Eating to Fight Cancer
Simple Plan continued...
"Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables
every day will do a lot to decrease cancer risk," says Melanie Polk, RD,
director of nutrition for the American Institute of Cancer Research, or
Getting that many servings doesn't have to be hard, says
"Make it simple," she says. "Add a handful of
blueberries to your cereal in the morning. If you're having a sandwich at
lunch, throw in lots of tomato slices as well as lettuce. Broccoli can be added
to soups or sprinkled over pizza with olives, onions, and mushrooms. Instead of
having a packaged snack in the afternoon, have an apple or banana. It all
Plant foods appear to be most protective against cancer. They
are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and helpful phytochemicals.
"Preliminary evidence supports the speculation that
substances in flaxseed may help block substances that promote cancer," says
Magee. "Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and certain plant
foods, including flaxseed, have been shown in animal studies to slow or prevent
the growth of certain cancers."
Diet for High-Risk People
A good diet can even help those with a family history of
certain cancers beat the odds.
"A history of cancer in the family doesn't mean that every
person in the family will get it," says Polk. "For someone at high
risk, diet should be included as part of an early-detection screening plan set
up by their doctor."
For the person already diagnosed with cancer, the nutrition
picture is a little murkier. No single answer serves everyone.
"Body changes may be caused by the patient's response to
the tumor, the side effects of treatment, certain medications, or some
combination of these," says Magee. "Some dietary practices, like
supplementing with flaxseed, might compete with a drug like Tamoxifen. That's
why it's important to discuss diet with your oncologist."
Polk recommends that cancer patients work with a dietitian to
make dietary decisions.
"When a patient gets involved in decisions like treatment
and diet they feel less passive, more like they're part of their own healthcare
team," she says.
Originally published Sept. 30, 2002.