Diet and exercise may help reduce cancer recurrence

June 22, 2012 By May Harter, M.S., R.D., CD/N

Although we cannot change our genetic makeup, eating healthier, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and being more physically active may reduce the chance of cancer recurrence. Here are six ways to get started:

1) Small changes can lead to big results. Making drastic changes or too many changes at once can make it hard to stick with change. Pick one behavior, set realistic goals, evaluate how the change is going and reward yourself for that change. Example: I will walk 15 minutes Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. If I accomplish this, I will walk 17 minutes three days the following week and buy new workout clothing.

2) Cut calories, lose weight. By eliminating 100 calories daily, you can lose 10 pounds in one year. Examples:

• Eat one less slice of cheese
• Eat one less half-cup of rice or pasta
• Use light vs. regular salad dressing
• Drink 1 cup or less juice daily
• Eat a few less bites of dessert

3) Fill half your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. They have phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that help fight cancer. Think rainbow: blueberries, eggplant, broccoli, oranges, cauliflower, peppers and tomatoes.

4) Eat less animal proteins and more leaner meats. Reduce red meats like beef, pork, lamb, and luncheon meats like bacon, sausage and ham. Eat leaner proteins like fish, poultry and eggs. Add plant-based proteins like beans, quinoa, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

5) Add more whole grains, fiber. Whole grains, foods made up of the entire grain seed, and fiber help us feel more full which lead to eating less calories. Fiber speeds up food going through our digestive tract reducing exposure of carcinogens and toxins in the body. Fiber-rich foods include whole wheat bread, cereals like oatmeal and bran, fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts.

6) Adopt a physically active life. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Examples of moderate intensity are walking, dancing, leisurely bicycling, mowing the lawn and gardening. Vigorous activity includes running, fast bicycling, swimming, soccer, carpentry and heavy manual labor. Limit time sitting, watching screen-based entertainment like television.

May Harter is a registered dietitian in Weight Management/Bariatrics at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. For information about nutrition counseling with an HOCC registered dietitian, please call 866.668.5070. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 800.321.6244 or online. Learn more about wellness programs at HOCC.