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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Diet After Colorectal Cancer

Unlike many other cancers, colorectal cancer sends out advance warnings of its arrival. A precancerous polyp detected in the colon during a preventive screening can help motivate you to adopt a colon-healthy diet.

If you’ve had a polyp or a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, you’ll want to know how to structure a diet to prevent a recurrence of your condition. “There isn’t nearly as much research on survivorship and recurrence as there is on prevention, but from what we’ve seen so far, our best advice is for our cancer survivors to follow our prevention guidelines,” says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society.

Unless extraordinary health conditions dictate some variance, the standard cancer prevention guidelines hold sway for two reasons. First, the prevention guidelines are based on extensive analysis of diet and cancer, and frequently describe the best-known strategies for avoiding a recurrence.

Second, a generally well-balanced cancer prevention diet can help prevent a return of the disease not only in the colon, but also elsewhere in the body. “Survivors of a particular type of cancer can still be at risk for other types of cancers,” Doyle says. Since a cancer survivor is at higher risk for many different cancers, not just the cancer of the original site, it is important to control one’s overall cancer risk as much as possible. “The overall risk of most cancer is going to be reduced by following those nutrition and physical activity guidelines,” Doyle says.

Colorectal Cancer and Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid

What you should eat and what you should avoid are equally important.

What helps. The colorectal cancer prevention diet is plant-based, and includes the standard recommendation of five servings of richly colored — think of a rainbow — fruits and vegetables every day. Alcohol should be limited to one drink per day for women, two for men. Fats should be used in moderation, and consist mostly of those found in fish and plant sources.

What doesn’t help. A limited amount of research has identified several dietary strategies that seem to have no benefit in preventing the recurrence of precancerous polyps. Within three to four years from the original polyp, no protective effect in preventing new polyps was found from antioxidant vitamins, fiber supplements, or modest dietary changes to increase fruit and vegetable intake.

What might help. There is some evidence that calcium supplements provide some benefit in preventing polyp recurrence. But because high levels of calcium are implicated in prostate cancer, Doyle recommends that men make sure they get the recommended dosage of calcium — preferably through plant sources — and no more.

After a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the most important determinants of survival seem to be adherence to the full treatment regimen (especially if chemotherapy is recommended) and regular colonoscopies to identify new lesions. Colorectal cancer treatment may require specialized nutritional counseling to develop a tailor-made food plan, particularly if surgery has removed part of the colon and affected how the body absorbs nutrients, Doyle says.

7 Life-Enhancing Reasons to Eat Fish

Fish has a reputation for being low calorie, high protein “brain food,” thanks to the long strands of polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids (popularly referred to as “omega-3s”) found in fish oil.

The human body can’t naturally produce omega-3s, but yet they’re needed for a healthy body, inside and out. Although the link between omega-3s and heart healthhas long been known, several new studies present even more evidence that fish high in fatty acids is essential for total-body wellness.

The good news is if you’re not a fish fan, most new research indicates that eating fish only once or twice a week can be enough to reap the benefits. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health recommends that people consume at least 2 percent of their total daily calories as omega-3 fatty acids, which equals about 4 grams per day. One four-ounce piece of salmon (one of the highest natural sources of omega-3s) contains about 1.5 grams of the fatty acid. Other fish, such as tuna, sardines, and halibut, also contains high levels. If you don’t eat animal products or have trouble fitting fish into your diet, you can get your daily recommended amount of fatty acids through omega-3 DHA/fish oil supplements. Although new data fromConsumer Reports suggests that more Americans are buying omega-3 supplements than ever before, the doctor-recommended way to consume the health benefits of fish is still by eating the real thing.

If the heart-health-boosting, waist-slimming properties weren’t reasons enough to eat more fish, here are seven more ways adding a dose of fish to your diet can improve your health.

  1. Prevent Heart Disease: A Danish study of 49,000 women that was published Monday inHypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who ate little to no fish had 50 percent more heart problems than those who ate fish at least once per week. Additionally, researchers found that women who rarely ate fish had a three-fold higher disease risk than those who ate it often. Other research has found that eating fish high in omega-3s can slash blood fat levels, which can contribute to a lower heart-disease risk.
  2. Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk: Eating fish as little as once a week can help preserve gray-matter neurons — the part of the brain linked to memory and cognition —according to a new study presented last month at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting. Researchers found that people who eat baked or broiled — but not fried — fish had larger brains and larger cells in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Scientists believe the larger brain volume can help lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Improve Skin and Hair: One of the biggest drawbacks to a low-fat diet is you often deprive your skin and hair of the healthy fat it needs, leaving it dull and dry. The omega-3s in fish are exactly the type of healthy fat to eat to keep your skin looking nourished and your hair shiny. Research has also linked fish and omega-3 consumption to treatment of skin conditions such as psoriasis.
  4. Ease Depression: Several studies have found that when taken along with prescription antidepressant medications, the omega-3s in fish are more effective at treating depression that just prescription medication alone. One study of 52 pregnant women found that taking a 300 mg capsule of omega-3s during pregnancy significantly reduced the women’s risk of postpartum depression.
  5. Boost Brain Development: The EFA omega-3 found in salmon and other nutrient-rich fish are essential nutrients for children because they contribute to brain development. Some studies have even found that omega-3 consumption can help soothe symptoms of ADHD. Experts recommend, however, that parents ask their pediatrician before introducing supplements to a child’s diet.
  6. Dose of Vitamin D: Saltwater fish is a sun-less source of vitamin D, which scientists say can help ward off disease, promote bone health, and with the help of the omega-3s in fish, ward off cognitive decline. Just one three-ounce serving of salmon contains 75 percent of your daily recommended amount of the vitamin.
  7. Stronger Sperm: A recent study of 188 men found that those who ate more fresh fish — along with other healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — had stronger swimmers than those who ate unhealthy diets. Researchers say that more study needs to be done, but preliminary data shows that the better the participant’s diet, the stronger the shape and mobility of the sperm he produced.

