Certain cancers are preventable through diet, and this new tool shows you how well you're doing.

By Julia Malacoff
Updated: February 23, 2017

If you could calculate your cancer risk, would you? For most people, the answer is hell, yes. That's because the more you know about your health, the better-informed decisions you can make, including science-backed choices that will reduce your cancer risk. (Here, find out if fiber can reduce your risk of breast cancer.)

In the past several years, there have been multiple studies that sought to define exactly how preventable cancer is. What they've found is that some forms, like colorectal, lung, and esophageal cancer are actually semi-preventable through a healthy lifestyle, to varying degrees. So what exactly does a healthy lifestyle entail? As you might guess, it mainly involves exercising, eating well, and not smoking. Now, scientists are recommending that in addition to continuing to research new treatments for cancer, people should be actively trying to reduce their risk however they can. One of the best ways to do that, according to them, is through a healthy diet.

That's where the Environmental Working Group comes in. The organization, which is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through scientifically-proven research, has come up with a nutrition calculator for cancer prevention. Here's how it works: You indicate how frequently you eat of certain types of food, and the calculator tells you how good of a job you're doing. The foods included in the calculator are ones that are proven to lessen your cancer risk because of their nutrient and phytochemical contents.

Unfortunately, you can't just pick one cancer-fighting food and then be done. You need to get a hearty combination of these certain foods, which include cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, and legumes, in order to reap the benefits. That's why the calculator evaluates the variety of your diet. "The central premise is that variety is key," said Curt Della Valle, Ph.D., director of EWG's Cancer Prevention Initiative, in a press release. "Most evidence indicates it's the combinations of foods and the synergy among nutrients that keep our bodies healthy." When it comes to protein, the guidelines in the organization's Cancer Defense Diet, which the calculator is based on, recommend getting as much of your protein from low-mercury fish and plant-based sources, like nuts and beans, as possible.

In other words, here's more proof that a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies is good for you. And while the possibility of getting cancer is certainly scary, knowing that there are things you can do to reduce your risk is empowering. (For more info, find out how the best doctors prevent cancer.)



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