Courtesy of Roswell Cancer Talk Blog

Summertime offers a bounty of delicious foods, grilled entrees, fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside stands, and refreshing beverages in a rainbow of colors. While it is tempting to overindulge occasionally, eating a balanced diet is important, especially for people undergoing cancer treatment or those in survivorship.

The World Health Organization classifies processed meats as a “definite” cause of cancer, and red meat as a “probable” cause. Both have been linked to an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers, especially of the colon and rectum. While researchers have observed the correlation, they don’t fully understand how it works. Overall, they think it is a good idea to limit the consumption of processed meats by substituting other fresh meats, such as chicken or fish, for some meals.

It is also important to know that grilling meat at high temperatures results in the production of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are cancer-causing chemicals. It is therefore best to cook foods at lower temperature for more time, trimming excess fat from meats, and scraping off any charred pieces.

Alcoholic beverages, commonly found at picnics, parties, and barbecues, should be enjoyed in moderation, as excessive drinking can contribute to serious health risks, including cirrhosis of the liver. While not a kind of cancer, cirrhosis is scarring of the liver, which increases the risk of cancer. About 20 percent of cirrhosis cases in the United States are caused by excessive drinking alone, while others contract cirrhosis from viral hepatitis combined with excessive drinking.

Instead of reaching for that glass of wine or beer, consider a mocktail or water flavored with fresh fruit, which cuts down on calories and sugar, are alcohol-free, and are just as tasty. Resist sugar-sweetened beverages such as pop, sweet tea, lemonade, or sweetened coffee, as they can contribute to excess sugar in the diet which can lead to weight gain. Obesity is one of the chronic health conditions that increases the risk for breast and colorectal cancer.

Summer is the best time to find a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables just about anywhere, from farmers’ markets and grocery stores, to farm stands on country roads. At least two-thirds of your plate should contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, leaving one-third (or less) for meat or poultry. Plant-based foods contain vitamins and minerals, are higher in fiber, and are a good source of naturally occurring phytochemicals that can play a role in cancer prevention by slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Most importantly, remember to drink plenty of water, especially as the temperatures get higher. Dietitians recommend drinking three quarts of water daily, or more if cancer treatment causes fluid loss, or if you spend a lot of time outside on hot and humid days. A glass or bottle of water should be within reach at all times, because feeling thirsty is an indication of mild dehydration.

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