I am sure you are all aware that this month is Movember, an annual event in November involving the growing of moustaches to raise awareness of various cancers, such as prostate cancer. While there are some risk factors for cancer that cannot be controlled, diet, physical activity and lifestyle factors can be! Paying attention to your nutrition is one way to help prevent cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer and 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Your can read more about prostate cancer here.
Reducing Your Risk
Maintain a healthy weight.
Being at a healthy weight can reduce your risk of cancer and other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
There are so many diets out there and quick fixes to help you lose weight, but the best thing you can do for your health is to find something that will sustainable for you. A great place to start is to keep a food journal for a few days. This can help you to become more aware of your eating habits and make it easier to identify key areas you think you can change, want to change and help you to set some goals. For example:
-Do you pick up Tim Hortons breakfast everyday on the way to work? Try packing something quick to bring to work instead
-Do you have a long gap in between meals and find yourself starving and overeat in the evening? Start eating healthy snacks between meals
-No vegetables at lunch? Start by adding some at least 2 days of the week.
-Identify food sources of added sugar and work on cutting back
Start small and set a goal you feel confident you can achieve. Once you do, pick something else to work on and make it more challenging. All changes don’t need to happen overnight, and any small change can make a difference!
Getting enough quality sleep, exercising and managing stress also have a role in weight management.
For some more tips on managing your weight – check out this post: Calorie Counting Sucks: 10 Things to Try Instead to Help You Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Eat those fruits and vegetables.
You probably knew this would be on here right? Fruits and vegetables help to fight against cancer because they contain powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants protect your cells from cell damage caused by free radicals, that can occur naturally as we age, or when exposed to things like cigarette smoke.
Fruits and veggies are also filled with fibre. Getting enough fibre makes trying to manage your weight so much easier because it keep you feeling full! Not to mention, if your someone that feels tired often, adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet can provide you with some key nutrients to help you feel more energized.
Each colour of fruits and vegetables contains different antioxidants – so it’s important to eat as many colours as you can each day! V A R I E T Y is key!
Some tips to help you eat more vegetables:
- Make them taste good! One delicious method is roasting vegetables. Here’s a quick how-to:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Chop your vegetables. Make the pieces the same sizes so that they cook evenly. Some ideas include: peppers, onions (red or white), mushroom, brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower. Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, squash and sweet potatoes work great too, but will take longer.
- Place all the vegetables in a bowl and toss in canola oil. Depending how many vegetables you have, use about 1tbsp canola oil. You can add pepper and other spices you like, such as paprika, thyme, etc.
- Spread all the vegetables evenly in one layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
- Softer vegetables will take 10-20 min to cook, and harder ones about 20-30 min. Large pieces take longer than small pieces. Roast the vegetables until they are tender. Check on them and stir every 10-15 minutes and roast until they are easily pierced with a fork or knife.
- Don’t let your vegetables die in the crisper week after week. Right when you get home from the grocery store, chop them up. You’ll be much more likely to reach for them as a snack.
- Work your way up to getting 1.5-2 cups at lunch and dinner and making at least one snack contain vegetables.
- Throw them into smoothies – wondering if juicing or blending is better? Read my take here: Blending or Juicing – Which is Healthier?
- Keep frozen vegetables on hand for a quick side dish or stifry
- Add extra vegetables to recipes when you can, such as to pasta sauce, soups and chilli
Selenium and Lycopene
Two antioxidants in particular have been researched and a correlation between reduction of cancer risk has been shown – selenium and lycopene. Be aware that more is not always better, and aim to get these from foods over supplements. The use of selenium supplements is not recommended to prevent prostate cancer.
Selenium is a mineral and an antioxidant, and has effects on DNA repair and the endocrine and immune system. Most people are able to meet their needs for the day. Interesting fact – the amount of selenium in food can vary! It depends on the selenium content of the soil where an animal was raised or the plant was grown.
Selected food sources of selenium:
- Nuts and seeds – especially brazil nuts. One nut can have almost meet your requirements for the day.
- Fish and seafood – such as tuna, halibut and sardines
- Cottage Cheese
- Brown rice and whole wheat bread
Lycopene is another antioxidant, and is responsible for the bright red colour of the fruits and vegetables that contain it. Another interesting fact – Foods with lycopene are better absorbed with cooked, pureed or consumed with a little bit of fat, such as oil, nuts or avocado.
Food sources of lycopene:
- Tomatoes (especially tomato sauce, pastes, juice). Try roasting tomatoes or adding to stirfrys
- Red peppers
Incorporate plant based foods into your diet.
Yes fruits and vegetables are important, but there are lots of other plant foods to add or get more of in your diet. Plant foods include fruits and vegetable, whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, etc), beans, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc) and hummus, tofu and edamame, and nuts and seeds. These all contain different antioxidants and phytonutrients, lots of fibre, and are low in unhealthy fats. This doesn’t mean you need to become a vegetarian, but replace some meat and processed foods with whole, plant foods and try to incorporate 1-2 vegetarian meals a week. This way, you will cut back on saturated fats and add more fibre and cancer-fighting nutrients into your diet.
Here are some ideas how:
-Have one or a few vegetarian meals a week, where beans and legumes become your protein source. Top your salads with chickpea, use lentils instead of ground beef in pasta sauce or use tofu and extra beans in a chilli.
-Snack on nuts and seeds. ¼-⅓ cup is a good portion and due to the fibre, healthy fats and protein, will help to keep you feeling satisfied. Just be sure to choose raw or dry roasted and unsalted nuts.
-Choose whole grains such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa in place of white breads, white pasta, and sugary cereals. Some of these foods can take longer to cook, so try meal prepping.
Limit excess fat in your diet.
Not all fat is created equally, and we definitely need fat in our diet to keep us healthy. However, getting too much is not good and many people get more than they need in place of healthier foods. Making some small changes can go a long way:
- Drain excess fat when cooking meat
- Limit fried foods
- When you have meat, keep portions reasonable (size of the palm of your hand)
- Be mindful of how much butter or oil you add to foods
- Limit cream used in coffee
- Bake, broil, grill or lightly saute meat and fish instead of deep frying
- Include a balance of plant proteins like beans and legumes in the diet to replace some meat you consume
- Replace some meat meals with fish and use canola and olive oils
- Eat fish (salmon, trout, sardines, etc) 2-3 x a week – to meet you omega 3 fatty acid needs (EPA and DHA)
While that may seem like a lot of changes to make, start with one or a few things. Your overall diet is important – No one food or supplement will have special properties. If you would like some support in making changes to your eating, losing weight, managing cravings and improving energy, contact me! I’m here to help 🙂
Andrea Docherty, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
BC Cancer Agency