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A Healthy Diet For A Healthy Life

After finishing chemotherapy, I asked my oncologist for dietary guidelines going forward.

"Diet soft drinks?" I asked.
"A little bit," she replied.
"Steak?" I asked.
"A little bit," she replied.
I listed other favorite foods and beverages.
"A little bit," she replied after each one. It was maddening.
"Is there anything I can eat a lot of?" I challenged.

"Drink water. Water is good," she replied. She also encouraged lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. I saw a Spartan diet in my future. But, as always, she was right.

Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) recommends a diet of fresh foods, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and processed meats. This way of eating is not only beneficial for cancer survivors, but everyone in general.

"Just because you've experienced cancer doesn't mean you can ignore being at risk for other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes," says Laura Snyder, M.S., R.D., L.D., a nutritionist with Georgia Cancer Specialists.

Snyder says fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants that protect our cells from damage. Wholegrains also provide antioxidants as well as fiber, which has been shown to protect against cancer, she adds.

“We know that consuming whole foods are more beneficial than taking individual vitamins,” she explains.

Following are nutritional guidelines GCS recommends

Goal #1: Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

"I like to say eat more color,'" says Snyder. "This is where you get more antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant nutrients). It sounds like a lot, but it's doable when you look at the portion sizes."

One serving equals 1/2 cup of cooked or canned fruits, 1 cup raw fruit or vegetables, 1/4 cup of dried fruit, 4-6 oz of juice, or 1 small whole piece of fruit.

Especially beneficial in fruits and vegetables are:

Beta-carotene – ½ large carrot, ½ cup carrot juice, ½ cup cooked pumpkin, 1 red bell pepper, 1 cup spinach or kale, ½ sweet potato or yam, 1 cup cubed cantaloupe or mango.
Vitamin C – 1 guava fruit or red bell pepper; 1 cup Brussels sprouts, strawberries, papaya, grapefruit sections, broccoli, orange juice or kale.
Vitamin E – 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, 24 almonds, 4 Tbsp. wheat germ, 1 cup cooked soybeans or barley.
Selenium – 2 Brazil nuts, 1 cup tofu.
Anthocyanins – blueberries, strawberries, red cabbage, plums, cherries, raspberries.
Cruciferous vegetables – bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, turnip and mustard greens; radishes, turnips.
Lycopene – processed tomato products (salsa, canned tomatoes, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, sundried tomatoes), watermelon, pink grapefruit.
Allium – garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots, chives.
Goal #2: If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.
If you drink, limit to 2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women. (1 drink = 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, or 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor.)
Alcohol combined with tobacco increases cancer risk far more than either alone.
Women with a personal or family history of breast cancer should consider not drinking alcohol at all.
Goal #3: If you use tobacco, QUIT!
Tobacco causes 90 out of every 100 lung cancer cases.
Smokeless tobacco creates sores and white patches that often lead to cancer of the mouth.
The risk of lung cancer for pipe and cigar smokers is not as high as for cigarette smokers, but not as low as non-smokers.
Goal #4: Choose whole grains & plant proteins for more fiber.
Replace red meat and poultry at meals 3 days per week with dried beans, nuts or soybean-based foods. (1 oz. meat = ½ cup beans, ¼ cup nuts, 1 oz. texturized vegetable protein)
"Use caution with soy if you are ER-positive (Estrogen Receptor) with breast cancer," Snyder warns. "You have to be careful not to get too much soy, especially soy supplements, because isoflavones (a component of soy) may act like estrogen."

Replace white bread, spaghetti and white rice with whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole wheat bread.
Aim for a total fiber intake of 25-35 grams per day. Choose grains with or more grams of fiber per serving.
Goal #5: Hold the salt.
Choose fresh foods as much as possible.
Eat less salted and pickled foods, canned soups and vegetables, soy sauce, Chinese cuisine, fast foods and frozen dinners.
Use pepper, fresh or dried spices and herbs instead.
"A low-sodium diet is recommended for overall vascular health and has shown to help lower blood pressure," she says. "Also, if you're eating foods lower in salt, you're probably eating fewer processed foods, which is also recommended. Another point is that when you eat less salt, it encourages you to find other ways to season foods. Fresh herbs used in cooking are a great way to increase your antioxidant intake."

Goal #6: Limit processed meats, pork and beef.
Choose fresh fish, poultry and meat alternatives more often.
Purchase fresh or frozen meats.
Limit salted, smoked, cured and processed meats such as bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage, luncheon and canned meats, hot dogs and jerky.
Select lean cuts of red meat and poultry and smaller portion sizes.
Prepare meats by baking, steaming or braising.
Goal #7: Monitor your food supply and limit food residues.
Choose whole, natural foods over processed foods.
Limit refined sugars in donuts, pastries, sweetened cereals and sodas. - Grow your own foods when possible.
Select lean cuts of red meat and poultry and smaller portion sizes.
Prepare meats by baking, steaming or braising.
Use home and garden pesticides safely.
Wash and scrub all produce under running water.
Peel produce and discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
Trim fat and skins from meats, poultry and fish.
Eat a variety of foods. Choose organic, if affordable and available. The top fruits and vegetables that have the highest potential for pesticide residue are peaches, apples, pears, green beans, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, spinach, tomatoes and cantaloupe.
Goal #8: Eat less fat & choose healthy fats.
Eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, tuna, swordfish, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola and soybean oils, walnuts, and wheat germ.
Bake, stew or steam foods instead of frying.
Choose olive, peanut or canola oil over margarine and butter.
Choose low fat/nonfat dairy products.
Prepare meats by baking, steaming or braising.
Goal #9: Reach a healthy weight.
Aim for the healthy weight range for your height.
Be active for 30 minutes, 5-6 days per week.
Eat smaller meals and snacks to limit calories if you need to lose weight.
Buy a pedometer to track how many steps you take each day. Aim for 10,000 steps (5 miles) each day. (2000 steps = 1 mile.)
Goal #10: Prepare food safely.
Steam, poach, bake, stew or microwave foods.
Cook meats at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
Limit your intake of charred meats. Marinating meats before cooking, flipping frequently, removing all visible fat and microwaving for part of the cooking time, can help to significantly cut down on charring.