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Plant-based diets reduce cancer risk

Updated: Mar 3, 2019

Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought I ate pretty healthy. Then, I visited an oncology dietician and she showed me I could do better, so I am switching from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one. The latter helps reduce the risk of cancer, according to the American Institute of Cancer Research, and is what my dietician suggests.

She also noticed that I was not getting enough protein in my diet, and according to the outline from her of what a healthy plant-based diet looks like, I am not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Here's what her plan includes:

  • Eat at least seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day;

  • Eat dark green, leafy vegetables every day. Include a variety of these veggies -- broccoli, spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, bok choy and others.

  • Eat dark, brightly colored berries every day or at least several times per week. Try to include a wide variety of berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, dark red cherries, raspberries.

  • Have at least two to three servings per day of whole grains. Read food labels. If they include the word "enriched," the product is not a whole grain.

  • Focus on replacing unhealthy fats with healthy ones. For example, cut back on unhealthy fats found in processed foods such as chips, cookies, cakes and microwave and instant meals, and replace them with foods that contain nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil and canola oil. The latter include healthy fats.

  • Eat legumes every day or at least several times per week. I am trying to get satisfy my need for legumes with lentils.

  • Use meat and other animal foods for flavoring, not the main focus of a meal.

  • Eat yogurt or other fermented foods at least a few times per week. This one is easy for, as I start the day with plan yogurt mixed with blueberries. Fermented foods contain probiotics that aid digestion and improve immune function.

Following this plan for a plant-based diet will be a challenge for me, as it is a new way of eating and at first glance, it seems like it could be hard to fit that many fruits and vegetables into my day. Plus, I need to learn recipes for dishes that include beans and lentils. However, it's worth the effort -- not only does a plant-based diet reduce cancer risk, but it can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and Alzheimer's disease, according to my dietician.

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