Imagine you are driving the Pacific Coast Highway–one of the longest state routes in the USA. You have 655 miles of driving that consists of the road in front of you and the Pacific Ocean on your side. You are only one small mistake away from making an error that will land you in the Pacific Ocean, car and all. It is critical that you point your eyes where you want to go. Which, if you are like most people, would be to stay on the road ahead, in order to reach your final destination safely.
The Pacific Coast Highway and your health share something in common. Today, we are surrounded by social media, ads, campaigns, and self-proclaimed “health experts” who admonish us on what not to eat, what not to drink, and what not to purchase. This popular press focuses on where you don’t want to go. It’s like living your life driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with someone constantly yelling “don’t drive off the cliff!” Being constantly warned about what not to eat and what not to consume is like being in constant fear of driving off the cliff while trying to stay on your Highway of Health. The focal point should be on what you could be doing more than on what you shouldn’t.
Today, cancer is the #2 leading cause of death in the United States. It is the sheer cliff nearby that poses a serious threat to our lives wherever we go. Many people have become so frightened by the cliff of cancer that avoiding it has become the focal point. Just like traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway, you can get further faster by focusing on where you want to go and the best way to get there rather than on where you don’t want to go and the hazards that could run you off the road.
Traveling successfully on the highway of health requires two things: proper fuel and regular maintenance.
Proper fuel and maintenance protect the body from the adverse impact of carcinogens which are the #1 risk factor for cancer. Carcinogens are substances known to cause cancer. Some carcinogens include harmful chemicals, and environmental factors3. Our immune system is responsible for protecting the body, providing maintenance for our “vehicles.”
Proper Fuel & Maintenance
Here is your fuel and maintenance checklist to increase your chances of staying on the highway to health and steering clear of carcinogens that might send you over the cliff. Following these habits on a daily basis will increase your chances for your body to adapt to the different “terrains, environments, and road conditions” of our world.
The Balanced Plate –Your #1 Nutrition habit
A balanced diet will support the immune system.1
Checklist: Make at least half of your plate a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables.
Physical activity — “Medicine” in the fight against cancer
Exercise is a great way to get the heart rate up and to strengthen the body and immune system.
Checklist: Walk for 30 min/day.
Healthy Weight Habits – long term focus for wellness
Weight is a sensitive topic because everyone has a different build, set point, and BMI. However, it is critical to address weight as obesity is linked to 13 forms of cancer2. A healthy weight is not standardized by the same specific number on the scale for everyone. Just as the scenic view on our journey towards health, the view looks different for everyone.
Checklist: substitute ultra-processed foods for fresh produce & sugar sweetened beverages for water flavored with fresh or frozen fruit.
Reduce Alcohol Intake – Reduce Risk
There are multiple reasons for drinking alcohol. Stress management–with the stresses of today’s world especially the unprecedented circumstances that the global pandemic has brought, alcohol can help individuals forget about the responsibilities for a short time. However, try something that distracts your brain while also building your health. Whether you want to manage stress or socialize, here are alternatives to substitute alcohol. Mocktails, lemon water, and virgin drinks are great ways to Focusing on the road would be to stress management and sub mocktails.
Checklist: swap alcoholic beverages for a mocktail a few times a week
Protect your skin – throughout your lifetime
Skin cancer is the #1 cancer in young individuals. As the sun is inescapable, we can be proactive to protect ourselves to ensure we receive an efficient amount of Vitamn D before it starts to hurt us. Action item: wear sunscreen, daily UV protected clothing, and a hat.
Additionally, what we eat also has the ability to protect our skin. Consume foods containing vitamin C such as citrus fruits, tomatos, and green vegetables are high sources of vitamin C that contains the antioxidants to fight foreign substances and decrease our risk for having certain carcinogens harming our bodies.
Checklist: squeeze lemon over salad to incorporate more Vitamin C in your diet.
Another effective focus is on beta-carotene containing foods. These foods are easy to identify with their bright orange and yellow pigment such as carrots, apricots, mangoes, and corn. Carotenoids contain antioxidant action can protect against ultraviolet irradiation which can possibly reduce your risk of cancer tremendously4.
Checklist: substitute a sweet potato for a white potato