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Nutrition Tactics to Beat Cancer: 5 Mealtime Habits for Prevention

Cancer is a major global health issue that can be influenced by diet, among other factors. Research shows that dietary habits can affect the risk of developing cancer, as well as the overall well-being and vitality of cancer patients1. By choosing food that fights cancer and avoiding food that promotes cancer, you can strengthen your immune system, protect your cells from damage and prevent inflammation and chronic diseases. In this article, we will share 5 mealtime habits based on scientific evidence and expert recommendations that may help you prevent cancer and improve your health. Ready to learn more?

1. Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables

One of the best ways to prevent cancer is to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. These foods are rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radicals that may damage your DNA and cause cancer. Different colours of fruits and vegetables provide different antioxidants that may target different types of cancer. For example, lycopene in red foods can lower prostate cancer risk, while beta-carotene in orange foods can protect against lung cancer. To get the most benefits from these anti-cancer foods, aim for at least 5 servings of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables per day. You can also include berries, citrus fruits and leafy greens in your diet, as they are especially high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals that may reduce cancer. These are some of the best foods for cancer patients which are easily available in Singapore.

2. Boost Your Fibre Intake

Fibre is a vital part of a healthy diet that may help you prevent cancer. Fibre helps your digestion and gut health by moving food through your colon faster and binding to bile acids that can damage your cells. Fibre can also lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as keeping you satiated for longer periods. These benefits can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, one of the most common cancers in Singapore. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and slows down glucose absorption. It is found in foods like oats, nuts, avocado and psyllium husk. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to your stool and prevents constipation and diverticulitis. It is found in foods like apples, whole grains, bran cereals and vegetables. You can increase your fibre intake by eating more food that fights cancer, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. You can also take fibre supplements if needed. Look out for these anti-cancer foods when buying your groceries!

3. Choose Healthy Fats Over Unhealthy Fats

Fats are essential for your health, but not all fats are the same. Some fats can help you prevent cancer, while others can increase your risk. Healthy fats are unsaturated fats that lower your cholesterol, reduce inflammation and improve your heart health. They are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, avocado and fish. These are some of the cancer-fighting foods for healthy individuals and cancer patients to take advantage of. Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, are saturated fats and trans fats that raise your cholesterol, increase inflammation and damage your blood vessels. They are found in red meat, alcohol and highly-processed foods. When consumed in excess, it can lead to obesity, insulin resistance and hormone imbalance, which are major risk factors for many types of cancer. To prevent cancer, you should limit your intake of unhealthy fats and replace them with healthy fats.

4. Drink Green Tea for Its Anti-Cancer Properties

Green tea is a popular beverage that contains EGCG, a compound that may stop cancer cells from growing and spreading. Among the types of cancer, green tea has the potential to lower the risk are breast cancerprostate cancer and colorectal cancer. If you don’t like green tea or can’t drink it often, you can take green tea extract supplements instead.

5. Include Phytochemicals in Your Diet5.

Phytochemicals are plant compounds that may prevent cancer by affecting various cellular processes involved in cancer development and progression. Below are some of the cancer-fighting foods that are rich in phytochemicals:
  • Curcumin. Based on experiments conducted on cells and animals, curcumin has the potential to stop cancer from developing, reduce its growth, enhance the effects of chemotherapy and shield normal cells from harm by radiation therapy. However, human trials of curcumin are still ongoing and not conclusive.
  • Resveratrol. It is a polyphenol that not only can reduce inflammation, scavenge free radicals and lower the risk of heart disease, but it can also provide anti-cancer effects. Experiments on cells and animals have demonstrated that resveratrol can influence molecular pathways to either turn them on or off, thereby affecting cancer cells.
  • Sulforaphane. It is a natural compound found in some vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Some studies have shown that sulforaphane can prevent changes in DNA that cause cancer. It can also make tumours grow slower or reduce their ability to spread to other parts of your body.
  • Quercetin. You can find this potent antioxidant flavonoid in apples, onions, tea and berries. Studies have shown that quercetin can decrease tumour growth through targeting VEGFR-2-mediated angiogenesis pathway and suppressing the downstream regulatory component AKT in prostate and breast malignancies.
These are only some out of the many types of phytochemicals which have cancer-fighting properties. By including these phytochemicals in your diet or taking them as supplements (after consulting your doctor), you can enhance your body’s natural defence against cancer.

Conclusion

Diet can affect your risk of cancer. By choosing food that fights cancer while avoiding food that promotes cancer, you can protect your cells from damage and boost your immune system. Apart from dietary choices, adopt a holistic approach to health and cancer prevention, which includes exercise, stress management, sleep quality, smoking cessation and going for regular health screening. The Cancer Centre offers targeted treatments for various cancer types including colorectal cancer, one of the most common cancers in Singapore. Learn more about our screenings and treatments by getting in touch with us.

FAQs

  • What are the Top 10 cancer-fighting foods?
Some of the foods that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties or lower the risk of certain types of cancer are broccoli, carrots, green tea, phytochemicals, garlic, berries, cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish, walnuts and legumes.
  • Which fruits can reduce the risk of cancer?
Fruits that are rich in antioxidants, such as berries, citrus fruits and grapes, can help reduce the risk of cancer by protecting the cells from oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Are there certain spices and herbs that have anti-cancer benefits?
Yes, there are many spices and herbs that have anti-cancer benefits. Some of them are turmeric, garlic, ginger, rosemary, parsley and cinnamon. These spices and herbs can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Dr Wong Seng Weng

Dr Wong Seng Weng

At The Cancer Centre (TCC), Dr Wong Seng Weng and his medical oncology team are focusing their expertise on implementing preventive measures, actively conducting screening and providing innovative, targeted treatments for adult cancers, as well as using proven technologies to ensure optimal patient safety and comfort.

Dr Wong, a visiting consultant medical oncologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Novena) and Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), holds the appointment of Adjunct Clinician Scientist at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). He is also an active member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, European Society of Medical Oncology and Singapore Society of Oncology.

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