Cancer continues to be a major topic of conversation when it comes to public health. Prevention tactics, better diagnosis techniques, and cutting-edge treatments are all advocated to lessen the devastating effects of cancer and improve the quality of life for those who are impacted.
Many different factors interact in a complex way to cause the increased incidence of cancer that we see today. The rise in cancer cases is mostly due to lifestyle decisions including smoking, eating poorly, and being inactive.
Cancer development is also influenced by environmental variables, such as exposure to carcinogens and pollution. Age is a major risk factor for many types of cancer, thus the ageing population also adds to the general rise in cancer cases. Furthermore, better diagnostic tools and medical technology developments have made it possible to identify cancer instances that may have gone undetected in the past. Genetic predisposition is still a component, but the importance of lifestyle and environmental factors is growing, which highlights the need for public health programmes, education, and legislation that promote healthier lifestyles and reduce exposure to recognised carcinogens. Taking on these complex reasons is essential to creating methods that effectively stop the cancer epidemic in today's world.
Diets high in specific nutrients are highly beneficial in promoting general health and lowering the risk of cancer. Antioxidants, which are present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and micro-nutrients such as vitamins C and E, selenium, and beta-carotene, are essential in scavenging free radicals that may cause harm to cells. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are high in fibre, which has been associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
Walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fatty fish are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and have anti-inflammatory qualities and may lower the risk of several types of malignancies. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage contain substances like sulforaphane which have potential anti-cancer benefits. The super antioxidant, curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which also help to fight cancer. Probiotics from fermented foods like pickled vegetables, yoghurt and polyphenol-rich green tea may also help prevent cancer.
With diet playing such a key role in minimising the risk of cancer, here's a list of dietary basics to keep in mind to cancer-proof your body:
Focus on fruits and vegetables: Consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables as it helps prevent oxidative stress and inflammation, the two major factors that are linked to the development of cancer. These nutrients also include vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Eliminate consumption of red and processed meats: Consuming large amounts of meat has been linked to an elevated risk of colorectal cancer. Instead, opt for lean protein options such as fish, chicken, beans, and lentils.
Opt for whole grains: Refined and polished grains are not as nutritious as whole grains. Antioxidants, fibre, and other phytochemicals included in whole grains would help prevent several forms of cancer.
Skip unhealthy saturated fats: This includes processed meals, full-fat processed dairy products, and fatty meat cuts. Instead of these unhealthy options, choose to consume fats from healthier sources such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil, virgin coconut oil, fresh butter and ghee in moderation.
Stop consumption of alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol has been connected to a higher risk of developing several types of cancer. It's important to stop drinking if you are diagnosed with cancer or else keep it in moderation to prevent cancers.
Stay hydrated: Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Water is essential for good health and can support a healthy weight. Additionally, staying well hydrated may help lower the chance of several types of cancers.
Limit sugar: Many studies explain the link between high sugar intake and the growth of cancerous tissues. Processed foods and added sugars contribute to a higher risk of developing several malignancies. Choose foods that are not adulterated and include natural sweeteners like fruits. Personally, I recommend my patients only use natural sweeteners like fruit juice, honey, jaggery or coconut flower syrup.
Maintain a healthy weight: It is well-agreed that obesity increases the chance of developing numerous cancers. A healthy weight can be attained and maintained with the help of a balanced diet, frequent exercise and yoga.
Limit your salt intake: Consuming a lot of salt has been linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer. When seasoning food, opt for fresh ingredients like herbs rather than pre-packaged spice mixes.
Dr Manoj Kutteri is medical director and CEO at Atmantan Wellness Centre, Pune.