Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." What he meant is that proper nutrition is the best way to treat and prevent many diseases and ailments. I am in no way advocating for any person to ignore or dismiss his or her doctor's advice and forego medical treatment for cancer and other ailments. Modern medicine has given us many incredible advances in the way we are able to treat and cure cancer and countless other medical conditions. However, by using proper nutrition, we can certainly help our body to naturally combat illness. It's every doctor's dream to have a patient that comes in and says "I eat all my fruits and vegetables, I exercise every day, I wash my hands regularly, and try to stay far away from harmful substances, but now I need your help." Now is junk food and unhealthy living the causing cancer? Maybe, maybe not...but it certainly isn't doing anything to treat or prevent it.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that wraps around the urethra and is part of a man's reproductive system. Prostate cancer is cancer that starts in the prostate gland. The prostate is only found in males, and thus prostate cancer is found only in men. The medical name for prostate cancer is "prostate adenocarcinoma."
Eat Your Vegetables
The old adage "you are what you eat," is remarkably true. What we eat literally becomes a part of us and affects how we feel, think, and sometimes behave. Think for a moment about what you ate yesterday, and imagine turning into that type food. Would you look like a bright, vibrant, fresh carrot, or look more like a soggy, greasy, gray hamburger?
In order to use nutrition help prevent something like prostate cancer, you first need to start filling your stomach with the right kinds of things. On the top of your list should be 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. Now, potatoes don't count (although sweet potatoes make the cut), and a tiny shred of iceberg lettuce on your burger doesn't count either. What you should really be looking for is brightly colored vegetables of all kinds and colors. Carrots, leafy greens of all types, tomatoes, green beans, squash, broccoli etc. Brightly colored vegetables contain high amounts of phytochemicals that are believed to combat illness and cancer causing cells. In fact the phytochemicals are what give these foods their attractive color and their delicious smell and taste. The antioxidants in these vibrant foods help remove the free radicals that can sometimes cause cancer cells to start growing. cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are particularly rich in cancer-fighting nutrients.
The same guidelines for vibrantly-colored vegetables also applies to the 2 to 4 servings of vegetables you should be eating every day. Berries, peaches, melons, oranges, bananas, etc. Fruits like blueberries have some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants known to man.
You should also still eat 2 to 3 servings of whole grains each day. Some examples of whole-grain foods include quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc. White rice doesn't cut it, and neither does white bread. Just remember the old rule, "the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead."
Finally, make sure to eat between 3 and 5 servings of legumes and beans every week. Legumes are very good for you and are an excellent source of protein, but you don't need as many of them. Some examples of legumes and foods made from legumes are peanuts, soy beans (edamame), tofu, nuts, tempeh etc.
Take just a moment and compare the list above to the old food pyramid that you may have grown up with. Notice that the guideline is not to eat 6 to 8 servings of grains every day. In fact, some argue that eating a grain-based diet is what started making us fat in the first place. So remember to pile on the vegetables and fruits.
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For fruit and vegetables, you can use the following guidelines for one serving size:
- Fresh/canned/frozen - 1/2 cupCredit: MeiTeng
- Pureed/sauce - 1/2 cup
- Dried/concentrated - 1/4 cup
- Leafy vegetables - 1 cup
- Juice - 1/2 cup (4 oz.)
- 1 small banana, apple, peach, etc.
- 1/2 medium melon, grapefruit, etc.
For whole grains:
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 bagel
- 3/4 cup of dry cereal
- 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, rice, grains, etc.
For legumes and beans
- Cooked/canned - 1/2 cup
- Tofu/tempeh - 1/2 cup
- Soy beans (edamame) - 1/4 cup
Where's the Beef?
What of meat you ask? You might even be thinking, "This crazy hippie is trying to turn me into a vegetarian!" Fear not, meat has its rightful place on your plate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a steak or whatever other cut of meat that suits your fancy. However, if you are adapting your diet to try to help prevent cancer, fill up most of your plate with items listed above before adding the meat.
