Foods that prevent cancer

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that attacks the free radicals that are suspected of triggering cancer.

Selenium, a mineral found in brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and fish is thought to provide protection against prostate cancer.

Tip: To eat healthfully, experts say a good rule of thumb is to fill 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans and 1/3 or less with animal foods. Look for recipes for casseroles, stews and stir fries that use meat almost as a condiment.

Foods to avoid
Now for the bad news, particularly for meat-lovers. To maintain a healthy diet, you can forget about eating processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages. According to the WCRF, no amount is considered completely safe. Also try to limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) to less than 500g cooked weight (about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Both red and processed meats are thought to be causes of bowel cancer.

Tip: For big breakfast eaters, try having your eggs with roasted tomatoes, which are rich in healthy carotenoids – which the WCRF says can lower the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and lung. And add some crushed garlic to help prevent bowel and stomach cancer. Tasty and healthy substitutes for bacon (particularly in pasta sauces) are cooked mushrooms because of their strong flavour and meaty texture.

Other ‘bad guys’
Salty foods and foods processed with salt, including some bread and breakfast cereals. Research suggests that salt and salt-preserved foods are linked with stomach cancer.

Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, breast, and liver. Experts advise drinking alcohol only moderately, which for men means no more than 2 drinks a day and for women, only one per day. (Examples of what is considered one drink: 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.)

Sugary drinks and energy-dense foods (high in fats and/or sugars and often low in nutrients and fiber) increase the risk of obesity – and therefore, cancer. Scientists have found that greater body fat increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, breast (postmenopausal), kidney and gallbladder cancer.

Reduce your cancer risk
When it comes to eating to prevent cancer, Liz Armstrong, co-author of Cancer: 101 Solutions to a preventable epidemic (New Society Publishers), says there are 4 ‘must do’ principles to reduce your cancer risk.

1. Eat abundance of fruits and vegetables – and as much as possible, buy fresh, ripe, locally grown and organic. As a general rule of thumb: raw or lightly steamed is more healthy than cooked; fresh is better than frozen; and frozen is better than canned.

2. Drink lots of healthy liquids including pure water (cleansed of chlorine and other contaminants), various teas such as green and Chai, and freshly juiced fruits and vegetables.

3. Start your cancer prevention early – in the womb if possible! The good news, however, is that it’s never too late to begin. “While starting ‘in utero’ is not an option for us over-50s, we can offer this good advice to our kids and grandkids who are about to become pregnant,” Armstrong says.