There may be something to that old apple-a-day adage. Studies show that plant-based diets may help reduce the risk of getting cancer and also prevent its recurrence in cancer survivors. It might also aid with chronic diseases like diabetes. A plant-based diet is a general heading under which fall many diets, including the Mediterranean diet and veganism. The goal is not necessarily to eliminate all meat but to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Sue Czap, a registered dietitian at Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Pluta Cancer Center location, shares the benefits of a plant-based diet and strategies we can use to integrate more fruits and vegetables every day. She recommends having at least two-thirds of your plate covered by foods that are plants or are grown—fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. That last third or less could be filled with a small portion of lean protein, such as chicken, fish or eggs, or you could have a low-fat dairy product.
Here are more tips for getting more veggies and fruits into your day.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. Sketch out a menu or grocery shopping plan. Try to have at least one fruit and/or one vegetable with each meal and snack.
- Don’t get overly ambitious. Avoid purchasing too much fresh produce ahead of time—it may spoil before you can eat it. Supplementing some fresh produce with dried, frozen or minimally processed (without added salt, sugar or sauces) canned fruits and veggies will help you make fewer shopping trips while still reaping many benefits.
- Shop locally and with the seasons. Rochester is fortunate in that we have a renowned public market and many towns in the surrounding areas have farmers markets. You can find farm stands fairly easily, too. Local produce that’s in season tends to taste better and be at the peak of its nutrition compared to produce that has been shipped from afar.
- Eat the colors of the rainbow and choose a variety of fruits and veggies. Having a selection of produce is a good idea because each item will provide you with different nutrients. Look for as many colors as you can find because different colors in vegetables are an indication of the phytonutrients they have.
- Try preparing foods in new ways. This tip goes hand in hand with variety because as you try new things, you probably won’t know how to prepare them at first. If you go to a farmers market, you can always ask the farmer for ideas on preparing the produce they sell. Also, there are literally thousands of healthy recipes and ideas on the internet. Just go to Google, type in the item you want to incorporate, and don’t be afraid to give a new recipe a try! A few great websites to get you started are www.aicr.org, www.cookforyourlife.org and www.rebeccakatz.com.
Sue Czap, MS, RD, CSO, CDN, is a registered dietitian and a board certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She teaches a monthly wellness cooking class for cancer survivors and works primarily from Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Pluta location.