A big juicy steak, a pile of crispy fries, and some of grandma's famous baked beans can be a glorious thing. The trick is to not eat like that for the majority of the time. If you want be healthy, you need to eat healthily most of the time. It's when the exception becomes that rule that trouble ensues. Eating one unhealthy meal will certainly not make you fat or give you cancer, but eating one salad won't make you healthy either.
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Meats, Fats, and Disease
While we are still on the topic of meat, you should be aware that the consumption of large amounts of meats and fat has been linked to higher rates of disease, which is why if you can displace a good amount of your meat and fat consumption with fruits and vegetables that your risk for cancer and other diseases will go down.
Additionally, eating overcooked meat is believed to be particularly bad for your prostate. Charred and overcooked meat is loaded with free radicals and toxins that have the tendency to lodge themselves directly in your prostate. Always cook your meat to a safe temperature before consumption, but too eating overcooked meat can directly impact prostate health.
Cut the Junk
Junk food really shouldn't have any place in our diet, or at least a very tiny place. Junk foods are extremely high is refined sugars, refined starches, and excess amounts of fat. Refined sugars and starches (i.e. carbs) have a huge glycemic load, which spikes your blood sugar faster than your pancreas can bring your blood sugar back down. To compensate, your body converts the sugar into fat and stores it in your body. Replacing junk food with healthier options will not only help you fight cancer-causing cells, but can also help you to lose weight without feeling hungry all the time.
Fruits and vegetables will fill you up with much fewer calories. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense, whereas junk foods can be extremely calorie dense while providing absolutely no nutritional value. You could easily consume a whole bag of chips and still be hungry (you know you've done it), which would equal roughly 1500 calories. I challenge you to try to eat 1500 calories-worth of carrots the next time you sit down to watch the big game; you won't even come close since 1500 calories-worth of carrots would be almost 400 medium-sized carrots.
You should also limit your alcohol intake. Alcoholic beverages fall into the same category of calorie-dense, nutritionally-poor foods. It is true that some studies have some that some alcoholic drinks may be beneficial when consumed in moderation, but the key is moderation. Also, studies also have shown that alcohol consumption in younger adults has little to know health benefit. There are many hazards to heavy drinking aside from the lack nutritional value, so try to keep alcoholic drink down to one or two per day. Also, you should replace the soft drinks in your diet with water. If you eat well, sleep enough, and exercise you won't need all of that sugar and caffeine to keep you awake.
Exercise is another vital component to being healthy. As our culture has become more and more confined to couches and office chairs, we have found than there are many health concerns caused by not being active enough. It only takes 30 minutes of exercise every day to help keep your body strong. Include both aerobic exercises (like running, jogging, biking, etc.), and strength training. Use a variety of techniques and exercises to keep yourself interested. Use a pedometer to track how many steps you take during the day to get a good idea of just how active you actually are. You may be surprised at how little you actually walk around during the day. If you use a pedometer, 10,000 steps per day is a common guideline.
Exercise decreases stress levels, reduces risk of chronic diseases, improves the immune system, strengthens muscles and bones, improves sleep, helps control weight, decreases fatigue, and will just make you feel healthier.
Find ways to be active during the day, whether it's heading to the gym during lunch, playing with the kids in the yard, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a short walk around the office to break the monotony. Your body and mind will thank you.
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How to Make the Change
There is no question that old habits are difficult to break. The book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, breaks down how our habits are ingrained in the neurons in our brain, and how if we can understand the anatomy of our habits we can start to change them. The best place to start is with reasonable goals that you can accomplish. Goals should be SMART: (1) Specific, (2) Measurable, (3) Achievable, (4) Realistic, and (5) Time bound. Start with easier goals, like replacing your unhealthy snacks with vegetables for three days this week. Another simple goal would be to have a serving of vegetables or fruit with every meal. Start small, and as you begin to see progress you can move to larger goals.
Always follow the advice of your doctor, but remember that you have a great deal of control over your health and that you are responsible for your body. You won't do everything perfectly, but that's part of the process. Keep making small steps and little by little you will see large changes in your health and wellness.