In your quest to reduce your cancer risk, don't overlook the obvious: Improving your diet can play a substantial role in preventing the disease. Helpful lessons can be learned from other countries that report lower levels of nutrition-related cancers than in the United States. If you are in doubt, consider the following examples.
Choose plant power
Eating a variety of plant-based foods—fruits and vegetables—is the number one rule for cancer prevention because such foods offer a cornucopia of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help make your cells less susceptible to cancer. China's low rates of breast, colon, and rectal cancers and their high use of plant-based foods support the importance of fruits and vegetables in cancer prevention.
The American Cancer Society recommends five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but the average American falls far short of that. To add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you don't have to eat Chinese stir-fry every night—just add fruits and vegetables to your current diet.
Add mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, onions, and carrots to pasta sauce, meatloaf, sandwiches, soup, stew, and chili. Meanwhile, use meat in smaller, condiment-sized quantities.
Add Mediterranean flavors
Studies show that aromatics, such as rosemary, garlic, and parsley, do more than add zest to foods.
Parsley, in particular, is used in large quantity in Mediterranean salads and sauces and has been studied for its anti-cancer effects.
The Mediterranean people's generous use of olive oil also likely contributes to their heart health.
Select whole grains
Robust rye and barley bread is to the Scandinavians what baguettes are to the French and white rice to Asians. The National Cancer Institute recommends consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Although the link between fiber intake and cancer risk is weak, foods high in fiber like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits contain other beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals that play an important role in cancer prevention.
To increase your fiber intake, eat more fruits and vegetables (with the skin, if possible) and increase your intake of beans and whole-grain breads and cereals.