5 quick tips for healthier holiday eating to lower cancer risk

December 24, 2012 | by Hiu Chung So

The old adage “you are what you eat” resonates more loudly during the winter holidays, when there seems to be limitless opportunities to feast, dine and gather over food and drinks. No one wants to find increased cancer risk in his or her stockings, much less topping the hors d’oeuvres or crowding out the greens in the family meal.

So whether you’re planning a menu or attending a party, or just getting a head start on your New Year’s resolution to be healthier, keep these eating tips in mind:

1. Limit your red and processed meat intake. Research dating back to the 1990s have shown that consuming large quantities of red or processed meats is linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. When possible, opt for seafood (particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids) or lean poultry instead.

Starchy Foods With carbohydrates, opt for whole-grain products to lower your risk for cancer.

2. Go whole grain. Recent studies have shown that a diet high in carbohydrates, particularly refined starches that have a high glycemic index, may be linked to a higher chance of developing colon cancer. On the other hand, whole grain products, which generally have a lower glycemic index and higher fiber content, may lower risks for several gastrointestinal cancers. So when cooking or dining out, choose whole grain starches such as brown rice or whole wheat breads and pasta.

3. Load up on fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of them per day, as they are full of antioxidants, phytochemicals and other nutrients that help fight off cancer-causing free radicals. The organization also recommends eating the brighter and bolder colored vegetables – which are usually more nutritious than their paler counterparts – and eating a large variety of them.

4. Limit Alcohol Intake. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol intake is linked to higher chances of developing liver, colon, breast and throat cancers. As a rule, women should limit themselves to 1 drink a day and 2 for men.

5. Incorporate cancer-fighting foods into your meals. An increasing body of research, including studies done at City of Hope, have shown that specific “super foods” have compounds that can fight cancers through a variety of means. Some block hormones that fuel the cancer's growth; others prevent  tumors from forming new blood vessels to grow and spread. Check out our recent post for several easy ways to incorporate such foods into your holiday spread.

As always, moderation is key and physical activity should be part of the equation as well. So keep these tips in mind for your holiday gatherings and you’ll be well on your way to healthier 2013.

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