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NOURISH

Can what you eat "really" decrease your risk for cancer?

  • You are at risk for developing some form of cancer sometime in your life. However, for most of us, cancer risk can increase or decrease based on our everyday choices.
  • Besides not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your cancer risk.
  • Filling two-thirds of your plate with plant-based foods is an important step you can take every time you eat.

You’ve seen the news: eat this, don’t eat that to prevent cancer. But can what we eat really prevent cancer? The short answer is yes. Around 40 percent of cancer cases are preventable.

We now have solid scientific research that shows cancer risk is based on your genes, lifestyle and environment. So focusing on the areas you CAN control, like your lifestyle can help prevent, delay or even stop cancer. While there are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, every time you decide to eat a super greens salad or a bowl of fresh berries instead of donuts or fries, you are stacking the deck in your favor. Here are some recommendations for food choices:

  • Don’t eat too much red meat (aim for less than 18 oz. per week)
  • Avoid any amount of processed meat (such as hot dogs and brats).
  • Limit processed foods, which tend to be high in sugar, fat and additives
  • Eat a plant-based diet that is rich in vegetables, beans, fruits and whole grains

To grill or not to grill

Outdoor grilling has been linked to increased cancer risk. When meats and fish are cooked at high heat on the grill, especially when well-done or charred, it leads to formation of potential carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatics (PAHs).

But you don’t have to give up your summer fun. Follow these simple tips to support a healthier way of grilling and decrease your risk of developing many forms of cancer:

  1. Grill low and slow to limit burning and charring of meats. Cut off visible fat to reduce flare-ups and cut off any charred portions of meat before serving. Pre-cook your meat in a microwave, oven or stovetop to reduce cooking time on the grill.
  2. Marinate meat in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes while you prepare your side dishes. Marinating meat reduces the formation of HCAs.
  3. Grill fish. Great choices are salmon, halibut, tuna and shrimp.
  4. Mix it up and shorten grill time. Cut meat into smaller portions and mix with vegetables for quick-cooking kabobs.
  5. Add some color to your grill. Grilling vegetables produces no HCAs. Good choices are asparagus, sweet bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. Toss them with a little olive oil first.
  6. Fruit is also great grilled. Try apples, peaches, pineapple, mangoes, pears and bananas. Cut before grilling and brush with a bit of oil. Watch closely to avoid burning. Serve as is or with a sprinkle of cinnamon or vanilla frozen yogurt for an amazing dessert.

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