It’s no secret that a balanced diet and exercise support a healthy lifestyle and reduced risk of cancer. What does that really mean though? Some people think it means eating only plant-based foods, while others will eat only what was available to our Neanderthal ancestors. The science says you don’t need to go to those lengths to support a healthy body and fight off cancer. You do need to be conscious of what you consume though.
It’s thought that diet contributes to 30% to 40% of cancers. Diets that include 5 or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables are a protective factor against cancer. Additionally, eating healthy fats from sources such as salmon, nuts and avocados while avoiding trans fats also supports your body’s fight against cancer. According to www.breastcancer.org, it’s not just a matter of what you take in, but when you consume it. In one study it was found that females who consumed a diet high in fat during puberty were at an increased risk for breast cancer. It’s possible that the increased risk of breast cancer is a result of the women carrying excess fat for longer than their peers that did not consume a high fat diet. This is because fat cells produce estrogen, and the more fat a person has the more estrogen that is being produced. Breast cancer in particular is a hormone driven illness.
This doesn’t mean that your taco eating days are over if you want to reduce the risk of cancer. The Scottsdale Cancer Center lists a great recipe for black bean tacos along with other foods that promote a healthy lifestyle. Next time you get a craving for a late night taco, skip the drive thru and make your own.
Diet isn’t the end all be all for disease prevention. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk some cancers by as much as 24%, specifically colon cancer. A Meta analysis of 31 studies showed physical activity to reduce the risk of breast cancer by 12%. You don’t need to run a marathon or enter a power lifting competition to reap the benefits of exercise. The National Institute of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a comparable mix of both.
Most people in as little as 5 minutes of walking can achieve moderate aerobic activity. That means that a person could reach their exercise goal by taking a 25-minute walk 6 days a week. Although there is no proof that the link between exercise and a reduced risk of certain cancers is causal, there is a growing body of evidence that supports that idea. You can read about many of those studies on the NIH’s site.
In the end, regardless of why you do it, there are almost endless benefits to eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. What do you have to lose by giving it a try? Maybe the answer is a few pounds and a reduced risk of cancer.