Reduce your risk of cancer with a plant-based diet
Millions of new cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide every year. While some people have a higher genetic risk of developing cancer, research shows that nearly 25% of all cancer cases could be prevented with good nutrition. Therefore, daily food choices are key to cancer prevention.
The choices you make at the grocery store have a bigger impact than just dinner plans. Filling the plate with food grown on the ground may be the best diet for cancer prevention, says dietician Grace Fjeldberg in an article by the famous Mayo Clinic (USA).
Scientific studies have shown that a plant-based diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes and little or no meat or other animal products may reduce the risk of cancer.
According to these dietary studies, people who follow a vegan diet have the lowest cancer rates, followed by those who follow a vegetarian diet.
Plant-based foods are full of so-called phytochemicals that protect the body from harm. Phytochemicals also disrupt processes in the body that promote cancer development. Additionally, a plant-based diet is high in fiber, which reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer.
Secondary plant substances
According to Grace Fjeldberg, two of the most useful phytochemicals (phytochemicals) are:
Antioxidants: These types of phytochemicals protect the body from damage. Cancer occurs when the DNA of cells is damaged. This causes abnormal cells to divide uncontrollably, which can infiltrate and destroy normal body tissues. Cellular damage can also be caused by radiation, viruses, and exposure to other chemicals.
The body’s natural metabolism produces oxidants which can also damage cells. Antioxidants neutralize these damaging processes and protect and regenerate cells.
Some foods high in antioxidants are dark chocolate, peeled apples, avocados, artichokes, red cabbage, tea, coffee, nuts, and cereals.
Carotenoids: These are fat-soluble compounds, meaning they must be accompanied by a source of fat to be absorbed. Carotenoids are found naturally in many fruits, grains, oils and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, apricots, peppers and leafy greens.
They are heavily pigmented, so look for natural reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. Examples of carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein. They have been linked in research to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration and cataracts.
Combine Plant Foods
Many plant foods are also rich in provitamins called alpha and gamma carotene. When consumed, these vitamins can be converted into vitamin A. This nutrient is important for vision, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity. Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties.
Nutrients and phytochemicals found in plant-based foods appear to work independently and together to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
This means plant-based foods work best when eaten in combination with other foods, rather than alone. For example, a prostate cancer study showed that a combination diet of tomato and broccoli was more effective at slowing tumor growth than tomato or broccoli alone.
Plant-based foods are rich in natural fiber. A high fiber diet has been shown to reduce cancer risk and insulin levels.
According to one study, young women who ate the highest fiber diet were 25% less likely to develop breast cancer later in life. And according to a meta-analysis, the risk of colon cancer decreases by 10% for 10 grams of fiber.
So there are enough reasons to focus more on plant-based foods.
Recommendations for minimum quantities
However, fresh fruits and vegetables can be more expensive, says the dietitian. Good alternatives are frozen fruits and vegetables. These are frozen to preserve nutrients and are less expensive. Canned options are also available for those on a tighter budget. Be sure to choose options with no added sugar or salt.
Grace Fjeldberg advises including at least the following amounts in your diet to feel full and get needed phytochemicals and fiber:
Fruits: 1.5 to 2.5 cups per day Vegetables: 2.5 to 4 cups per day Whole grains: 80 to 140 grams per day Legumes: 1.5 cups per week Protein: 140 to 200 grams per day. Legumes, dairy products, tofu and eggs are excellent sources of protein. Or choose lean meats and avoid processed meats. Fats: 3 to 5 servings per day. A serving is one teaspoon of oil, four halves of walnuts, or one-sixth of an avocado.
Switch to a plant-based diet
A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be implemented overnight. Making gradual changes is more sustainable and realistic for most people. Some tips from the expert:
Start your day off right: enjoy a delicious and healthy breakfast with whole grain rolled oats, buckwheat or quinoa and fruit to give you the energy you need for the day.
Experiment with meatless dishes: try one new meatless recipe per week.
Treat meat like an ingredient: Instead of using meat as the main course, use little for flavor.
Use more legumes: Reduce the amount of meat in recipes by increasing the amount of beans, lentils or vegetables.
Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables first: Cover about half of your plate with fruits and vegetables for lunch and dinner.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, prepared in different ways, improves your chances of preventing cancer, concludes the dietitian. And don’t forget to combine good nutrition with plenty of exercise. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Mayo Clinic: Plant power: Using diet to lower cancer risk, (accessed: 06.07.2022), Mayo Clinic
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.