Federal Government Embraces an Anti-Cancer Diet

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By Alex De Alvarado and Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D.

COHEN.jpgMore than two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are obese or overweight. Mounting evidence links excess body weight with an increased risk for many types of cancer.

In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that more than one-third of the most common cancers could be prevented if Americans maintained a healthy diet, increased their level of physical activity and stayed lean. The federal government recently released new dietary guidelines that echo the recommendations of many cancer experts, and may help to reduce this risk.

The U.S Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (D.H.H.S.) outline the guidelines in their latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. The guidelines are published every five years and are designed to help promote health, prevent chronic diseases and reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

The new recommendations are seen as a major step by federal regulators to recognize the obesity crisis and provide more information on maintaining appropriate calorie balance, the importance of consuming nutrient-dense foods and increasing physical activity.

Key recommendations include:

  • Prevent and/or reduce obesity through improved eating and physical activity. For this population, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages (estimated caloric intake: female, moderate activity, 51 and older - 1,800; male, moderate activity, 51 and older - 2,300).
  • Increase vegetable and fruit intake, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas.
  • Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.
  • Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.
  • Choose a variety of proteins, which include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.
  • Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) (1 teaspoon) and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg (1/3 teaspoon) among persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African-American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.
  • Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars and sodium.
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation -- up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Following these guidelines will mean paying closer attention to what and how much we eat. This is challenging when eating in restaurants, which often serve single portions that could easily serve two people, or eating processed foods.

Whenever possible, cook fresh food at home with family and friends to achieve a healthy, balanced anti-cancer diet.

Please visit for a more detailed breakdown of these new guidelines. You can also reference an online calendar to sign up for the Integrative Medicine Center class, Nutrition for Individuals Touched by Cancer, by calling 713-794-4700.

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