Is a Summer Diet Good For You?

Is a Summer Diet Good For You?

At this time of year picnics and BBQs become very popular, weather permitting, and the summer months afford us a whole new style of eating and drinking, along with a variety of different foods to choose from, writes specialist information nurse Richard Ellworthy. Although everyone generally feels much healthier and believes they are eating healthier too, are we in fact helping ourselves or are we potentially doing more harm? Are there lessons to learn that we could apply to the rest of the year that would help to reduce our risks of developing cancer? Which foods help prevent cancer, and which are possibly linked to an increased risk?

There is much controversy around the issue of diets and cancer. Some claim that about a third of all cancers are potentially avoidable by dietary change. We know, however, that most cancers are as a result of multiple factors and cannot be totally blamed upon what we do or don’t eat.

Cancers that may be linked to diet include those of the digestive system – gullet (oesophagus), stomach and bowel – and cancer of the breast and prostate. Diets high in fibre, low in animal fat and containing plenty of fruit and vegetables are thought to offer the best protection against the development of cancer. It may also be helpful to avoid getting overweight.

Factors that may be linked to cancer development are, not surprisingly, diets low in fibre and high in animal fats and calories. Some food preservatives and colourings have caused concern, although any effect they may have is probably minimal. The way food is cooked may also be relevant. It is better to avoid the over heating of cooking fats or the burning of food. So be careful not to cremate your burgers on the BBQ!

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Recently attention has focused on the properties of tomatoes. There is evidence to suggest that the lycopene they contain helps prevent prostate cancer, and possibly cancer of the breast. The protective properties of lycopene are thought to be greater when the tomatoes are cooked, for example when used on pizzas or in tomato sauce.

Vitamin and mineral supplements have also received attention recently, especially when taken in high doses, as a way of helping to prevent cancer. There is no conclusive evidence to support this theory and high doses can themselves be risky. Generally a well balanced diet should give most people the vitamins and minerals they need.

So, as you set about planning a BBQ or picnic, what should you be aiming to eat? For fibre, you can choose a variety of foods, including fresh fruit and vegetables; especially with the skins left on, and wholegrain pasta, noodles, bread and cereals. Animal fats can be cut out of your diet by eating more fish and poultry, choosing the leaner cuts of meat, removing the skin of the chicken, and choosing low fat spreads. The way food is cooked is also important. Try grilling or steaming rather than frying or roasting (and remember no burning). Many fresh fruits and vegetables or salads contain helpful vitamins and minerals too. And don’t forget those tomatoes! (See previous page). So, it appears BBQs and picnics can be healthy ways to eat. Remember though: if you are out of doors, to take care in the sun!