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Cancer Awareness and Prevention

Meals to Heal is going to begin posting blogs dedicated to recognizing cancer awareness in each month of the year.  We have many informative bogs coming up this month dedicated to leukemia and lymphoma, gynecological cancers, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer.

An important way to think about cancer awareness and prevention is to recognize the importance of good nutrition and health.  The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has established helpful guidelines for cancer prevention that are useful for patients before, during, and after cancer treatment [i].


The Guidelines for Cancer: Before, During and After

Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.  Higher BMI is linked to increased risk for many cancers.  A healthy weight not only reduces cancer risk but also the risk for other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day. Physical activity helps to strengthen the immune system, promote a healthy weight, improve digestion, and maintain hormonal balance.  10 minute separate intervals of exercise per day that add up to 30 minutes are just as beneficial as 30 minutes all at once.

Avoid sugary drinks and limit consumption of energy-dense foods. Foods high in refined sugar and high in fat can contribute to obesity and cancer risk.  Choose less energy dense foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans. Fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are Mother Nature’s powerhouse!  They are full of cancer fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber that help to keep our immune systems strong and fight disease. The AICR recommends a plant-based diet where 2/3 of your plate should be from plant foods.

Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats. The AICR recommends 18 oz. or less per week of red meat, which includes beef, pork, lamb and foods like hamburgers, steak, pork chops. Processed meat, those preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or the addition of preservatives should be avoided due to their potential carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds.

If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day. Alcohol intake can increase the risk of many cancers.  The AICR recommends no more than one drink per day for a woman and 2 drinks per day for a man (one drink is equivalent to 5 oz. wine, 12 oz. beer or 1.5 oz. hard liquor).

Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium). One should aim to consume less than 2,400 mg per day of sodium.  Excessive sodium can increase risk for high blood pressure and certain cancers

Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.  Consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods – fruits, vegetable, grains, nuts, beans, and lean proteins.  Supplements can never replace the nutrient quality of whole foods and can pose a risk if taken in excess.


[i] Cancer prevention recommendations. American Institute for Cancer Research. Accessed at: http://www.aicr.org/can-prevent/what-you-can-do/10-recommendations.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master's degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

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