Cancer is complex and the truth is that there are risk factors we can't control, such as genetics and some environmental exposures. That said, research reveals that there are specific dietary habits that are consistently linked to reduced risk. In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund states that "30–50% of all cancer cases are preventable by following a healthy diet and lifestyle".
While some risks are out of our hands, diet is something that we can influence everyday. So, let's review the 3 evidence-based simple food "rules" you can follow now to reduce cancer risk and support your overall health and well-being.
1. Vegetables & fruit
A summary of over 95 studies show a significantly reduced risk of cancer and all-cause mortality for those that consume between 3-4 cups of vegetables and fruit per day (600-800g). Vegetable and fruit provide increased levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, water and fiber. Currently, the American Institute for Caner Research suggests that adults should focus on a plant-forward diet, aiming for 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day and between 2-3 cups of vegetables.
High fiber diets are associated with better overall health and well-being. However, eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, alone, may not do the trick. Veggies and fruits are very high in insoluble fiber (the fiber that gives the plant its structure of "crunch"). Along with eating a large amount of veggies and fruit, research also points to the critical importance of soluble fiber for cancer prevention.
Your highest sources of dietary soluble fiber are beans, lentils, flax, chia and whole grains. Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes "gooey" in your gut. In that process, it attaches to toxins, cholesterol, dietary fat and even excess hormones and carries that waste into your colon and into your toilet. Soluble fiber is, in essence, a garbage truck that enhances our body's natural detox pathways. A diet high in soluble fiber (over 20 grams/day), decreases toxic load and, therefore, reduces cancer risk.
Fasting is nothing new, but in recent years more attention has been paid to the potential benefits of different forms of fasting including time-restricted eating, intermittent fasting and fasting-mimicking diets. Time restricted eating restricts the window of eating throughout the day to anywhere between 6-10 hours. On the other hand, intermittent fasting and fasting mimicking diets (FMD) restrict caloric intake.
Both intermittent fasting and FMD have been shown to induce a cellular process called autophagy, a process in which your body destroys unhealthy cells before they turn into cancer. In essence, these forms of fasting promote a cellular "clean-up".
Intermittent fasting is typically practiced 1-2 days per week by eating a low-calorie and low-protein diet. On the other hand, FMD is practiced, on average, 2-4 times per year for an average of 5 days.
The truth is that eating a plant-heavy and organic diet is one of the most effective and controllable ways to prevent cancer and all chronic disease. Simply focus on these three rules to take back control of your health and reduce cancer risk:
Eat 5 cups of veggies and fruit per day
Focus on smoothies, salads, soups, and stir-fries.
Aim for 20 grams soluble fiber per day
Eat some form of beans, lentils, seeds, or whole grains at every meal. For an extra boost, add 1 tablespoon Florasophy fiber to your routine.
Create a schedule around fasting, whether you use FMD a few times per year or intermittent fasting routinely each week.
If you want to dive into your unique risk factors and build a tailored prevention plan, reach out to one of our Functional Medicine Nutritionists and book an appointment HERE.