It's Dietitian's Week and our Health Projects Manager, Ross Little, explores the link between a healthy diet and cancer prevention.
Every day online and in the news we read stories about the latest superfood that can prevent or cure cancer. Blueberries, beetroot, broccoli, garlic, green tea, turmeric… the list goes on. Despite there being numerous health benefits to eating these foods as part of a healthy balanced diet, none of them are a ‘superfood’ that is going to prevent or cure any disease.
There is no specific food, diet or lifestyle that is guaranteed to prevent someone from getting cancer, but there are things that we can all do that are proven to help reduce our risk.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Excess body fat is linked to an increase risk of 11 cancers, including ovarian, breast, bowel and endometrial cancer. Excess body fat, especially around the tummy, is also linked to an increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Be more physically active
Being physically active can help reduce the risk of cancer and many other diseases and disorders. Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, which doesn’t just mean exercising or playing a sport. Being physically active is about increasing your heart rate and making yourself a little out of breath and sweaty. Things such as going for a walk, doing the house work or gardening and washing the car count!
Eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and beans
Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Examples of a portion include three heaped table spoons of cooked vegetables, two broccoli spears, two plums, one apple or a slice of melon.
Avoid processed starchy foods, instead have wholemeal and whole grain bread, rice, pasta and cereals. These foods are not only full of vitamins and minerals, but a great source of fibre too.
Limit intake of red meat
Red meats are beef, pork, lamb and goat. Avoid processed meats such as burgers, sausages and bacon altogether or save for a very occasional treat.
Moderate alcohol intake
Stick to the recommended guidelines of 14 units a week. A unit is half a pint of beer, a small 76ml glass of wine or a single 25ml measure of spirit.
For more information on these recommendations and others, visit the World Cancer Research Fund website.
There are of course other factors that can affect someone’s risk of ovarian cancer, such as family history and genetics, and a woman’s menstrual history, but these are the factors that we know can help reduce risk and be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Trying to maintain a regular and healthy diet can be difficult during treatment for ovarian cancer due to the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. If you are struggling with your diet and are looking for some help then speak to your clinical nurse specialist who can refer you to a registered dietitian.
Sandra Evans, an Ovarian Cancer Action Voice, found her experience visiting a dietitian whilst undergoing treatment was very positive. She said:
"My consultant referred me to a dietitian when my appetite went and I started to lose weight. I found this very helpful and would recommend women to seek their help if they are struggling with eating and drinking."