Whether you are trying to prevent cancer, going through treatment, or a cancer survivor, the recommendations for nutrition start out similarly. Achieving a healthy weight, being physically active, and ensuring your diet consists of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can reduce the development of cancer, recurrence of cancer and improve one’s outcome during treatment.
Achieve a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a well-balanced diet can decrease the risk of recurrence or developing a new type of cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research found that excess body fat was linked to 117,000 new cancer cases yearly. Obesity increases one's risk to develop at least 13 types of cancer. Have you heard of the “Apple” or “Pear” shaped body type? The locations where the specific fat is distributed in these two body shapes are associated with, but not limited to increased risk of breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, and pancreatic cancer.
Move More, Sit Less
Staying physically active can reduce ones risk of developing cancer, and help during treatment. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, reduce inflammation, and reduce treatment side effects such as fatigue and nausea. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (tennis doubles, push lawn mowing, brisk walk), or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (running, hiking, soccer game), or a combination of the two. It is also suggested to try to add strength training twice per week for muscle and bone strength.
Increase your general daily movement, every step counts!
Eat the Rainbow
A well-balanced diet can help give you adequate energy, achieve/maintain healthy weight, maintain muscle strength, improve treatment outcome, relieve/reduce side effects, and much more!
Aim to increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables to at least five servings. Include a variety of types and colors to ensure you are getting different nutrients in your diet. For example cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) have properties that help reduce heart disease risk and protect against breast, lung and prostate cancer, whereas, orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, mangoes, oranges) have carotenoids that may reduce risk of heart disease and helps boost your immune system.
Consuming whole grains (brown rice, barley and oats) while limiting refined grains (white rice, pasta and crackers) can help with weight management as well as provide nutritional benefits such as fiber. Fiber helps with blood glucose control, lowering blood cholesterol levels, and aides in digestion. Eat lean sources of protein such as beans, legumes, tofu, eggs, fish, chicken/turkey without the skin. Limit red/processed meats which have been shown to increase risk of stomach and colorectal cancers. Research has linked diets high in fat and added sugar to weight gain, and excess fat can cause certain cancers.
Limit consumption of alcohol. Alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancers such as mouth, esophagus, stomach, breast and liver cancer. Tobacco is also a major cause of cancer, quitting will significantly reduce your risk of lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum cancer.
A registered dietitian can work with you to optimize your nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment. They can guide you with nutrition related symptom management of treatment, help you to reach and maintain your goal weight, develop individualized meal/snack plans, debunk internet data, and support your journey.
A cancer diagnosis can create the fear of the unknown, emotional and financial stress. Bristol Health’s Cancer Care Center has a caring and compassionate team of experts who work with you one-on-one, your families and caregivers from the moment you walk through the door and continues through your treatment and beyond. The Cancer Care Center has a monthly support group for patients and caregivers on the first Tuesday of each month. The support group is a great opportunity to connect with others who might be going through similar experiences. To get more support today, please contact the Cancer Care Center Social Worker, Kathy Batten, at 860-585-3356.
The Bristol Health Cancer Center is proud to be a sponsor of the Relay for Life of Bristol which takes place from 2 pm – 8 am, June 7 and 8, at 70 Memorial Blvd, Bristol.
Jessica Mirkin, RD, CD-N, is a clinical dietitian with the Bristol Health Cancer Care Center. To learn more about the nutrition services offered at the Cancer Care Center, please call 860-585-3911.