Today In the Kitchen: Diet, nutrition and cancer prevention

Nutrition — By on May 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Recently, a nutritionist from the Arizona University Cancer Center spoke at the West Center on this topic. The presenter, Emily Nardi, is a registered dietitian and researcher, with a focus on public health.

Understandably, the information was research-oriented, and for the most part, was not news. However, it is worth highlighting a few surprises, and reviewing the rest.

The scientific information was largely about predictors for diabetes and cancer, most particularly a high body mass index (BMI), which is a calculation based on weight and height. In other words, weight. Again, we hear that keeping our weight under control is crucial, and there’s not much news there – it’s a matter of diet and exercise.

There was some less-known information about reducing fat for negative estrogen receptor tumors, and folic acid (one of the B vitamins) as a preventative factor, but problematic after a cancer has started.

For the most part, this talk was about healthy eating, and one of the first recommendations, you may recognize from one of my recent columns, is to read labels. As you know, ingredients are listed in order of volume, and sometimes by percentage.

The presenter’s suggestion is to use a 10 percent cutoff — if the amount of fat or sodium, for instance, is greater than 10 percent, then avoid that food. In the case of a product like crackers, the first ingredient should be “whole grain.”

If not, move on to another product. Refined flour has most of the nutrients removed, and what’s left just clogs up the works.

The word moderation comes to mind. One is not expected to give up everything. But the healthy choices should predominate. The exceptions are just that. If you’re like me, I have a hard time with the concept, and my motto tends to be “moderation in moderation.”

Having said that, I am fortunate that I like and generally prefer the healthy choices. However, if you see me around town ordering the KFC combo #1 for Stella and myself, remember that I don’t claim to be a purist.

Some reminders of things that are good for us are: fiber (whole grains! Have you tried quinoa, for instance?); nuts, seeds and legumes (We were reminded that in other cultures, where animal protein is a much smaller percentage of the diet, many of the degenerative Western diseases are much less prevalent); herbs and spices (full of antioxidants); and all kinds of fruit and vegetables; while things to moderate are caffeine, which can stimulate some tumors, and alcohol, which seems to have a greater impact on hormonal-based cancers (prostate and breast).

The question of organic vs. conventionally grown produce was raised, and the answer was that it is a personal choice, and eating non-organic produce is better than eating none, but some foods are a matter of sensibility.

Please read the complete article and let us know what you think below.

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  • Two years ago, we learned that trans fat was unhealthy and contributed to heart disease. Today, we understand that natural foods are far better for well-being than refined. (Thanks for this informative article).

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