barley or other grains such as kamut or farro.

3. Limit consumption of processed meats and red meats.

Red meat, which includes not only beef, but pork and lamb, should be limited to no more than 11 ounces per week. Very little of that should come from processed meat. You’re much better off sticking to white meat such as poultry and fish. Legumes are also excellent alternatives because they are high in nutrients, dietary fiber and protein. They are also low in energy density, which helps you feel fuller on fewer calories. Some great choices include: black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas and lentils. Soy products such as tofu and edamame are also great protein options.

Challenge yourself to try one new vegetable and one new grain at least once a week for a delicious start to a new way of eating! For the greatest protection from cancer, choose a variety of fruits, vegetables and other plant foods and start on the path today. The options are endless and the benefits are worth it!


Sources: American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the American Cancer Society (ACS)

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