Presentation By Neeta Pahwa
HOUSTON: IACAN organizes activities which provide emotional and physical support to cancer survivors and their care givers. The group consists of people who have been affected by cancer directly or indirectly and the activities help them socialize and share experiences. This interaction helps alleviate the fear of their condition and help them feel that they are not alone in their journey. The survivor activities include educational programs such as nutrition, recreational activities like gardening and other therapeutic activities. One such activity is maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle through a healthy Diet.
Neeta Pahwa, a registered dietician, stressed the point that no single food or food component offers protection against cancer. There is strong evidence that a diet which includes variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains lower the risk for many cancers. American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) recommends this diet and they also recommend 30 minutes of physical activity daily, to be lean without being underweight and avoid calorie dense food and sugary drinks. High calorie food leads to weight gain which increases the risk of cancer.
Plant based diet provides vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. While flavonoids decrease inflammation and slow down the cancer cell growth carotenoids control free radicals which damage healthy cells and their DNA. Saponins control cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. A minimum of 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables should be consumed daily. A serving is equivalent to 1 cup of raw fruits or vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked fruits or vegetables or 1 medium size fruit. Ideally you should choose a variety of colors among these fruits and vegetables.
Whole grains or whole grain products such as brown rice, buckwheat, oatmeal, barley and Quinoa are much healthier compared to white rice, white bread and pasta. AICR recommends limiting consumption of salty foods, salt processed foods, red meat (beef, pork etc.), and avoiding processed meats. Alcohol consumption is not recommended but if consumed, limit to one drink per women and two per men per day. One drink equals to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 and half of ounce of liquor.
Limit saturated fats found in high fat dairy products and fried food. Cold water fish such as salmon and herring are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Using supplements to protect against cancer is not recommended. There is strong evidence that high dose of some supplements can affect the risk of some cancers. In general, the best source of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals is food not supplements. Once the cancer treatment is finished the survivor should follow same guidelines set for cancer prevention. Supplements are recommended for certain conditions e.g. for women of childbearing age who intend to conceive, pregnant women, nursing mothers and elderly persons, children.
ACRI recommends the following 5 steps to make your refrigerator Cancer Fighting Fridge. Fill your freezer with frozen vegetables and fruits, swap white grain products for whole grain products, put fresh fruits and vegetables in the center front, and replace soda and other sugar drinks with water, iced tea and other low sugar drinks. Have easy to grab healthy snacks meal options visible.
Healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight through exercise can not only reduce the risk of cancer but also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.