Nutrition tips from The Portland Clinic Dietitians.
Preventive medicine for cancer? Quite possibly.
Scientists estimate that about a third of all cancers could be prevented by being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a healthy, plant-based diet.
Colorful plant foods contain cancer-fighting substances called phytochemicals, which strengthen immune function and protect your body’s cells from damage by cancer-causing agents. A complete plant-based diet includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also protein sources such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh.
Five Foods to Get You Started
- Beans and lentils add heartiness to soups, stews, chilis and other recipes. Plus, they’re loaded with cancer-fighting fiber and healthy protein.
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and collard greens contain potent cancer-fighting compounds and have been shown to help rid the body of carcinogens. (See our recipe!)
- Berries are full of powerful antioxidants that help stop free radical damage, which can otherwise lead to cancer.
- Orange vegetables and fruits, including carrots, sweet potatoes, mangos, cantaloupe, pumpkin and squash, are huge sources of betacarotene, which is crucial for cancer prevention. Just one large carrot a day meets your daily requirement!
- Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and whole-wheat pasta, are rich in essential B vitamins and fiber, and loaded with complex carbohydrates to keep you feeling satisfied. Toss with beans, peas, stirfried vegetables or sautéed tofu.
A Well-balanced, Plant-based Diet
A balanced diet doesn’t have to focus on meat. Many of the nutrients found in animal proteins can also be found in plant foods. Here are some examples.
- Vitamin B12: Get it from enriched cereals and fortified soy products.
- Calcium: Sources include dark greens, tofu and fortified soy milk.
- Iron: Dried beans and peas, whole grains, dark leafy greens and dried fruit are all good sources.
- Zinc: Sources include whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ.
- Omega-3s: Walnuts, flaxseed oil, tofu and algae soft gels are good sources.
- Vitamin D: Get it from fortified soy milk, cereals and orange juice.
Bottom line: A plant-based diet generally contains less cholesterol and fat and more fiber. So, the eating plan that best fights cancer also fights heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and obesity. Now that’s a diet we can all live with!
By Jennifer DeBoer Roark, RD, LD, of the Portland Clinic