Can a healthy diet prevent cancer?

We are not, of course, in control of everything.  The genetics we are born with and the environment we find ourselves in is mostly not something we have any control over. However, researchers argue that approximately 70% of a person’s lifetime risk of cancer is something that a person has the ability to impact or change, and a big part of that is diet.

Maintaining a healthy weight has been found to play a big role in cancer prevention.  Giving up tobacco, reducing alcohol consumption and doing regular exercise are all important and necessary factors in preventing the onset of cancer, as is, of course, developing healthy eating habits.

Developing a healthy lifestyle will only benefit you. To enjoy life, it is not necessary to give up everything. Life just needs tweaking a bit. It is still possible to do fun things, maybe even win a Springbok casino bonus when we play our favorite online games. But we need to understand that the food we eat, and enjoy, is a powerful tool and can have a huge effect on our health, and that includes our risk for cancer and other illnesses.

Studies have shown that particular foods may be associated with cancer but we also know that our risk of cancer is also affected by our eating habits.  A Mediterranean diet, full of fruits, vegetables and high in olive oil, which is a good fat, will reduce your risk of some of the more common cancers, like breast cancer.  On the other hand, you are likely to increase your risk of colorectal cancer by eating a lot of processed meat on a regular basis.

By making even small changes to what, and how you eat can have long term benefits for your health.

Easy ways to improve your diet and prevent cancer

Firstly, your diet should be based on a good mix of antioxidant-rich foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, all sorts of nuts and beans and some good fats.  These healthy foods will give you a fighting chance to ward off any serious illnesses. You should try to avoid eating processed foods whenever possible.  Foods that have been fried, bad fats, all kinds of sugars and many refined carbohydrates should be significantly reduced.

Benefits of antioxidants

Nutrients that are found in plant-based foods, otherwise known as antioxidants, are known to improve your immune system and help your body defend itself against illness in general and against cancer cells in particular.

Eating lots of fruit may reduce the risk of lung cancer and stomach cancer while tomatoes, watermelon and guava may reduce the risk of cancer of the prostrate.

Vegetables that are rich in carotenoids like carrots, squash and brussels sprouts can lower your chances of getting lung and mouth cancers.

Non-starchy vegetables like spinach and broccoli and also beans are thought to prevent stomach and cancer of the esophagus. Also eating other fruits and vegetables with high levels of vitamin C, like oranges, red peppers and dark green leafy vegetables are thought to do the same.

The recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables per day is 5 portions. Most of us do not reach this recommended level.  It is better to include foods in their natural state, like apples and oranges rather than in juice form. Try to add fruits and vegetables to every meal and include nuts, seeds and beans.

The importance of fiber in your diet

The fiber, or roughage, in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains is what keeps our digestive system in working order.  It keeps everything moving and prevents anything cancer producing from remaining in your digestive system.  Eating lots of fiber will help to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and other cancers common to the digestive system.

Eat healthy fats

Choosing to eat healthy fats can actually help in the fight against cancer.

You should avoid eating what are called trans fats and hydrogenated oils which are used in fried foods, all kinds of cookies and cakes. You should also eat only small amounts of saturated fat found in red meal and dairy products.  These should only make up approximately 10% of your daily calorie intake.

On the other hand, you should increase your intake of unsaturated fats that are found in fish, nuts, avocados and in olive oil.  Salmon, tuna and also flaxseeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and have a whole host of health benefits.

Reduce sugar and refined carbs.

Eating a lot of refined carbs like white bread, sugary cereals and drinks, pasta and processed goods increases the risk of prostate cancer and a slew of other bad health issues.  Instead, choose foods that are made of unrefined whole grains.  Eat whole wheat bread, quinoa or brown rice, oatmeal or bran cereal and vegetables that are non-starchy.   Eating these foods will also help you to maintain a healthy body weight.

Red processed meat should be limited

Research has found a connection between cancer and the consumption of processed meats like sausages, bacon, salami and a host of other meats.  Eating a portion of processed meats daily there is a 20% increase in your risk for colorectal cancer.

This might be because of the preservatives used in the processing of the food. However, this also applies to eating red meat also.   It is better to get your protein from other foods like chicken and fish.  Nuts, soya and eggs are also a good source.

Preparation of food is also a factor

In order to get the most out of fruits and vegetables it is important to know how to cook them in order to benefit from all those vitamins and minerals inherent in them.

Whilst it is good to eat some fruits and vegetables raw as this way you gain the most from the vitamins and minerals, there are some that after cooking become more useful and easier to absorb into our bodies.

In order to protect the vitamins and minerals, a steamer should be used and vegetables should be cooked only until they are tender and not overcooked.

You should make sure that all fruits and vegetables are washing properly to help get any rid of any remaining pesticides that may have been used.

The use of herbs and spices, particularly garlic, ginger and curry powder are known to be good antidotes for fighting cancer.  There are of course many more that also have many health benefits like turmeric, coriander and basil to name just a few.


Carcinogens can be found in some foods.  They are mainly found in meat and especially processed meats and it is thought that this occurs during the processing of the meat.  Cooking oils at very high temperatures should be avoided as this enables fats to become carcinogenic. Baking, broiling or steaming should be the preferred cooking method as opposed to deep frying or even sautéing.

Everyone loves a barbecue, but it should be limited. Burnt or charred meats can be carcinogenic.  The high heat of a barbecue makes it less of a healthy option.

Oils have a tendency to go rancid fairly quickly if they are not stored in a dark and cool cupboard.  Any foods that have a moldy smell or look slightly moldy should be thrown out. Mold is a strong carcinogenic.  This can often occur with peanuts so it is best to store them in the fridge.

Be aware when you use a microwave.  The use of containers specifically safe for microwaves is best and best to avoid plastic containers or covers.