Cancer and Nutrition

The National Cancer Institute estimates that at least 35% of all cancers have a nutritional connection. When lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise are included the associated risk becomes much stronger and may be as high as 85%.

Which foods are less important for health?

If we emphasize those that are supportive to our health then we will find ourselves eating less of the foods that contain "empty" nutrients. These foods may provide pleasure so we need to keep them in our diet at low levels only. Such foods include desserts, cakes, candies and many items made with saturated animal fats. I prefer to think of the 80:20 rule when selecting foods. 80% of the time we should choose healthful foods from the plant kingdom such as those listed above, and 20% of the time we can choose foods that provide pleasure and may not be quite as healthful.


Why id Dietary fiber important in cancer oreventio?


Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of foods of plant origin (it doesn't occur in any foods that come from animals, e.g. butter, meat, eggs, fish). Fiber provides bulk to our diet and helps to maintain a healthy colon. It does this in several ways; first, it stimulates muscle contractions and hence reduces colon transit time (minimizes constipation). Secondly, it dilutes any potentially hazardous or carcinogenic substances and also reduces the amount of time these substances would be in contact with the colon wall. Thirdly, it provides an environment that is conducive to "friendly" bacteria or acidophilus. These are supportive to us as they partially digest some of the fiber and provide us with nutrients and they also maintain a healthy acidic level in the colon. All of these factors are synergistic and hence eating dietary fiber throughout the day provides the best environment in our colon that is reflected in our overall health. Cholesterol and steroid hormones that are similarly structured including the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone as well as vitamin D and cortisol are regulated in part by secretion into the digestive tract via the bile and reabsorption. Dietary fiber plays an indirect part in regulating the reabsorption as the bacteria acts on some of these bile acids and assists in their excretion.

Most Americans eat about 10 grams of dietary fiber each day but this is about half of what is ideal. The suggested range is 25-35 grams spread over the day. This is best accomplished by eating fiber rich foods at each meal such as whole grain cereals, breads, pastas, beans, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.


Is food cooked at high temlperatures unhealthy?


Frying or charbroiling meat or fish may cause carcinogens on the surface by the action of the heat. Smoking or nitrite curing meats may also form carcinogens. These carcinogens may not be harmful when consumed in small quantities and particularly when we eat them with fruits and vegetables that contain protective botanical factors. It is wise to use lower heat methods for most of our cooking methods such as steaming, braising, poaching, stewing or microwaving. Marinades help to make cooked meats safer.