Cancer is a disease that affects each of us either directly or indirectly.
In Georgia alone, 47,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed during 2014. The good news is that we can reduce our risk of developing cancer by changing our diets.
The National Institute for Cancer Research recommends that Americans modify their eating habits to lower their cancer risk by filling their dinner plates in a new way. This new pattern to guide food selection is called the New American Plate.
Presently, about half of Americans dinner plates are filled with meat, fish or poultry. The remaining half is filled with starchy foods, vegetables and fruits. Nutrition studies involving both healthy individuals and those with cancer have shown that people are less likely to get cancer if they eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and less animal protein, particularly red meat and processed meat, such as sausage and hot dogs.
No one is exactly sure what substances in plant foods protect us, but the largest health benefit is thought to be derived from the synergistic action of nutrients and other phytochemicals, such as flavanols, flavonols, isoflavones and proanthocyanidins.
Plant-based foods that are less processed tend to contain more phytochemicals, so aim to include more of these foods in your diet.
Adoption of the New American Plate should be done gradually. The first stage is to fill two-thirds of the plate with whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Only a third of the plate should contain meat, fish or poultry. Gradually, more of the plate is filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Meat substitutes are useful in the transition to the New American Plate. Cooked dried beans and peas, tofu, tempeh, nuts and nut butters are all delicious ingredients that can replace animal protein at meals.
Consuming fish high in omega-3 fatty acids two to three times per week may also be protective against cancer. These fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Remember to keep your portions to about the size of the palm of a womans hand. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains should always remain the focus of the meal.
When shopping for produce, select the most colorful vegetables and fruits available. Choose blue and purple, bright orange and yellow, dark green and shiny red. These brightly colored vegetables and fruits tend to be richer in the nutrients that protect our bodies from cancer and other chronic diseases. Try to eat them raw or cooked just until tender to get the most nutrients.
There are many whole grains to choose from. We always think of oatmeal and whole wheat bread, but also try quinoa, millet, brown and wild rice, kamut, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, buckwheat, spelt and barley.
Eating according to the New American Plate does not need to be bland or boring. By choosing more wisely, you will have dinner plates filled with bright colors, fresh flavors and satisfying textures.
If you would like to learn more about shopping for and cooking healthy foods to prevent cancer, University of Georgia Extension would like to invite you to take part in our Cooking for a Lifetime Cancer Prevention Cooking School.
The school will feature two sessions. One session will take place June 19, and the second session will be June 26.
The classes will be held from 1-3 p.m. at the Houston County Extension Office located at 801 Main Street, Perry. There is no cost to take part in the classes. Each session will feature a presentation and a cooking demonstration, followed by sampling of each recipe.
If you would like to register for one or both sessions, please call 478-923-9771. For questions, call me at 478-987-2028.