Did you know that foods, which are supposed to provide health and life, can at times do the reverse? Well, according to medics, there is a close relationship between cancer and diet. Some foods can prevent cancer while others cause it.
However, whichever the case, experts advise that to stay away from this fearful epidemic, one should be able to know what to eat and what not to.
What to eat to prevent cancer
According nutritionist Joseph Uwiragiye of University Teaching Hospital (CHUK), certain foods play a vital role in managing cancer, and consuming them daily can work wonders when it comes to prevention.
“One should increase the intake of pro-vitamin A, C and E foods because they contain antioxidants that aid in fighting against diseases by neutralising free radicals. These foods also reduce the risk of cancer and are capable of preventing bladder, mouth, lungs and breast tumours,” he says.
Additionally,Uwiragiye notes that fiber and phytochemical elements also found in fruits and vegetables such as berries, whole grains, broccoli, carrots and tomatoes are all anticarcinogens since they are plant-based foods, which act as natural defense system that provide protection against some diseases including cancer.
“For instance, mushrooms, green tea, turmeric and fresh garlic contain ant-carcinogenic properties that prevent cancer cells from developing and spreading,” he says.
On the other hand, Uwiragiye says, whole grains are also another option for one to feed on as they contain fiber which eases bowel movement. They help in retaining and removing some substances that are in the digestive tract, which eases excretion.
“Consumption of grains also aids in reducing iron and zinc absorption. Vegetables such carrots, red beets, spinach, eggplants and tomatoes can also protect against cancer due to their richness in beta-carotene, pro-vitamin A and fiber, which have an anti-carcinogenic effect.
For Ann Kayitesi, a nurse at King Faisal Hospital, one should limit excessive consumption of milk as it can lead to lung, prostate, breast, ovarian and urinary bladder cancers.
However, she says, one can instead go for yoghurt which is an alternative for milk.
“Yoghurt is an ideal option to replace milk since consumption of it protects one from diseases including breast cancer, because of its richness in active bacterial and lactic acid which is proven to protect against cancer,” he says.
What to avoid
Uwiragiye cautions that all alcohol beverages should be avoided at any cost, adding that consumption of red meat should be limited as it’s a significant factor in causing most types of cancers such as that of the kidney, brain, stomach and ovarian, among others.
“Spicy foods are not good as some of them can be a risk factor for cancer of the mouth and esophagus. On the other hand, avoiding refined products such as white bread and sugar is important as they can lead to cancer.This is because they are low in fiber, have a high content of sugar and fatty acids which can raise the cholesterol level and promote arteriosclerosis as well as heart attacks,” he says.
One of the best ways to improve your heath is by including whole grains in your diet, according to Uwiragiye.
How to go about it when diagnosed with cancer
Dr Achille Manirakiza, a training clinical oncologist at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Tanzania, says that it is very important for patients with cancer to check their nutrition because the condition of the disease and treatment can interfere with the feeding of the patients.
“The treatment and the side effects may bring the patients to eat low fiber foods, and one of the most common side effects of treatment are diarrhoea and vomiting,” he says.
“Such a patient needs plenty of water, more fruits, white meats, milk products and bread. Besides, avoiding processed foods is important,” he adds.
Manirakiza further notes that cancer changes the way an individual responds to food, since they use much energy for growth, and that with the interaction of some other factors (tumor growth factor and natural killer cells), a patient loses weight in the process.
“For that reason therefore, it’s very essential that the patient eats as much energy boosting foods and unprocessed fats as they can. It might as well be necessary that some foods get processed as liquids for stomach and intestine-related cancers as they might block the normal feeding process,” advises Manirakiza.
He, however, cautions that juices like grapefruit juice are not recommended while taking medications, for the same reason.
“It is also important to avoid any food-borne infection, which might be caused by unwashed dishes, unpasteurised milk,” he says.