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Prevent cancer by fueling your body

Each one of us is handed a genetic predisposition for physical traits. Some argue genes even influence our habits and behaviors. One thing is certain: Our genes also influence our risk of some diseases like cancer. While we cannot manipulate these set DNA characteristics, there are some lifestyle habits that impact this disease risk factor: Eating habits and physical activity.

According to the American Cancer Society, one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to diet and physical activity, with excess bodyweight or obesity being major risk factors. These same factors are also linked with heart disease and diabetes risk.

“Controlling what we fuel our bodies with is so very important,” says Shayna Komar, a licensed and registered dietitian at Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “The general rule of thumb is to eat 80 percent plant-based foods and 20 percent animal proteins. This will also help you stay away from the processed foods and packaged foods that have proven to be cancer-causing foods.”

Eat from a rainbow

Komar says the more color these natural foods have, the better. She tells her patients to eat from a rainbow. This means variety is key.

“Berries, beans and greens should be in your grocery cart every week. And when they are out of season, turn to frozen veggies and fruits. These foods are frozen at their highest peak of nutritional value.”

Komar also recommends searching out local farmers markets in early fall and spring seasons. Local farmers usually have a nice variety of in-season veggies and fruits that are packed with flavor and nutrition.

Spices and herbs add more than just flavor

When it comes to preparing food, Komar encourages the use of spices and herbs to pep up bland foods and add a change of flavor. Spices and herbs have many positive health benefits too. They have zero calories, no fat and they have anti-inflammatory traits. Turmeric is at the top of the list for anti-inflammatory foods as well as anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.

“Think globally when you are eating,” says Komar. “Western and Indian recipes use a wide variety of spices, and Mediterranean foods are prepared with predominantly fresh cuisine. Oregano, basil and parsley can add a punch of flavor and are even easy to grow in a pot at home.”

Keep moving

A healthy diet is so much more effective if you couple it with physical activity. Exercise can reduce your risk of developing cancer as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Piedmont Healthcare offers Cancer Wellness at four locations: Atlanta, Fayetteville, Newnan and Henry. For more information, visit Piedmont Cancer Services. For additional healthy lifestyle tips, visit Living Better’s Cancer Care page

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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