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It’s no secret that eating well can have an impact on cancer prevention. The challenge? A Google search for nutrition for cancer prevention can get crazy fast! Alkaline diets and eliminating your favorite foods are not required to prevent cancer. This can lead to diet burnout and a lack of consistency. Consistently eating well is key to health, meaning finding balance is the goal. To help strike a balance and help prevent cancer, check out the foods to add in and cut back on below.
Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
The pigments that provide color to fruit and veggies play an important role as antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent cancer by neutralizing free radicals that cause cell damage. Including dark green, red, orange, and even white produce can provide an array of cancer-preventing antioxidants.
High Fiber Foods
Fiber is found in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and beans. Fiber is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber is also filling and may reduce your risk of weight gain, which is associated with a higher risk of cancer. Fiber also impacts gut bacteria, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Unfortunately, the main benefits of fiber are found in food, not supplements. Consider adding fruit as a snack or oatmeal for breakfast.
Vitamin D is often associated with bone health but may also reduce cancer risk. Dietary sources include fatty fish, mushrooms, fortified juice, and cereals. Unfortunately, studies do not suggest that Vitamin D supplementation reduces cancer risk. If supplements were recommended at your physical, continue supplementation while adding foods that are high in Vitamin D.
Alcohol use accounts for 6% of all cancers; the recommended amount is likely less than you think. Moderate alcohol use is considered 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. More than 14 drinks per week is considered heavy drinking. Serving size is classified as 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1.5 oz liquor. Some research has shown that consuming any amount of alcohol increases the risk of some types of cancer. Drinking more than 14 drinks per week may not mean that you have a clinical dependence on alcohol; however, you may want to evaluate your intake within the context of your health goals.
Processed meats have been cured, smoked, salted, or fermented to enhance flavor. This includes bacon, sausage, bologna, hot dogs, ad deli meat. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has grouped processed meat into Group 1, or “cancer-causing to humans,” based on an increased risk for colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, there are no suggested servings per week that is considered “safe.” The recommendation is to eat sparingly or not at all if cancer prevention is your goal. Note that turkey and chicken-based sausage or bacon are classified as processed meat by the IARC.
The Bottom Line
Heart disease is a combination of factors and can be overwhelming. It is okay to make one small change at a time! You would be surprised what cutting out a soda, eating an extra vegetable, or fitting in a 20-minute workout can do over time. You can improve your heart health and firefighting abilities with a few targeted lifestyle changes.
Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long, healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.