While we are all aware of the fact that we need to eat all our vegetables every day for good health, is it necessary to become a vegetarian and do vegetarian diets reduce cancer risk?
According to Maria Petzel, a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network:
“There is an overwhelming body of evidence that following a plant-based diet, made up of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds can reduce the risk of getting cancer.”
“However, the evidence is less clear that a vegetarian or vegan diet further reduces risk of cancer over a good plant-based diet and maintaining a healthy weight.”
Petzel cautioned that having the right balance of nutrients is key in making sure you are getting everything you need in a vegetarian diet.
“Vegetarian does not inherently mean healthy. A poorly planned vegetarian – especially vegan – diet can be deficient in essential nutrients such as vitamins B12, B6 and D, as well as iron, calcium and zinc.
“Many beverages and foods that count as vegetarian contain large amounts of refined sugar.” (Think soda, flavoured milk, flavoured yoghurt and other foods that may be low in fibre – like white bread, rice and pasta).
“Other vegetarian foods may be high in sodium, or cooked in less desirable fats including butter, vegetable shortening, corn oil or vegetable oil. A bean and cheese burrito from a fast food restaurant can have as much sodium and saturated fat as its meat-containing counterpart.”
The jury is still out about vegetarian diets as it relates to lowering cancer risk. Petzel recommends following a plant-based diet as guided by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) that includes some vegetarian meals.
A Model Plate for a Cancer Preventive Diet
The New American Plate isn’t a diet or a complex system for calculating calories, fat grams or carbohydrates. It’s a fresh way of looking at what you eat every day. Create meals that lower your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases and manage your weight, at the same time.
Aim for meals made up of 2/3 (or more) vegetables, fruits whole grains or beans and 1/3 (or less) animal protein.
Read more HERE
If you wish to fully follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, seek advice from a registered dietitian to ensure you are getting all of your nutrition needs met.