Eating a healthy balanced diet isn't just good for your general wellbeing - it can also help lower your risk of developing some of the most common types of cancer. Experts estimate that one-in-four cancer cases are caused by obesity and poor diet, and the World Health Organisation lists being overweight or obese as the second leading cause of the disease, after smoking.
So what should you be eating to reduce your risk? There's no one magic ingredient. Instead, you need to eat a balance of food types, nutrients and chemicals. Here are the foods that you should eat and cut back on to reduce your risk...
Fruit and vegetables
A major international EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) found that people who eat a wide range of vegetables and fruit have a reduced risk of mouth, oesophageal and lung cancer.
Aim for seven or more servings a day of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School believe that carotenoids, the natural pigments that give foods their colour, can help to prevent cancer. Carrots, spinach and kale are particularly high in carotenoids.
Fill up on fibre
The EPIC study found that people who eat a high-fibre diet are 25 to 40 per cent less likely to get bowel cancer than those who eat very little. Fibre can be found in beans, lentils and oats, as well as fruit and vegetables and things like wholemeal pasta and brown bread. Health experts recommend that adults eat at least 18g of fibre a day.
Eat more fish
The same study found that people who eat 80g of fish each day are a third less likely to develop bowel cancer than those who ate lower amounts.
Snack on nuts
Several studies have shown that eating nuts each day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a recent study from Maastricht University, eating 15 grams (half a handful) of nuts or peanuts each day can also help to lower mortality rates from cancer.
Eat less saturated fat
Two recent and extensive studies (including EPIC) found that women who eat a diet high in saturated fat are more likely to develop breast cancer. Researchers believe that fat can affect levels of oestrogen and other hormones in the blood, increasing risk. Cut back on full-fat butter, cream and cheese, or opt for reduced-fat versions.
Cut back on salt
Eating too much salt isn't just bad for your blood pressure - it's also linked to increased risk of stomach cancer. In countries where diets contain lots of salty and salt-preserved foods, such as Japan, the incidence of stomach cancer is much higher. Limit your salt intake to the recommended 6g (1 teaspoon) each day.
Eat less red and processed meat
Red and processed meats have also been linked to increased cancer risk. A red pigment, called haem, found in both has been found to stimulate bacteria in the gut to produce chemicals known to cause cancer. It's not just the kind of meat you eat, but how you cook it. Cancer Research advises that meat cooked at high temperatures (frying or barbecuing) produces chemicals that can damage DNA, increasing cancer risk.
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