Eating the right type of foods is extremely important when fighting a deadly illness like cancer, which is why the Journal of the American College of Nutrition recently unveiled its new dietary guidelines for cancer prevention. According to the Journal, six new nutritional guidelines are associated with preventing cancer; one of those guidelines highlights why consuming soy could help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America's (CTCA) Registered Dietician and Oncology Nutritionist Carolyn Lammersfeld recently wrote a book on cancer nutrition that aligns with these guidelines. She co-authored the book, Cancer Nutrition and Recipes for Dummies, with her colleague Dr. Maurie Markman, CTCA President of Medicine and Science Eastern Regional Medical Center. The book offers advice on recipes, menu planning, and nutritional analysis. Lammersfeld talked to Brandi Walker about the recipes that align with the cancer nutrition guidelines, why consuming soy could help reduce the risk of breast cancer, and why avoiding grilled and broiled meats could help keep you healthy.
1. What recipes from your book align with the new cancer nutrition guidelines?
We wrote the book and included recipes based on the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and American Cancer Society guidelines, and what patients have told us over the years works for them during cancer treatment. The new guidelines recently published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition are not much different from previous guidelines, and in fact are based on the AICR guidelines from 2007. Overall, they recommend a plant based diet; limit or avoid alcohol; avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer; avoid grilled, fried and broiled meats; and place an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. The main differences in the new recommendations include limiting or avoiding dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and eating soy to reduce the risk of breast cancer and the risk of recurrence or death in women treated for breast cancer.
It’s important to note that the new recommendations regarding dairy and soy are based on substantial, but not conclusive evidence. That being said, I think it’s best to individualize nutrition recommendations based on one’s goals, risk factors, lifestyle, etc. The entrees featured in Cancer Nutrition and Recipes for Dummies provide a variety of options for home cooks. While most dishes are vegetarian or feature fish or poultry, there are also a few that include red meat (which can be easily substituted), soy and dairy. All the recipes in the book are aligned or can easily be adapted to align with all of the current guidelines we have for cancer nutrition, and it’s always important for anyone with cancer to work with a nutritionist to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need to stay strong during treatment.
2. Why are soy foods beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer?
Again, research is still ongoing in this area. Some studies show no link or a slightly protective link between soy consumption and risk of breast cancer. Other research suggests that protection may only take effect if consumed during childhood and adolescence. I do think it is a good idea to try to incorporate soy into the Western diet much earlier than we are used to. I also believe that natural sources of soy like soybeans and tofu are a wonderful addition to an overall healthy plant based diet. Soy has an effect on cells that may promote apoptosis or death of abnormal cells, it contains phytic acid that acts as an antioxidant to protect cells and also has anti-estrogen properties. More importantly, achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and staying physically active are important lifestyle modifications for breast cancer risk reduction. If soy as part of a healthy diet helps individuals lose excess weight that would be the best of both worlds.
3. What sort of dairy products should a person limit or avoid to reduce the risk of prostate cancer?
I work with individuals to address this based on their risk factors, goals and lifestyles. It is not so much about which dairy products to avoid, but being mindful of portion sizes and the number of servings of dairy products per day. I recommend that my patients not exceed 27-35 grams of dairy protein or 1500 mgs of calcium each day. It is ultimately about getting enough calcium to maintain bone health and other functions, while not overindulging. A plant based diet that includes 7-8 servings of things like soybeans, greens and beans can provide just the right amount of calcium for the average individual per day.
4. Why must we avoid grilled and broiled meats?
When we cook animal protein at high temperatures where there is charring of the meat, carcinogens known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines are formed, which can damage the DNA in our cells. The risk is highest with red meats and processed meats. Marinades, pre-cooking at lower temps, using lean cuts of meats are ways to minimize formation of these compounds. Also, grilling vegetables does not results in formation of these carcinogens, which is another reason to stick to plant based foods.
5. What fruits and vegetables are particularly beneficial when fighting this disease?
Most people do not consume enough, so any fruits and vegetables provide benefit over a diet that lacks produce. Generally, a more colorful diet is more beneficial because it contains phytochemicals which play a critical role in protecting our cells. Try to get a serving of red, purple, green, orange and white produce every day. Apples berries, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, dark green leafy greens, red and purple grapes, winter squash and tomatoes are all good options!
For more information on Lammersfeld, visit her page on http://www.cancercenter.com/midwestern/doctors-and-clinicians/carolyn-la...