The link between cancer and nutrition has been an increasingly popular topic of interest. However, there are countless myths being spread. This week, the Optimal RD team is focusing on 5 of the most common myths. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact Optimal RD!
Myth: Sugary foods feed cancer cells and cause them to grow.
Fact: Eating sugar does not speed up cancer cell growth. All cells in our body need glucose to function whether they are cancer cells or not. Glucose comes from all types of foods like fruits, vegetables, and of course sweets. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume less than 25 gm/day and men consume less than 36 gm/day of added sugar. While our body cannot pick and choose which cells to provide energy, we must be careful about what sugars we are eating because added sugar in processed foods can lead to other health concerns whereas the naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables may not. According to the National Cancer Institute, excess sugars in processed foods can lead to weight gain among other health concerns which poses as a big risk factor for cancers including esophageal, pancreatic, colon/rectal, breast, kidney, thyroid, gallbladder, and endometrial. Consuming sweet foods with naturally occurring sugar should be chosen over foods high in refined sugar.
Myth: Eating organic foods will decrease my risk of developing cancer.
Fact: Organic vs. non-organic foods have the same nutritional value and there is no evidence that eating organic foods reduces the risk of cancer. Research has shown that they have similar amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. While organic foods generally cost more due to their better growing environments, it is important to eat about 2 cups of both fruits and vegetables to reduce cancer risks. According to EWG’s The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, 12 fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue are named the Dirty Dozen. This includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes. The Clean 15 are the top fruits and vegetables that have the least amount of pesticide residue. These include avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Not everyone can afford an all-organic diet, so choose some organic foods from the list of the dirty dozen to eliminate some pesticides.
Myth: Drinking diet soda causes cancer.
Fact: Studies have not confirmed a link between aspartame (one of the most common artificial sweeteners) in diet soda and cancer in humans. According to the American Cancer Society, there have not been any health problems consistently linked to exposure to aspartame. Health professionals encourage people to prioritize water as their primary beverage and recommend drinking ½ of your body weight in ounces of water. Some alternative beverages included unsweetened sparkling water, fruit infused water, and green tea.
Myth: Taking supplements will reduce risk of developing cancer.
Fact: Research has shown that taking supplements does not decrease your risk of cancer. While many assume that dietary supplements are always safe to take even with other prescribed drugs, little is known about the interaction between the two and can pose other potential health threats due to possibly blocking the absorption of the prescribed medication. You can read more about supplements on the American Cancer Society website. Always talk with your healthcare professionals before adding supplements to your diet.
Myth: Breast cancer survivors should avoid soy products because it can mimic the role of estrogen.
Fact: Soy contains phytoestrogens which are not the same as the hormone estrogen in our body, hence it does not fuel breast cancer. The American Cancer Society says that consuming two servings of soy foods a day is safe. Soy beans are high in protein, isoflavones, and fiber among other nutrients. Soy derivatives such as soy milk and tofu are advised over soy supplements and isolates.