Cancer can be prevented or decreased by making changes in healthy diet. India is diverse in populations and in diets. In India cancer rates are lower as compared to Western countries. Dietary changes along with urbanization, less physical activity increasing the obesity. Breast and endometrial cancer is increasing because of obesity and lack of physical activity. Many types of cancer are more common in people who are obese. The most common types of cancers are breast and bowel.
Making smart food choices, we can keep our good health, and can boost our ability to fight off cancer. Limiting alcohol, healthy weight, regular exercise and avoiding cigarettes can reduce the chances of cancer. To best support our health, look at our eating habits. We may be eating many foods that fuel cancer, while neglecting the powerful foods and nutrients that can protect us. To reduce the risk of breast cancer enjoy the whole soy foods such as tofu or soy milk.
Plant-based diets are rich in nutrients that boost our immune system and help protect against cancer cells. A variety of vegetables, fruits, soy, nuts, whole grains, and beans can help lower our risk for many types of cancer. Diets rich in fruits may lower the risk of stomach and lung cancer. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium.
The consumption of non-vegetarian food, especially red meat, has significantly increased in recent years in Punjab. The consumption of very spicy foods, hot foods and beverages, high amounts of chilli, was positively associated with the risk of oesophageal cancer. Alcohol drinking increases the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, and liver. Tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking show an interactive effect on the risk of cancers of the head and neck.
Faulty dietary habits were found to be a major cause of weight gain. The prevalence of obesity was found to be 14.8 per cent in adolescent girls and heredity played no role revealed a study conducted by Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana. The consumption of dietary fibre reduces the risk of colon cancer, breast and prostate cancer by absorbing and inactivating dietary estrogenic and androgenic cancer promoters. Use moderate amounts of healthy oils, herbs, spices, citrus, and vinegars to add flavour. Aim to have two-thirds of your plate made up of healthy plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans every time you eat. The remaining one-third, or less, made up of animal foods, preferably lean poultry, seafood, and very limited amounts of red meat. The American Institute of Cancer Research has urged the western population to follow the New American plate (meals made up of 2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits whole grains or beans and 1/3 (or less) animal protein) which is nothing but a staple traditional Indian plate, to decrease the alarming rise in incidence of cancer in the West. Genes have a lesser role to play in cancer than diet and lifestyle.
Citrus and amla and vegetables like sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables contains micronutrients such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C which have a protective influence in cancer of the lung, stomach cancer and several other sites. Diets high in non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and beans, may help protect against stomach and esophageal cancer. Eating a diet high in fibre may help prevent colorectal cancer and other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx. There is no fibre in meat, dairy, sugar, or white bread, white rice, and pastries. Eating vegetables containing carotenoids, such as carrots and sprouts may reduce the risk of lung, mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers. Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava, and watermelon may lower the risk of prostate cancer. Water is essential for fighting cancer. It stimulates the immune system, removes waste and toxins, and transports nutrients to all of your organs. For healthier meat choices, you don’t need to cut out meat completely. Most people consume far more meat than is healthy. Try to keep the total amount of meat in your diet to no more than 15 per cent of your total calories. Red meat is high in saturated fat, so eat it sparingly. Limit your consumption of salt. An intake of more than 2.4g sodium a day increases the risk of stomach cancer. Cancer-prevention efforts like diet and lifestyle changes can have enormous benefits for India. Indians have one of the most interesting diets, with many unique dietary constituents like turmeric, a common household spice that holds the promise of cancer prevention.
The indiscriminate use of pesticides is now being linked to the alarmingly high incidence of cancer in Punjab and has a major role to play in our diet. Many reports in the media highlighted how Punjab, is in the throes of cancer. Punjab has over 90 cancer patients per 1 lakh population. This is much higher than the national average of 80 per lakh. The Malwa region, also known as the “cancer belt”, has the highest average of 136 cancer patients per 1lakh of population. At least 18 people die of cancer each day in Punjab. To pin-point a single cause as cancer is caused by multiple factors is difficult. A multi-pronged strategy to provide safe water supply, discouraging indiscriminate use of pesticides, tobacco and alcohol and adopting a healthy vegetarian diet is always good.
The writer is a former Biologist at School of Horticulture, University of Hawkesbury, Richmond, CSIRO, North Ryde, and Sydney, Australia.
School of Horticulture,
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