Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the CDC. Though cancer sometimes seems like a mystery, there are a number of things we know increase your risk. Whether you’ve never had cancer before or are a survivor, the prevention guidelines remain the same. We can all decrease our risk of cancer with the foods we eat and the lifestyle choices we make.
Obesity is associated with approximately a third of the cancers diagnosed each year. The majority of Americans are overweight or obese. Overweight is defined by a BMI between 25 and 30 and obese is defined by a BMI greater than 30. Find out your BMI here. Obesity increases cancer risk by producing excess hormones and causing inflammation. Fortunately, we can combat obesity by getting up and moving and eating a balanced diet.
Current physical activity guidelines encourage 150 minutes of activity per week and at least two days of strength training. If this seems overwhelming to you, start out small and work your way up to the recommendation over a few weeks. Aside from structured activity, we can work in small changes throughout our days to increase our active time. Take the stairs whenever possible and avoid sitting for longer than one hour. Set a timer for yourself to work for 57 minutes. Then get up, maybe walk to a window and enjoy the view.
Following an overall balanced diet is the best way to take in all necessary nutrients. Try using the MyPlate guidelines to get the right balance of protein foods, grains, veggies and fruit. This can be tough so here are a few specific foods that contain nutrients known to decrease cancer risk:
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts contain carotenoids, vitamins C, E and K, fiber and indoles. Carotenoids and vitamins C and E work as antioxidants to control cell damage. Fiber is important to keep the GI tract functioning appropriately to decrease colon cancer risk. Finally, indoles decrease cancer risk by protecting cells against damage and may inhibit the development of cancer. Try roasting or steaming these veggies for a quick yummy side dish!
- Berries including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries contain phytochemicals, vitamin C and fiber. Phytochemicals encourage our immune system to function properly, prevent DNA damage and regulate our hormones. Add these to a smoothie or oatmeal!
- Winter squash is packed with antioxidants and carotenoids, which help control cell damage and support our immune system. Squash also contains vitamin C and fiber! Curl up on the couch with a bowl of butternut squash soup or make your favorite pasta dish with spaghetti squash!