On February 4th, World Cancer Day, I attended an webinar hosted by the Irish Cancer Prevention Network (ICPN) and the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI). The webinar “Food for thought: Eating to Reduce Cancer Risk” , was aimed at educating the public about the benefits of a healthy diet in reducing cancer risk. I thought I’d share some of the information I learned here.
There are many reasons why people contract cancer and sometimes it’s down to genetics and bad luck. But, for many, the risk of cancer can be greatly reduced with lifestyle changes and nutrition is one of these.
- there can be up to an 11% reduction in the risk of contracting head, neck, mouth, oesophagus, bowel and lung cancer by including plenty of fruit and veg in the diet.
- up to 17% reduction in the risk of contracting colon cancer by including fibre in your diet.
Fruit & Veg
The more fruit & veg you eat, the lower your risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables include lots of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The good news is that some is better than none. So, even if you’re not a big fan of fruits or vegetables, trying to include even a small amount in your diet can help. Ideally, 1/3 – 1/2 of your meals should be fruit/veg/salad.
Wholegrains & Fibre
These help to decrease the risk of colon cancer. We should aim to eat about 25g of fibre a day. If you don’t already consume fibre in your diet, build up slowly to 25g by eating wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, nuts & seeds, beans, lentals and fruit & veg. Avoid processed grains and carbs such as sugary cereals, white breads, white pasta etc.
Try to get your protein from multiple sources including meat, poultry, beans, lentils, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds. Avoid processed meats, limit red meats (but it’s not necessary to cut these out altogether unless you want to), try to eat fish twice a week, and eat some plant-based protein.
Dairy & Calcium
There has been no scientific evidence to link dairy to cancer in Europe. Some countries allow the use of antibiotics and hormones in the production of their dairy products which may cause a link to cancer, but this practice is banned in Europe.
Again, there is no scientific evidence to specifically link sugar to cancer, but eating and drinking high added-sugar foods/drinks can cause other health problems. This may, in turn, lead to a greater risk of cancer. Try to avoid foods with added sugars, foods with naturally occurring sugars such as fruits are fine to include in your diet.
Several types of cancer including mouth, breast, liver and colon have been linked to Alcohol consumption. 900 new cases of cancer in Ireland each year can be linked to alcohol. If avoiding alcohol completely is out of the question, try to reduce your intake as much as possible.
Research shows that drinking coffee and tea may reduce the risk of some cancers such as endometrial & liver. Limit it to 2 -4 cups or 1 – 2 mugs a day.
If you’d like to listen to the full recording of the webinar, you can access it here Food for thought: Eating to Reduce Cancer Risk – INDI