Apr 06, 2020 11:00 AM

Author: Jonnell Masson, MS, RDN, CD, Harmons Grocery

From time to time, HCI invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of HCI.

There’s no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, but there are lifestyle choices, like diet, that can help reduce your risk. Make your diet fight cancer with these tips:

Make fruits and vegetables the focal point of your diet. 

Give fruits and non-starchy vegetables half of your plate’s real estate at each meal. Enjoying a variety of these foods will reduce your risk for cancer and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Try these ideas to get more vegetables at breakfast:

  • Throw a handful of spinach into your smoothie.
  • Add peppers and onions to your breakfast scramble.
  • Layer tomato, onion, and avocado on whole grain toast and top it with an egg.

Include at least three servings of whole grains each day.

A whole grain contains all edible parts of a grain and has more fiber and nutrition than refined grains. Here are some tasty options:

  • 100% whole grain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Farro

A serving is small: just one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of cooked oats or rice, or three cups of popcorn. So a bowl of oatmeal at breakfast and a sandwich on whole grain bread at lunch would equal three servings.

Enjoy plant-based proteins such as lentils and beans several times per week. 

Lentils and beans (known as legumes) are high in fiber and can help reduce risk for certain types of cancer. They can also have a positive effect on weight. Try these ideas:

  • Dip veggies in hummus.
  • Have a bowl of chili for lunch or dinner.
  • Snack on edamame.
  • Add a side of three-bean salad.

Bonus points if the beans replace a serving of red or processed meat!

Limit highly processed foods, including added sugar.

Highly processed foods may lead to weight gain. A diet high in added sugar may increase risk for certain types of cancer. Read the nutrition facts on foods and choose low added sugar and whole grains instead of refined grains. Swap sweetened beverages for unsweetened ones.

Limit your intake of red and processed meats. 

These types of meats may increase risk for colorectal cancer. Enjoy poultry, fish, or plant-based proteins (such as lentils and beans) more frequently. 

Consider your cooking method.

Limit fried, barbecued, and smoked meats—these cooking methods may increase the risk of cancer-causing compounds forming on your food. If you do grill, limit the cooking time and avoid charring the food. Use a marinade containing herbs and an acid (such as vinegar or citrus juice) when grilling meat. Opt for these healthier methods of preparation most of the time:

  • Poaching
  • Steaming
  • Baking
  • Microwaving

Limit alcohol intake.

Regular or excessive alcohol consumption increases your risk for several types of cancer. 

Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk for several types of cancer. Following a healthy diet may make attaining or maintaining a healthy weight easier. 

Don’t know where to start? Schedule an appointment with a Harmons registered dietitian nutritionist to help you make a plan. 

Learn more about making healthy food choices and foods that fight cancer.

cancer prevention nutrition

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