What Colors Are On Your Child’s Plate? A Rainbow Can Prevent Cancerby Carissa - September 19th, 2016
Unfortunately, no one is immune to being diagnosed with cancer. It can strike anyone, at any time in their lives, and for myriad reasons. From genetics, to environmental factors, to even the foods that we eat (or don’t eat!). When it comes to taking control of our health, and reducing our personal risks of cancer, diet and lifestyle changes are essential. As we have children, this awareness extends beyond our own health to the health of the entire family unit.
Cancer prevention can start early, and likely should. Based on the CDC’s 2000 Census, approximately 13,500 kids in the United States, aged 0-18 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Of those, nearly 2,000 will lose their battle. While it’s not possible to prevent every single case, understanding how our lifestyle and diet choices can impact our bodies is a great place to start. It gives us a semblance of control and can grant us greater peace of mind. Especially for those of us with a family history of cancer.
Let’s start by taking a look at the diet influences that can impact our family’s health in a positive way.
Foods to Focus On
1. Reds – Lycopene, found in red fruits and vegetables, has been found to lower the risk of ovarian cancer, along with fighting pancreatic cancer. Berries are chalk full of great stuff like ellagic acid (a powerful antioxidant), as well as tumor-blocking compounds like phenolic acid, glycosides, and anthocyanins. Have your family eat these daily for maximum benefit.
• Red Peppers
2. Oranges – With potent phytochemicals, orange fruits and vegetables have been found effective at treating malignancies in both the digestive tract and breast. Both you and your children should eat these delicious, helpful foods a minimum of three times a week.
3. Yellows – High in Vitamin C and phytocompounds, yellow foods are excellent at warding off tumor formation in the mouth, throat, and colon. They also promote overall healing through detoxification, while slowing down the development of existing tumors.
• Citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemons, tangerines – and don’t forget their zest!)
4. Greens – Because green fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of glucosinolates and Vitamin K, they lower the risk of several cancers including ovarian, stomach, and colon cancer. Try to include these at least once a day into your family’s eating habits.
• Brussel Sprouts
• Alfalfa Sprouts
• Bok choy
5. Whites – The allicin found in onions and garlic, along with the Vitamin D from mushrooms have been linked to lower rates of digestive and colon cancers, as well as lowering the development of malignancy in the ovaries.
6. Blues and Purples – Phenolic acids, glycosides, and anthocyanins and jam-packed with antioxidants – blues and purple foods can slow the reproduction of cancer cells and stop free radicals in their tracks. Get plenty of these wonder foods daily to ward off colon, prostate, and esophageal cancers along with blocking tumor growth before it starts.
7. Browns – Packed with fiber, phytosterols that block estrogen receptors and slow the growth of breast cancer cells, brown foods pack a powerful punch. Add them to your food daily and encourage your kids to do the same.
• Nuts (particularly walnuts)
• Whole Grains
Foods to Avoid or Cut Back On
1. Processed foods – It’s best to avoid processed foods of any kind, because they’re very often nutritionally void. However, we need to be particularly vigilant with processed meats. This is because of the nitrates found in processed meats, which when converted to nitrosamines, are clearly associated with increased risks of certain cancers. They can also include heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are also linked to cancer. Avoid any meats that have been processed through smoking, curing, salting, or adding in additional chemical preservatives. Yep, this means bacon, folks.
2. Hydrogenated Oils (Trans fats) – Hydrogrenated Oils, also known as Trans Fats, have no nutritional content. On top of that, the body is unable to process trans fats and can ultimately alter hormonal balance, metabolism, cause gene mutations, and cancer. According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people with a higher level of trans fats in their diet were 86% more likely to develop pre-cancerous polyps on the colon.
3. Chemicals you can’t pronounce – Very often found in processed foods, you’ll find labels chalk full of ingredients and chemicals you can’t pronounce. Most often, these chemicals are meant as preservatives to lengthen the shelf life of the product. Unfortunately, this longer shelf life can mean a shorter life for you and your family. Stick with foods you trust, and know are safe for consumption. If you see ingredients you can’t pronounce, walk away.
4. Red Meat – While consumed in moderation, red meat can be a part of a healthy diet. However, there is suggestive evidence that a diet high in red meat may increase the risk of esophageal, pancreatic, stomach, endometrial, lung, and even bladder cancer.
5. Artificial Colors – Brightly colored foods can certainly entice kids to take a bite. However, not all colors are created equal. While it’s a smart move to include naturally colored foods in your family’s diet, avoid artificial colors whenever possible. Each color can be linked to its own specific health risks, but one thing is clear, each are toxic at certain levels and can even be cancer causing.
BONUS: Lifestyle Changes to Bring into Focus
In addition to eating healthy foods, there are also a number of specific ways we can reduce our children’s risks of cancer.
1. Sun safety – Skin cancer can become a big issue later in life. Just a few serious burns can increase your child’s chances. Consider the CDC’s tips for protecting your child against the harmful aspects of too much sun.
2. Talk about the risks of smoking – Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers began this unhealthy habit before the age of 18. Talking with your children early about the risks associated with smoking, the health implications, and its addictive nature can help put your kids on the path to make better decisions.
3. HPV Vaccines - Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that’s transmitted during sex. It’s also the main cause of cervical cancer later on. It can also cause additional cancers such as vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers. Discuss with your doctor whether or not the HPV vaccine is right for your child.
4. Encourage kids to keep moving – Physical activity is good for everyone, for a number of health related reasons. From keeping a healthy weight, to increasing neurogenesis, to even helping ward off cancer. Encourage your kids to take up a sport, go outside and play, ride bicycles, and enjoy moving their bodies. It will translate later to a love of physical activity they can carry with them into adulthood.
5. Reduce exposure to carcinogens – There are a number of chemicals that are known to cause cancer. There are many more that are anticipated to be carcinogens, but more research is necessary to understand their relationship for sure. As the adult in the family, it’s important to know what those are and to reduce any or all exposure of these harmful chemicals to your family. It’s equally important to talk to your kids about the reasons to stay away from things like radon, formaldehyde, and others so they grow up to be responsible consumers as well.
6. Teach moderation (in every aspect) – From alcohol consumption, to too much electronic device time, to overeating, teaching kids to monitor themselves is crucial. Through understanding moderation, kids learn that nothing has to truly be “off-limits.” It’s when we go overboard that cancer risks increase and other health problems arise.
Children don’t always want what’s best for them. It’s important for parents to be the guiding hand to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle habits they will take with them as they get older. By setting an example and offering up a rainbow of foods to eat, children will become accustomed to making healthier choices. This in turn, could save their life later on. Even if you have a picky eater in the family, keep trying. Know that eventually, your hard work at education and being the example will pay off.
Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.
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