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Healthy Eating Tips That May Help Lower Your Cancer Risk

Skip the red meat and sugary cereal, plus other tips to help fend off cancer.

Are there cancer-causing foods hiding in your diet? From artificial colors, to processed sugars, to excess fat, the average meal plan may be riddled with ingredients that can hurt your health and up your odds of developing cancer.

But with a little insider knowledge, it’s possible to avoid the food mistakes that may be making you sick. We reviewed the latest in nutrition research to bring you healthy eating habits that may help lower your cancer risk.

Skip sugary breakfast cereals. Choose whole grains like unprocessed oatmeal or bran for breakfast, instead. Regularly eating fiber-rich grains may help reduce your colon cancer risk.

Sugary cereal, on the other hand, contains refined sugars, which carry excess calories and cause a quick spike in blood sugar, followed by a binge-inducing blood sugar crash. Those extra calories can contribute to obesity too, which is a key risk factor for cancer.

Ditch the bacon. Eating just two ounces of processed meat like bacon per day can raise your colon cancer risk by up to 17 percent.

Instead, pair your eggs with savory salsa or fresh tomato slices. Tomatoes get their red color from a chemical called lycopene. Lycopene has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer, according to some research. For example, one study found that men who ate over 10 servings per week lowered their prostate cancer risk by 18 percent.

Hold the beef on burger night. Red meat has been linked to higher rates of colorectal cancer and cancer death in general.

The next time you’re craving a burger, choose a healthier protein like salmon. The vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, or “good” fats, in salmon may help protect against colon cancer. Just use wild-caught salmon, rather than the farm-raised kind, to avoid possible pollutants like mercury.

Say “no” to soda. Regular soda is loaded with a variety of sugars. In fact, it may be up to 60 percent fructose, a type of sugar associated with obesity and type II diabetes. Since obesity increases your odds of developing cancer, cutting soda may lower your risk.

But swapping diet soda for regular may not do the trick; studies have found that artificial sweeteners in diet soda may lead to high-calorie cravings and cause your body to store calories as fat, rather than burn them.

The solution? Drink water instead. Try crisp sparkling water and add lemon juice, crushed fruit or mint for flavor.

Avoid energy drinks. Having more than one energy drink in a day can easily lead to a caffeine overdose. Too much caffeine can cause dangerous heart rhythms, nausea, panic attacks and more. Energy drinks often contain vitamins and herbal supplements as well, each of which has its own list of possible side effects.

For your afternoon pick-me-up, matcha tea is a smarter choice. Matcha, a potent form of green tea, is known for its combination of caffeine and a soothing amino acid called l-theanine. Together, they create a feeling of alert calmness. The antioxidants in matcha also reduce free radicals, or toxins that damage DNA and contribute to cancer.

Matcha may even fight the signs of aging and lower skin cancer risk. How? Some studies suggest matcha may shield skin cells against UV rays from the inside out, although more research is needed to confirm this.

Forget fruit-flavored snacks. Along with excess sugar, fruit-flavored snacks often contain artificial colors like red dye 40 and yellow dye 6. While the FDA considers artificial colors safe in the small amounts found in most fruit snacks, some animal studies suggest a possible link between large amounts of artificial colors and tumor growth.

Munch on a handful of acai berries for a healthier sweet fix. Acai is a popular South American fruit that contains antioxidants called flavonoids. More studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of flavonoids in humans, but according to lab studies, they may:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Protect against blood cancers like leukemia

Berries are also memory boosting foods. In fact, one study involving a large group of aging women found berry lovers to have slower rates of mental aging. According to memory tests, women who regularly ate strawberries and blueberries scored up to 2.5 years younger mentally.

For more healthy eating tips, recipes and challenges, join Sharecare’s nutrition group. You’ll also get to connect with our nutrition experts and find support from your fellow group members.