Search the internet for anti- cancer diets and in a matter of seconds you'll have over 140 million snippets of information at your fingertips. Some will be useful, some won't. Some will be based on sound science, some on anecdote and some on complete pseudo science. Some may even be downright dangerous, could lead to serious nutritional deficiency or even interfere with cancer treatment. Search for diets to lose weight and it's even worse. Well, you might just be able to stop searching- the answer you've been looking for could be on the horizon.
Plant based eating and the science behind it is looking very encouraging as a way of seriously protecting yourself from cancer and at the same time shedding those extra pounds.
The diet is based on the latest evidence for cancer prevention and is combined with established nutrition know how to give you an easy route managing your weight.
Plant based eating brief:
Now don't panic, Plant based doesn't mean you need to become a vegetarian. It just means you shift the emphasis from animal foods to plant foods - your meals and snacks need to be heavy on the plant foods and light on the meat, fish, diary or poultry. It's a very simple but amazingly affective diet shift which brings some extraordinary health benefits.
Plant foods like whole grains, pulses such as beans and lentils as well as the obvious vegetables and fruits contain fibre and other super nutrients which all combine to reduce your cancer risk.
Because plant foods contain plenty of fibre and water they tend to be lower in energy-density and help to keep you feeling full - so they can really help you lose weight and keep it off.
• It's an undeniable fact that what you eat and how much you weigh most definitely has an impact on your risk of getting cancer.
• You really are what you eat, an incredible 40% of cancers could be prevented by your diet and by keeping a healthy weight - so what have you got to lose by giving eating well a try?
• Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans and lentils.
• Limit your intake of red meat like beef, pork and lamb and avoid processed meats
Basing your diet on plant foods (like wholegrains, pulses such as beans, vegetables and fruits), which contain fibre and other nutrients, can reduce your cancer risk. The nutrients you find in plant foods are the protective antioxidants and phyto nutrients which protect your body cells from the damage which leads to tumour development. And, don't forget these filling foods tend to be lower in energy-density or calories which means they can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Plant foods and cancer prevention - the evidence
Research shows that vegetables and fruits protect against a range of cancers, including:
• mouth, pharynx and larynx
• Recent research into bowel cancer found strong evidence that foods containing dietary fibre decrease the risk of bowel cancer. These foods include wholegrain bread and pasta, and oats. Fibre is thought to have many benefits, including helping to speed up how quickly food moves through our digestive system.
• Vegetables and fruits protect against cancer because they contain vitamins and minerals, which help keep your body healthy and strengthen your immune system.
• They are also sources of phytochemicals like antioxidants. These can help to protect cells in your body from damage that can lead to cancer.
Plant foods can also help you to maintain a healthy weight because most of them help keep you feeling full, but are low in energy or calorie density compared to other foods.
What are plant foods?
Broadly speaking, plant foods fit into these main categories. Aim to eat these types of foods with every meal. Try to fill 2/3rds of your plate with plant foods and just 1/3rd with animal foods- it's that simple!
•whole grains (cereals) - including brown rice, bulgar wheat oats, whole grain pasta and bread
•pulses - such as lentils, chickpeas and beans- dried and canned (try to use beans canned in unsalted water)
Vegetables and fruits- canned, dried, fresh, juices and frozen fruit and vegetables are all good.
Starchy foods such as:
•roots and tubers - including potatoes and yams
•white rice, pasta and bread- it's fine to eat these foods sometimes- if you don't like brown rice you don't have to eat it but you should try whole grain pasta or whole meal bread to boost your fibre intake.
Dairy alternatives such as soya and almond drinks fortified with calcium are another way of eating more of a plant-based diet. The plant-based alternatives to yogurt can be enjoyed in the same way.
Remember base your diet around whole grains, pulses, vegetable and fruits.
What is a 5 A DAY portion?
Almost all vegetables and fruits count, apart from starchy tubers and roots like potatoes, yam, sweet potatoes and cassava. You can use frozen, dried and canned vegetables and fruits. You can also use fruit juice or a fruit smoothie but these only count once towards your 5 a day.
The more variety the better so choose as many different types and colours of fruits and vegetables as possible.
As a rough guide, a portion is:
•Three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables like broccoli or carrots
•A small cereal bowl of salad vegetables like lettuce or spinach
•A medium-sized piece of fruit like an apple or a banana
•A slice of large fruit like melon
•A handful of smaller fruit like grapes
•A tablespoon of dried fruit like raisins
•Two small fruit like satsumas or plums
•Three heaped tablespoons of pulses eg; chickpeas or baked beans - but pulses only count as one portion a day, no matter how much you eat
•A small glass (150ml) of pure fruit juice - but again fruit juice only counts as one portion a day, no matter how much you drink
Animal foods are not the enemy
You really don't need to cut all animal foods out of your diet. Meat, fish poultry, eggs and dairy foods contain a lot of really good, important nutrients. But the fact is, most of us eat far more animal foods than we need and not enough plant foods- so this switch in emphasis is about re balancing your diet.
So, still enjoy:
• Scrambled eggs for breakfast- just have them less of ten and serve them with some grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and whole grain toast instead of bacon and sausages- or try a Quorn sausage!
• A nice grilled steak- aim to have no more than about 500g red meat each week and try to stay away from processed meats as much as possible
• Roast chicken- poultry is low in fat as long as you don't eat the skin. Have plenty of veggies and potatoes with your Sunday Roast and use the 1/3:2/3 plat model to help you keep the balance right
• Fish remains a really healthy food- aim for at least two servings a week- one white fish like cod, haddock or sole and one oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel or canned sardines.
• You can still enjoy Shepherd's pie or Spaghetti Bolognaise but use a little less minced beef or lamb and mix it with some chopped mushrooms and green lentils.
• Try some alternatives to dairy milk, cream, yoghurt and custards.
Next time you are serving up your meal- fill your plate with 2/3rd plant foods and 1/3rd meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy- that's it- you have made your first step towards eating a plant based diet. Keep doing it and you are on your way to living longer, feeling great and managing your weight.