Food for Thought

The Power of a Plant-based Diet

Did you know that about one-third of all cancers are caused by poor diet? Another one-third of cancers are caused by tobacco (cigarettes, snuff, etc.). In 2002, it is expected that 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. Think about that for a minute. That means that if everyone ate well and stopped using tobacco products, about one million of these cancers would never occur. That's how much power you have over your health.

The single most important nutrition change that you can make to reduce your risk of cancer is eating a plant-based diet. Plant-based diet? What does that mean?

Many hundreds of research studies tell us that if we eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (kidney beans, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.), we are doing the best thing possible to lower our risk of cancer. A plant-based diet does not have to be a vegetarian diet. You can include meat and other 'animal' foods, but you do need to make sure that only one-quarter of your plate is covered by these foods. This means that about three-quarters of your plate needs to be covered by plants - fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.

Foods from the plant kingdom have many other things in them besides vitamins and minerals. These other nutrients are called phytochemicals or phytonutrients. 'Phyto' means plant, so phytochemicals are 'plant chemicals'. We could call them 'Fight-O' chemicals because they fight cancer so well. Phytochemicals lower the risk of cancer.

More and more research suggests that to lower cancer risk, what is missing from your diet is more important than what is in your diet. In other words, focus on adding healthy plant foods to improve your diet rather than focusing on cutting out foods from your diet.

Don't say to yourself, "I can't have this food or that food." Instead, say to yourself, "What great plant food can I add into my diet today to improve my health and lower my risk of cancer?"

Be creative and add any plant food to your diet that you like. View these changes as a gift not a chore. Give yourself the gift of better health today by eating more plant foods!

Tips For Eating More Plant Foods

  • Rely on frozen produce during the off season.
  • Add a handful of frozen blueberries, strawberries or blackberries to your cereal in the morning.
  • Eat a high-fiber, whole grain cereal, such as All-Bran, Bran-Buds or Raisin Bran; choose a cereal with at least 6 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Stuff your favorite omelet with low-fat shredded cheese, tomatoes and frozen spinach (that has been cooked and drained); garnish with strawberries or peaches for a fruit serving.
  • Choose whole grain, high fiber breads; choose bread with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Have a glass (6 oz maximum) of 100% fruit juice; change juices every week for variety.
  • Keep little 6 oz cans of low sodium vegetable juice handy for a quick serving of vegetables.
  • Snack on baby carrots and humus; you get both vegetables and legumes with this snack.
  • Eat low-sodium bean or lentil soup for lunch; it's quick and convenient, and counts as a serving of legumes.
  • Use canned beans; rinse well and sprinkle on salad to add protein and fiber to your meal.
  • Use whole grain pasta instead of plain, white pasta; try Hodgson Mills brand, which you can buy at Kroger & Meijer's.
  • For a tasty salad, steam several frozen or fresh vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), until tender and crisp. Add one-half cup prepared Italian dressing (try Annie's Naturals or Chelten House brands) per pound of vegetables; mix well and refrigerate until chilled.
  • Improve the nutritional value of your family's favorite main dish casserole by adding one cup frozen or canned mixed vegetables; be sure to look for the veggie blends that include cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
  • Stuff your favorite potato with antioxidant-rich toppings such as stewed tomatoes, green and red peppers, onions, broccoli and low-fat cheese; substitute in a sweet potato and you get even more nutrition value.
  • Add a few leaves of kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion greens or any other green leafy food to your regular salad.
  • To focus on variety, be sure to eat a 'rainbow' of foods - focus on orange, red, green, yellow, blue, purple, dark green, etc. (carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, mangoes, papaya, blueberries, eggplant, kale, collard greens, spinach, etc.). Even if you eat a lot of plant foods, most people do not get enough variety for maximum cancer-fighting effect.

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