Cancer and Nutrition – What’s the Connection?


More and more people are making the connection between how they feel and what they eat. Science is also connecting the dots, linking poor dietary choices with a variety of health conditions, including increased cancer risk.

In fact, it has been estimated that 30–40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone.

However, when it comes to cancer prevention and care, there is a ton of conflicting information available about which foods prevent, or contribute, to cancer.

Good nutrition is a powerful tool – one that will definitely reduce your chances of having cancer, as well as improve your body’s response and overall outcome if you have cancer.

There are a few factors we cannot control that influence a person’s lifetime risk of getting cancer – but the rest you have the power to change!

Regardless of whether you want to prevent cancer, have cancer, are in remission, or simply want to improve your health – we could all use a boost in our nutritional superpowers.

Here are a few general suggestions to help improve your nutrition and supercharge your anti-cancer superpowers.


1. Kick refined sugar to the curb.

Refined sugar is the white stuff that is found literally everywhere. It’s a hidden ingredient in virtually every packaged food and we get WAY too much of it, often without even realizing it.

But don’t we need sugar to survive? All carbohydrates (including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, etc) are broken down into sugar which the body uses to produce energy. We do not, however, need to eat sugar to survive.

Sugar consumption is especially harmful when it comes to cancer care – cancer cells require 18 times more sugar than normal cells. Sugar also has a negative impact on the immune system, a system we definitely want to have working to enhance our anti-cancer superpowers.

Refined sugar is a low nutrient junk food. Excessive sugar consumption is a leading cause of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. It has ZERO nutritional value, causes insulin levels to spike, and inflammation to soar.

Unrefined flour products lack fibre, B vitamins, Vitamin E, and minerals and unfortunately these products make up a significant portion of the average North American’s diet.

Many studies have made a direct connection between blood sugar imbalance and cancer risk. Foods which contribute to high levels of blood sugar and insulin, such as refined sugar, foods containing refined sugar, and refined flour products should be avoided and eliminated from a cancer protective diet.


2. Eat Food.

What? Eat food? Please explain.

Unfortunately, groceries store sell much more than just food these days. In fact, they sell a lot of food-like products.

Real foods are ones that look the same or similar as when they were grown and picked – foods you would recognize without a label.

Real foods often do not come in a package, and if they do they have a very short ingredient list (5 ingredients or less and you should be able to pronounce them all).

Unrefined, “real” plant foods typically have an abundance of fibre. Studies have linked low fibre intake with increased rates of breast cancer. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, it was found that the higher the intake of vegetable, fruit and whole grain foods the lower the risk of rectal cancer. A threshold of about 5 daily servings of vegetables was needed to reduce cancer risk.

Real foods with specific anticancer superpowers include: flaxseeds, garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. These foods contain high amounts of protective nutrients such as selenium, folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, chlorophyll, and antioxidants.

For more information on real superfoods – check out a previous post that will definitely enhance your superpowers: Supercharge with Superfoods.


3. Avoid over eating.

Eating too much food is one of the main risk factors for cancer.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the North America with over half the population considered obese or overweight. Overweight and obesity account for higher rates of certain cancers as well as higher death rates. Clearly, obesity is a major risk factor for cancer.

Studies repeatedly demonstrate the cancer-protective benefits of a lower calorie diet. A meta-analysis of 14 experimental studies found that energy restriction resulted in a 55% reduction in spontaneous tumors in laboratory mice.

So, too many calories is definitely counter-productive, and slightly less than normal is very advantageous. How do we implement this information on a regular basis?

  • Eating slowly and mindfully will reduce the chance that you will overeat.
  • Use smaller plates and give yourself time to digest before getting up for seconds. It takes a bit of time for the “I’m full” message to get from the stomach to the brain.
  • Focus on real foods – most of these food are low calorie and very filling…so you can actually eat fewer calories by eating more real food!
  • Get comfortable with the feeling of being full but not stuffed.


4. Buy local.

There are so many advantages to eating local food including local economy and global environmental factors. But did you know that eating locally produced food can also contribute to your anticancer superpowers?

Because locally grown foods don’t need to be stored or travel far to be sold, they often taste fresher and more flavorful. This is also because they are picked when they are ripe, and not left to ripen off the vine or in a warehouse. Evidence shows that these factors give locally grown produce a higher nutritional value than produce transported long distances. This means we get bigger doses of protective vitamins and minerals in every serving.

Whenever possible, choose locally grown, organic food. Another great resource is the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most and least contaminated crops. By avoiding the heavily contaminated crops you can reduce your chemical exposure by as much as 50%.



5. Avoid Eating Your Emotions.

Perhaps the most toxic of all food is not a food at all – but an emotion.

If there was one poison I could recommend that everyone stop consuming – it is negative emotions. Fear and guilt are especially toxic.

Food and emotions go hand in hand – many of us have experienced guilt after induling or fear about what to eat and what not to eat. These negative emotions can actually cause more harm than the foods themselves.

So, although nutrition is extremely important to health and wellbeing – how you FEEL about your food may be even more important.

Healthy food CAN taste delicious. But once in a while it is ok to stray from an ideal diet – as long as you bask in the moment, ENJOY, and then LET IT GO!

To summarize, I couldn’t imagine saying it better than the wonderful food author, Michael Pollan. Following his simple, concise advice will definitely strengthen your anticancer superpowers.


Published by melissablake.nd

Naturopathic Doctor

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