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Living with Cancer: 5 Essential Nutrition Tips

The right approach to nutrition can help you live better during and after cancer treatment. Here are five tips to get you started.

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Vegetables and fruitsPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Fill Your Plate with Fruits, Veggies and Whole Grains

Nutrition experts say that eating at least five servings of produce daily could decrease overall cancer risk by up to 20 per cent. A serving is a half-cup (125 milligrams) of cooked veggies, one cup (250 milligrams) of raw veggies, chopped fruit or a medium-sized piece of whole fruit. Fiber, minerals, vitamins and plant chemicals in these foods may help prevent the development and growth of various cancers.

Reserve two-thirds of your plate for produce, grains and beans, and one third or less for animal proteins. To get as many beneficial plant chemicals as possible, aim for a rainbow of colours – red tomatoes, orange squash, blueberries, etc. When eating canned veggies like beans, rinse thoroughly to remove sodium.

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Beef Photo: Shutterstock

2. Cut Back on Fat

According to a study of 2,500 breast cancer survivors, eating lean can cut the risk of cancer recurrence by up to 42 per cent. Women in the study lowered their fat intake by making simple switches, like eating plain popcorn instead of potato chips.

Another smart idea: switch from foods rich in saturated fats, such as cheese and fatty meats, to those rich in unsaturated fats, such as fish, flaxseed, avocados and nuts. Replace fatty cooking oils like corn and sunflower with olive and canola oil.

In studies, cutting fat protected women with estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer – the type that will ultimately affect one in three post-menopausal women, according to the American Cancer Society. Other research shows that cutting back on red meat could lower the risk of colon cancer by up to 70 per cent.

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VegetablesPhoto: Shutterstock

3. Eat in Moderation

According to University of California-San Diego scientists, being overweight may decrease your odds of survival after breast cancer. And an American Cancer Society study of 900,000 cancer patients found that death rates were 52 per cent higher for the heaviest men and 62 per cent higher for the heaviest women, compared to mortality rates for people of average weight.

Being overweight appears to increase the risk for developing certain cancers, including pancreas, uterus, kidney and ovary. Once you’ve recovered from cancer therapy, seek out tips on smart food choices, portion control, and moderate exercise to control your weight – and if needed, slowly nudge it toward a healthier range.

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SugarPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Shun Refined Carbohydrates

Eating foods like sugar and white flour can raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. In turn, high insulin levels could raise your risk for a quick recurrence of breast and prostate cancer, says researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Researchers have a hunch that insulin acts like a growth factor, so too much might stimulate the growth of tumours.

Lower your blood insulin levels by controlling your weight (especially belly fat), exercising regularly and eating a diet low in refined carbohydrates. That means choosing oatmeal and fresh fruit instead of pancakes and syrup, or wholewheat bread instead of white.

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Meat being grilledPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Grill Cautiously

Cooking meat, poultry and fish at very high temperatures, especially over an open flame, can promote the formation of cancer-promoting compounds. To make grilling safer, follow these techniques: add lemon juice or vinegar to meat marinades, remove all visible fat, flip meats frequently, or put foil or pan on the grill and cook on that. Baking your meat is the far safer option, and if you must grill, cook vegetables instead.