What Popular Diets Help Prevent Cancer?

It's not just about losing pounds, but getting all the nutrients the body needs

April 25, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Being overweight or obese does increase the risk of developing cancer. So losing the pounds is a good idea.

But experts at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say some popular diets are healthier and more effective in fighting cancer than others.

“Losing weight can help lower your chances for cancer if you’re overweight or obese,” said Daxaben Amin, a senior clinical dietitian in MD Anderson’s Department of Clinical Nutrition. “But beware: not just any weight-loss plan will give your body the nutrients it needs to fight off diseases like cancer.”

So which plans are good healthy ones?

Quality of food choices is most important - making sure that you're eating a variety of foods makes a big difference. Just as important is appreciating that adopting good nutrition habits isn't a fad or fast fix.

“Diets that make our ‘good list’ encourage long-term change,” Amin said. “They also give you a variety of options
from all food groups.”

"Cancer-fighting diets include a variety of plant-based foods, healthy fats and a life-long commitment."

Mediterranean Diet is considered good because it encourages life-long changes. It also promotes disease-fighting foods including:

  • Making fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based foods a big part of every meal
  • Choosing healthy fats, like olive and canola oils, instead of butter
  • Flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Limiting red meat and alcohol intake
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week

The Whole-Body Approach is also considered good since it focuses on eating six to seven small meals each day, instead of the standard three large meals. Its cancer-fighting attributes include:

  • Adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains into at least half of your daily meals
  • Encouraging eating lean protein
  • Limiting foods high in fat
  • Including daily physical activity

Some of the not-so-healthy popular diets, according to Amin are the following that she said, "made our bad list:"

Gluten-free - eating nothing that contains gluten, a protein found in grains. Unless you have Celiac Disease or are allergic to gluten, Amin says this isn't healthy because whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and protect the cells from damage that may lead to cancer.

Carbohydrate free - choosing carbs wisely is the key, because whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans are cancer-fighting foods and the body's primary source of energy.

Maintaining a healthy weight requires a life-long commitment, and Amin suggests that the secret to long-term success is moderation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 15, 2011
Last Updated:
April 21, 2011