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April Cancer Awareness Month


Article by Steve Steve

Photography by Steve Steve

April is awareness month for Testicular, Esophageal, and Head/Neck Cancers. As many of us get older we find that cancer touches more and more people that we know whether it's loved ones or acquaintances. The increasing numbers can be fearful but with proper preventive care we have hopes in lowering those increasing cancer diagnosis numbers!

Today, we'd like to cover the importance of diet in relation to cancer; the foods you should stay clear from and the foods you should indulge in! Although, it's important to note that no single food or food group has been definitively proven to "fuel" cancer cells. However, some dietary patterns and specific foods have been associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer or may promote cancer progression indirectly. Here are some dietary factors to consider:

  1. Highly Processed Foods: Diets high in processed foods, which often contain high levels of sugar, unhealthy fats, and additives, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Consuming a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is generally recommended.
  2. Sugary Foods and Beverages: High sugar intake can lead to obesity and insulin resistance, which are risk factors for several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.
  3. Processed Meats: Consumption of processed meats (such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats) has been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Limiting intake of these meats and opting for lean protein sources like poultry, fish, and plant-based proteins may be beneficial.
  4. Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including liver, breast, and colorectal cancer. Moderation is key, and it's generally recommended that men limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day, and women limit it to one drink per day.
  5. High-Calorie, Low-Nutrient Foods: Foods that are high in calories but low in essential nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) can contribute to weight gain and poor overall health, which may increase cancer risk.
  6. Trans Fats: Trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated oils often used in processed and fried foods, have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and may also contribute to cancer risk.
  7. Excessive Caloric Intake: Obesity and excess body fat have been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer. Consuming more calories than your body needs can contribute to weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for cancer.

When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, it's essential to maintain good nutrition to support overall health and well-being. Here are some types of foods that are generally recommended for individuals with cancer:

  1. Fruits and Vegetables: These are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, which are important for overall health and may help boost the immune system. Aim for a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure a diverse range of nutrients.
  2. Whole Grains: Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They can help maintain energy levels and support digestive health.
  3. Lean Proteins: Opt for lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), and nuts. Protein is essential for tissue repair and immune function.
  4. Healthy Fats: Include sources of healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. These fats provide essential fatty acids and can help reduce inflammation.
  5. Dairy or Dairy Alternatives: Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese, or dairy alternatives fortified with calcium and vitamin D. These provide important nutrients like calcium and protein.
  6. Hydration: It's crucial to stay hydrated, especially during cancer treatment. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consider hydrating foods like soups, broths, fruits, and vegetables.
  7. Small, Frequent Meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day may be easier to tolerate, especially if someone is experiencing side effects like nausea, fatigue, or changes in appetite.
  8. Nutrient-Dense Snacks: Keep nutrient-dense snacks on hand for quick and easy options between meals. Examples include yogurt with fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grain crackers with hummus, or fresh fruit with nut butter.
  9. Herbs and Spices: Incorporate herbs and spices into meals for flavor and potential health benefits. Some herbs and spices, such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic, have anti-inflammatory properties.

It's important to note that nutritional needs can vary depending on the individual's overall health, cancer type, treatment regimen, and any side effects experienced. Consulting with a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition can provide personalized dietary recommendations tailored to specific needs and preferences. Additionally, it's essential to follow any dietary guidelines provided by the healthcare team overseeing the cancer treatment.

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