Ask the Expert: Cancer-Fighting Foods

  Cancer-Fighting Foods
Tracy Childs, a representative with the Cancer Project, answers questions about the connection between diet and cancer and the best way to experience the benefits of plant-based nutrition to help you on your journey to better health.

What are the statistics regarding diet and cancer risk?
Reviews by the American Institute for Cancer Research showed that as much as 40 percent of cancer risk may be attributed to diet.

How can I view my eating habits differently?
Never say diet. Diets are something we begin and finish. We are only interested in lasting changes. Dieting causes your body to activate its “fat programs” in response to a perceived famine. Don’t think of eating healthfully as a list of don’ts. Think about what you do eat and get creative. Practice mindful eating by thinking about your food and where it comes from. Concentrate on the healing nature of your food.

What are some helpful guidelines and materials that I can refer to?
Check out Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). Kale and collards top the list. When you give your body the nutrition/fiber it needs, it is satisfied with fewer calories. See the film “Forks Over Knives.” Use what’s on your fork to help avoid going under the knife.

What changes can I easily incorporate?
Fill up on low-fat, high-fiber, whole foods. Use the blinder's method. Only “see” the foods that are acceptable to you.

What’s the best approach to making long-term changes?
Try the 3-3-3 method. Three healthy meals you currently make plus three meals you can modify to make healthy and three new recipes that are your new go-to favorites. Also try to attempt an every two weeks plan. Change one thing in your kitchen and diet for the better, every two weeks. And try a short-term, five-day plan. Plan ahead for the next five days. Be 100 percent committed, then reassess. Attempt one new recipe per week. For a year, find a new healthy recipe each week to try.

Are there other tips that you can offer to integrate healthy changes?
It’s OK to be different and eat differently than others. You are free to do what’s right for you. Attend healthy cooking classes to get new recipe ideas. It is also a great place to meet others on the same path. Try to find a foodie friend. You never know who might be interested in joining in on the fun. Find your blockages — what is keeping you from reaching your health goals? Do your research — seek information to empower yourself and your decision to eat healthfully. Use imagery — see the good foods in a positive light and others as negative. Don’t sabotage your taste buds. Commit 100 percent and your body and taste buds will thank you.

Dr. Marilyn Ortuno Norton, a Sharp affiliated oncologist and hematologist, answers some more questions about diet and how it can affect cancer prevention.

Do high-fat diets cause cancer?
We do know that a heart-healthy diet is very good to maintain. High-fat diets might affect cancer, such as colon cancer. There really hasn’t been any scientific data that high-fat diets cause breast cancer. There are some types of solid tumors or cancers in where fat might play a role. But a specific diet for our cancer patients, we specifically tell them to have a heart-healthy diet as far as eating low fats, high fiber.

Does eating organic foods really decrease my risk of getting cancer?
Some of the research that has been done specifically in diet has been more with colon cancer, where we know that patients that don’t have a regular bowel regiment may be at increased risk for getting colon cancer in the sense that possibly pesticides that are sprayed in vegetables and fruits stay in longer in contact with the colon and hence patients that have constipation and not having a regular bowel movements may be at higher risks for getting colon cancer. These are all theories.

There’s nothing that has been scientifically proven that organic foods decreases your risk in getting cancer; however, there is a theory that there is possibly a role of certain environmental exposures that might increase our risk to cancers. And with organic foods we know that the organic foods aren’t heavily sprayed and so possibly it might play a role.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's nutrition services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.