By Robert Foley
There is a vast amount of information available on nutrition and how to live a healthy lifestyle, but according to Dana-Farber Nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, “the best approach is to start small.”
“When it comes to nutrition, small changes can make a big difference,” Kennedy says.
One of those changes can be as simple as eating an extra piece of fruit every day. In a recent study, done by the Jagiellonian University Medical College in Krakow, Poland, men and women who ate two or more apples a day reduced their risk of colon cancer by 50 percent. That extra apple a day also helped decrease pancreatic cancer by 25 percent, the study said.
Kennedy spoke about many of these “small changes” at a recent event titled, “What Every Woman Should Know: Recipes for Good Health.” The event, which was sponsored by the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana Farber, covered cancer treatment, prevention, and foods that lower cancer risk for women
A rainbow a day keeps the doctor away
Kennedy advises her clients to try and eat “a rainbow a day.” This means eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, because each color has specific health benefits.
- Blueberries have an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which gives its blue color, and anthocyanin may help ward off cancer cells.
- Lycopene, another important antioxidant in tomatoes and watermelons may help to decrease the risk of prostate cancer in men.
- Research shows that cherries have Ellagic acid, which has been shown in some studies to possibly reduce breast cancer cell growth and counteract estrogens’ negative effects on breast cancer.
- Beta Carotene rich foods have the potential to lower the risk of developing breast and lung cancer.
- Greens such as broccoli and kale can help the liver with its natural detoxification process.
Organic or local?
Certain organic foods can be an important as part of a healthy diet, but eating organic isn’t always easy, cheap, or necessary. Eating local is often the best answer. Local homegrown foods take less travel time to get to your plate, which helps retain the vitamins and nutrients. In addition, the reduced travel time typically makes the local food more affordable.
Smoothies and juicing
An easy way to get many of the vital nutrients for supporting a healthy lifestyle is by drinking homemade juice or smoothies. Fresh juice from a juicer or blender can be a healthier alternative to many commercial, bottled options like orange juice from the supermarket, which can be lower in nutrients from processing and packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Fresh juice can also help increase nutrient intake, and may help with weight loss, promoting clear skin, and supporting a healthy immune system.
Smoothies and juices are also great ways to increase vegetable intake; the veggies can be snuck into the juice or smoothie and the taste will go unnoticed.
Look to food first…then supplements
Diet should be the primary source of nutrients, not vitamins, Kennedy says. It’s important to first look at the daily diet and assess what is missing before working supplements into a routine. “It’s like school: The ‘required reading’ should be the food, and the ‘supplemental reading’ should be the vitamins,” she says. In some cases, vitamins can interfere with cancer treatment, while some supplements are safe, valuable and necessary, so it is important to consult with a nutritionist and your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
Visit Dana-Farber’s Nutrition Services website for more information on nutrition resources, meal planning and healthy recipes. You can also download the Dana-Farber Ask the Nutritionist: Recipes for Fighting Cancer app for iPhone and Android devices.