January is the time of year to focus our energy on keeping our new year’s resolutions. And while the holidays are behind us, we can still eat, drink and be merry with these tips to help prevent cancer.
Drink plenty of filtered water
Drinking plenty of water and other liquids may reduce the risk of bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of cancer-causing agents in urine and helping to flush them through the bladder faster. Drink at least 8 cups of liquid a day, suggests the American Cancer Society.
Drinking filtered water will also reduce your exposure to known or suspected carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals. A recent report claims that home-filtered tap water is a safer bet than bottled water, whose quality often is not higher—and in some cases is worse—than that of municipal sources, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group. (Consumer Reports' top picks for faucet-mounted filters: Culligan, Pur Vertical, and the Brita OPFF-100.) Store water in stainless steel or glass to avoid chemical contaminants such as BPA that can leach from plastic bottles.
Caffeine will get you going
Java lovers who drank 5 or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 40% decreased risk of brain cancer, compared with people who drank the least, in a 2010 British study. A 5-cup-a-day coffee habit reduces risks of oral and throat cancer almost as much. Researchers credit the caffeine: Decaf had no comparable effect. But coffee was a more potent protector against these cancers than tea, which the British researchers said also offered protection against brain cancer.
Marinate meat first
Processed, charred, and well-done meats can contain cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, which form when meat is seared at high temperatures, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which get into food when it's charcoal broiled. "The recommendation to cut down on grilled meat has really solid scientific evidence behind it," says Cheryl Lyn Walker, PhD, a professor of carcinogenesis at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. If you do grill, add rosemary and thyme to your favorite marinade and soak meat for at least an hour before cooking. The antioxidant-rich spices can cut HCAs by as much as 87%, according to research at Kansas State University.
Load up on green greens
Next time you're choosing salad fixings, reach for the darkest varieties. The chlorophyll that gives them their color is loaded with magnesium, which some large studies have found lowers the risk of colon cancer in women. "Magnesium affects signaling in cells, and without the right amount, cells may do things like divide and replicate when they shouldn't," says Walker. Just 1/2 cup of cooked spinach provides 75 mg of magnesium, 20% of the daily value.
Snack on Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are a stellar source of selenium, an antioxidant that lowers the risk of bladder cancer in women, according to research from Dartmouth Medical School. Other studies have found that people with high blood levels of selenium have lower rates of dying of lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Researchers think selenium not only protects cells from free radical damage but also may enhance immune function and suppress formation of blood vessels that nourish tumors.
Up your calcium intake
Milk's main claim to fame may also help protect you from colon cancer. Those who took calcium faithfully for 4 years had a 36% reduction in the development of new precancerous colon polyps 5 years after the study had ended, revealed Dartmouth Medical School researchers. (They tracked 822 people who took either 1,200 mg of calcium every day or a placebo.) Though the study was not on milk itself, you can get the same amount of calcium in three 8-ounce glasses of fat-free milk, along with an 8-ounce serving of yogurt or a 2- to 3-ounce serving of low-fat cheese daily.
Commit to whole grains
Whole wheat is better for you than white bread because it has a lower glycemic index. Foods w with a high-glycemic-load (a measurement of how quickly food raises your blood sugar) run a higher risk of colorectal cancer than women who eat low-glycemic-load foods, found a Harvard Medical School study involving 38,000 women. Most white bread, pasta, potatoes, and sugary pastries are high on the glycemic index and lower in fiber. The low-glycemic-load foods contain more fiber.