Eating Healthy Cuts Cancer Risk, Too

Weight, weight, weight. Sometimes that seems to be what everyone talks about these days when it comes to our health.

We are getting fatter. We will get sicker. Some of the gains we have made in life span are at risk if we don't do something about our increasing waists, and do it soon.

But did you know that overweight and obesity are tied to an increased risk of several different types of cancers, such as breast cancer in post-menopausal women, as well as cancers of the colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus and kidney?

So, what can you do about it?

Thursday, Aug. 16, the American Cancer Society launches its Great American Eat Right Challenge to help you learn more about what you should be doing to get your diet — and your weight — under control, and to reduce your risk, not only of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension but of cancer as well.

Diet a Weighty Consideration for Cancer Risk

Most of us know that smoking is bad for us, and one of the main reasons is that tobacco products increase the risk of cancer, as well as other life-threatening diseases. But most of us aren't aware that being overweight or obese also significantly increases the risk of cancer.

Since most Americans today do not smoke, that makes nutrition and physical activity one of the most important things people can do for themselves to decrease their risk of cancer.

The trick, according to American Cancer Society guidelines, is to follow a healthy diet that emphasizes plant foods. In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly, this dietary adjustment is a key element in a healthy lifestyle that can help prevent cancer.

The basic rules, besides emphasizing plant sources of food in our diet, include:

Eating five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.

Choosing whole grains (as spelled out on the package as the main ingredient: w-h-o-l-e g-r-a-i-n-s) instead of processed (refined) grains.

Limit consumption of processed and red meats.

If you want more information, including a great instructive video by my colleague Colleen Doyle on how to shop at the supermarket, you can go to the Great American Eat Right Challenge Web site.

There is a lot of practical information on the Web site that you may find helpful and interesting to see if you measure up to a healthy diet, or what you need to do to change your errant ways.

You can also call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 for the same information. Our call center, staffed by knowledgeable cancer information specialists, is available 24 hours a day, every day.

The Challenge of Lifestyle Change

I can sympathize with every one of you out there, especially the older folks, who find it so difficult to get on track and lose some weight. I, too, have had a lifelong battle with being overweight and obese.

After a significant health scare, I tried to go back to a healthier diet.

After about 18 months, more or less, I have been able to lose a bit over 30 pounds. It hasn't been easy, and the reality is that it takes constant attention.

Sure, there are times when the limits come off, but for the most part, I am most successful when I follow some basic rules.

For example, I travel a lot. Airplanes are a fact of my life, sometimes many flights each week. And then, there are the meals on the road, which are difficult to control in terms of what they contain and when I get to eat them.

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