Best Health


Q: I’ve heard eat­ing cer­tain foods will not only im­prove my health but also re­duce my risk of de­vel­op­ing cancer. Which foods should I fo­cus on, and which should I avoid?


THERE COULD BE no more im­por­tant goal than im­prov­ing your health, and a great place to start is with your diet. And yes, new re­search shows that what you eat can af­fect your risk for de­vel­op­ing cer­tain can­cers, too. The Har­vard T.H. Chan School of Pub­lic Health re­cently re­leased an analysis of 20 stud­ies and

con­cluded that a high-fi­bre diet is an im­por­tant com­po­nent in help­ing to re­duce the risk of both pre­menopausal and post­menopausal breast can­cers. The re­search shows that women who ate the most fi­bre (com­pared to those who ate the least) were eight per­cent less likely to de­velop breast cancer.

In­creas­ing daily fi­bre in­take should be a fo­cus for all of us — the av­er­age North Amer­i­can eats only about half the daily rec­om­mended amount. And eat­ing a high-fi­bre diet not only helps re­duce your risk of de­vel­op­ing cancer but also aids in weight man­age­ment, low­ers choles­terol, sta­bi­lizes blood sugar lev­els and pro­motes gut health (also known as a healthy mi­cro­biome).

Fol­low­ing a plant-based diet is an es­pe­cially ef­fi­cient way of in­creas­ing your daily fi­bre in­take. Plus, with each bite of brightly coloured fruits and veg, and plenty of legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains, you’re also get­ting power-packed phy­to­chem­i­cals

(the com­pounds that con­trib­ute to a plant’s colour, smell and taste, found in all edi­ble plant parts, es­pe­cially the skin or peel). Re­search in­di­cates some promis­ing health ben­e­fits tied to phy­to­chem­i­cals—as long as they’re con­sumed in food, rather than sup­ple­ment, form.

Here are some foods to fo­cus on.

• Car­rots, squash, toma­toes and dark leafy greens con­tain carotenoid­s, which may in­hibit cancer growth and boost im­mu­nity.

• Ap­ples, berries, cit­rus fruits, cof­fee, onions and soy­beans con­tain flavonoids, which may help fight in­flam­ma­tion and tu­mour growth.

• Broc­coli, Brussels sprouts, cab­bage, cau­li­flower and kale con­tain in­doles, which may help de­stroy can­cer­caus­ing chem­i­cals.

• Leafy green veg­eta­bles con­tain lutein, which may re­duce the risk of breast cancer and heart dis­ease.

• Ap­ples, cit­rus fruits and onions con­tain quercetin, which may help de­crease in­flam­ma­tion.

• Cher­ries, cit­rus fruits and man­goes con­tain ter­penes, which may help slow cancer cell growth and fight viruses.

Here are some foods to avoid.

• Al­co­hol: Even small amounts of al­co­hol have been shown to in­crease the risk of de­vel­op­ing cancer.

• Red meat: A high in­take of red meat may in­crease the risk of cer­tain can­cers. Limit red meat to one serv­ing per week, and aim for at least one meat-free day per week (hello, meat­less Mon­day!).

• Deep-fried or grilled foods: High­heat cook­ing meth­ods such as grilling, bar­be­cu­ing and fry­ing cre­ate harm­ful car­cino­genic chem­i­cals. Avoid burnt toast, and charred meats and veg­eta­bles. Cut off and throw away any charred por­tions.

• Ul­tra-pro­cessed and pre­pared foods: These are al­most al­ways low in nu­tri­ents and high in added salt, sugar, food ad­di­tives, preser­va­tives, sweet­en­ers and un­healthy fats. They wreak havoc on the body by pro­mot­ing in­flam­ma­tion (which in­creases the risk for de­vel­op­ing chronic dis­eases, in­clud­ing cancer.) Avoid ar­ti­fi­cially sweet­ened bev­er­ages; boxed meals like mac­a­roni and cheese, and taco kits; sug­ary ce­re­als; mi­crowave­able foods; pro­cessed deli meats and hot dogs con­tain­ing ni­trates; and pre-made pizza.

• Sug­ars and re­fined car­bo­hy­drates: Added sug­ars pro­mote chronic in­flam­ma­tion in the body. Avoid high-sugar break­fast ce­re­als, store-bought cook­ies and cakes, candy, en­ergy drinks, flavoured yo­gourts, fruit punch or juice “cocktails” or “bev­er­ages,” salad dress­ings and soda or pop.

Aim for five to nine serv­ings of fruits and veg­eta­bles daily, in­clud­ing legumes, nuts and seeds, to en­sure you’re get­ting enough fi­bre, phy­to­chem­i­cals, vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and pro­tein from plant sources — while also get­ting pro­tein and nu­tri­ents from a lim­ited amount of an­i­mal prod­ucts. At ev­ery meal, fill two-thirds of your plate with plant foods, and the re­main­ing one-third with fish, skin­less poul­try or meat, or dairy. Aim to limit red meat, and avoid pro­cessed meat. En­sure your meals are colour­ful and full of va­ri­ety, as this will help pro­vide your body with the key nu­tri­ents, phy­to­chem­i­cals and nat­u­ral in­flam­ma­tion-fight­ing com­pounds re­quired for op­ti­mal health. And, best of all, you’ll feel fan­tas­tic.

“The av­er­age North Amer­i­can eats only about half the daily rec­om­mended amount of fi­bre.”

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