By Koren Raymond, LMSW
An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old adage that may seem out of date against the backdrop of modern medicine – but it’s not. In fact, eating right can have many health benefits.
Apples are an excellent source of fiber and contain Vitamin C, which is good for the immune system. They’re rich in flavonoid, which is an antioxidant and may help prevent cancers. They can be an excellent source of energy because they contain sugar, but only about a quarter of the calories of chocolate or candy.
Apples also contain phenols, which reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. And they contain phytonutrients, which help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism.
Limiting the consumption of other foods, such as red meats, may also reduce cancer risks. Processed meats, such as hot dogs, ham, and sausage have been classified as carcinogens. These classifications do not indicate the risk of getting cancer, but do indicate the potential to cause cancer.
Substituting red meat for fish or chicken may be a healthier choice. Also, if you do choose to eat red or processed meat, limit the portion size or consider grass fed, and locally or regionally grown meats and preservative-free processed meats.
If availability, cost, or convenience of fresh fruits and vegetables are a concern, consider frozen products. The Livestrong Foundation notes that frozen vegetables provide the same nutritional profile as fresh vegetables. And remember, cooking methods can have an impact on health benefits, too. Steaming vegetables, for example, is the best way to retain their nutritional value.
While organic fruits and vegetables contain fewer chemicals, they can be costly. Fruits and vegetables that most commonly contain pesticides, often referred to as the “dirty dozen,” include peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.
The least contaminated fruits and vegetables include onions, avocados, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.
Eating healthy foods is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce your cancer risk. Exercise and moderate use of alcohol are important, too. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one drink per day. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity, exercise each week. This, combined with healthier eating habits, will cause you to feel better, and reduce illness.
Koren Raymond, LMSW is an oncology social worker at University Cancer & Blood Center. She earned her master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work. Before joining UCBC, Koren worked in hospice care, a domestic abuse shelter, as a court-appointed special advocate, and as a counselor at Camp Magik. Koren also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Piedmont College in Demorest, GA, and is a current member of the National Association of Social Work and the Association of Oncology Social Work.