Are Fruits and Vegetables Less Nutritious Today?

When it comes to getting enough nutrients in your diet, one bit of information is pretty clear-cut: Everybody should be eating an abundance of different fruits and vegetables every day. Yet according to research, fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be say 50 years ago. The reason?

A number of studies have explored the phenomenon of declining nutrients in fruits and vegetables, but the one that garnered the most media attention was led by Donald R. Davis, PhD, at the University of Texas in Austin, and was published inHortScience. Among Davis’s findings, one of the most consistent was that a higher yield of crops — in other words, more crops grown in a given space — almost always resulted in lower nutrient levels in the fruits and vegetables. What’s more, the median mineral declines among a variety of fruits and vegetables could be fairly significant, ranging from 5 to 40 percent, with similar declines in vitamins and protein levels.

Higher yield is one reason behind the decline, but several nutrition experts say it’s not the only one. “The soil itself has been over-harvested, meaning that over years of use and turnover of soil, it becomes depleted in nutrition,” says Michael Wald, MD, an integrated medicine specialist in Mount Kisco, N.Y. “All crops growing upon depleted soil must therefore be depleted in nutritional content.”

Cherie Calbom, MS, a clinical nutritionist and author of The Juice Lady’s Living Foods Revolution, sees it as a bigger problem that extends to many aspects of modern farming. “Our poor farming practices are leading to sick plants, depleted soil, and a need to use higher and higher doses of pesticides and herbicides to ward off what healthy plants would naturally ward off,” she says. “We are heading toward a dust bowl in many parts of the country if nothing changes.”

Despite these concerns, Janet Brill, PhD, RD, a nutritionist and author of Cholesterol Down, it’s still critically important to eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables, and these developments shouldn’t discourage you from doing just that. “People should be concerned about one area of fruits and vegetables and one area only: to eat lots more of them each day, cooked and raw,” she says. “After we have solved that problem [of consumption], then we can move on to any nutrition concerns about growing them.”

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Fruits and Veggies

There are still many steps you can take to ensure a healthy nutrient punch every time you include fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Go with locally grown. The key to getting more nutrients is eating food that spends less time traveling from the field to your table. The way to accomplish that goal is with locally grown produce, either from your own garden or from a local farmer’s market. “Buy fresh, whole, and locally grown seasonal produce,” Brill suggests. “Try to purchase produce with the least amount of time from farm to table, as vitamins and minerals are lost over time as well as with cooking and handling.”

Choose frozen. Your natural instinct when eating produce is to think that fresh is always better than frozen. But Brill says that this isn’t necessarily the case. “Sometimes the veggies frozen right after harvest have retained more nutrients than those ‘fresh’ veggies that have taken forever to get to your plate,” she explains.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Big, shiny fruits and vegetables sure look good and grab your attention in the supermarket, but just because they’re beautiful doesn’t mean they’re better for you. For example, organic apples may be smaller and not quite as pretty, but their pesticide levels are likely to be lower.

Keep them rough. When it comes time to prepare those fruits and vegetables for eating, bigger, rougher pieces of produce may have the nutritional edge over finely chopped and sliced options. “Keep chopping to a minimum,” Brill advises. “The greater the exposure of the fruit or vegetable to air, the greater the loss of nutrients.”

Minimize cooking time. Though there are some exceptions (the lycopene in tomatoes, for example), the less most fruits and vegetables are cooked, the more nutrients they retain. So eat your fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible. When you do cook them, keep the cooking time to a minimum and avoid too much contact with water. “Cooking methods that are quick, with a minimum amount of liquid, will help to preserve nutrients,” Brill says. “Steaming, blanching, and stir-frying are all great ways to cook vegetables quickly and retain valuable nutrients. Keep veggies crisp — never overcook or boil in water until soggy.”

It may take a bit more effort to find fruits and vegetables as nutrient-rich as they were 50 years ago, but with more local farm stands cropping up, seasonal choices are getting easier to find and are certainly more delicious.

Teens Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Veggies

The investigators analyzed data from nearly 10,800 students in grades nine through 12 who took part in the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study 2010, and found that median consumption was 1.2 times per day for both fruits and vegetables.

Median daily fruit consumption was much higher among males than females, and much higher among grade nine students than among students in grades 10 and 12.

Slightly more than one in four (28.5 percent) of the high school students ate fruit less than once a day, and 33.2 percent ate vegetables less than once a day. Only 16.8 percent of students ate fruit at least four times a day and only 11.2 percent ate vegetables at least four times a day, the study found.

Vegetable consumption was lowest among Hispanic and black students.

The researchers said their findings indicate that most high school students don’t meet the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for teens who do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day: 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females and 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males.

Teens who get more physical activity need to eat even more fruits and vegetables, the researchers noted.

“The infrequent fruit and vegetable consumption by high school students highlights the need for effective strategies to increase consumption,” the researchers wrote in the report published in the Nov. 25 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Potentially promising school and community-based strategies include policy and environmental approaches such as farm-to-school initiatives, school gardens, salad bars in schools, and farmers’ markets. All of these programs seek to improve access to and availability of fruits and vegetables, the researchers explained.