Is It True That You Are What You Eat?
It is no longer a mystery that diet and regular exercise have a significant impact on our overall health. Even the fast food industry is offering alternative choices to consumers. Healthcare professionals have known the influence of diet on heart disease, but this knowledge has transcended itself to the cancer world.
Consider this: it is estimated that 35-70 percent of all cancers are directly related to our lifestyle choices, of which diet is a major component. Growing evidence suggests that heart disease starts in childhood, perhaps even in utero, influenced by what our mothers and fathers ate.
In a landmark study of the effects of a plant-based diet, exercise, mediation, and group support, Dean Ornish, MD, demonstrated nearly 15 years ago that plaque-narrowing in coronary arteries can be reversed.
He later demonstrated the same can stabilize PSA levels in men with prostate cancer who elect active surveillance. In an Iowa women’s study, women with a history of breast cancer who consumer three or more servings of red meat weekly were 30 percent more likely to die of their disease than those who ate less than one serving per week.
Similar findings have been noted in colon cancer survivors as well. Study after study now demonstrate that the evidence for health benefits of a plant-based diet is beyond the point of serious controversy.
So what does a plant-based diet look like?
- Choose nature-made food, not boxed processed food
- Vegetables: Summer is around the corner; look for fresh vegetables such as asparagus, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, and green beans
- Fruit: Fresh fruit options include apples, grapes, berries, fresh figs, kiwis, mango, melons, nectarines, oranges, and peaches
- Farmers markets are now in many neighborhoods — look for organic, home-grown produce
- Don’t forget your fiber: whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources. Whole grains include barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, beans, whole grain or rye bread, and whole wheat pasta
- Eat red meat sparingly: 1-2 servings per week maximum
- Consider more chicken
- Eat more fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are good options
- Eat less dairy: Look for organic milk or hormone-free milk
- Drink plenty of water, filtered if possible
- Spice up your diet: garlic, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, and turmeric all have anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Eat good fats: extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut, and walnut), olives, seeds (flax, sesame/tahini and sunflower are great choices)
- Rotate your food; make sure you are eating a balance and variety of foods
As Michael Pollan, the author of Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto clearly states, “eat food (as in real whole food), not too much, mostly plants.” So know your ingredients and stay away from eating things you can’t pronounce.
Dr. John F. Sacco is an OHC radiation oncologist and integrated symptom management physician. His medical interest in cancer care treatment is primary and secondary cancer risk-reduction through comprehensive dietary and lifestyle modification. He practices at OHC’s Blue Ash, Lawrenceburg, and West locations.