I began wondering after both parents and my sister passed from cancer, what caused 3 immediate family members to get cancer? All I ever heard from doctors, nurses, oncologists, friends: "We just don't know." But an unanswered question such as that does not just go away. It replays in your mind over and over again. It makes you suspect things which may appear innocent. It makes you...paranoid sometimes. Sometimes sickness just happens. Many report and extremely healthy lifestyle before an illness: daily exercise, diet, etc..Some were Olympic athletes with trainers and coaches monitoring EVERYTHING they put in their bodies, and they still got sick. This is not to give anyone carte blanch to live an unhealthy lifestyle, just to remind people that you can do everything right and still not be immune to health issues.
About 40% of cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes according to World Health Organization. I figured there was so much I could not control in getting it myself. However I could control "lifestyle changes." Nothing is safe from my potential wrath: household products, health\beauty products, foods, activities we participate in, as well as attitudes we have. Unfortunately, my activism had unexpected repercussions in the loss of friendship\ relationships. Somewhere along the line, this happened with the foods we eat. It was not an overnight thing, but a slope down which I slipped further as ingredients we recognized as foods for decades were removed one after another...only to be replaced by their Frankenstein approximations. And perhaps....the resulting food looked, felt, and even tasted identical, but was in reality, a soulless replica.
Lines must be drawn in my household, the first lines were drawn against the usual suspects: excessive sugar, bad fats, preservatives and pesticides. Yes, the man who was famous for requesting the dessert menu before the dinner menu, who once inhaled buckets of fried chicken and whole large pizza's in one sitting, began monitoring his sugar intake. Copious amounts of sugar- bearing a half-dozen different monikers- is in everything: bread, wine, crackers, soup, ketchup, sauces, juice, jam, yogurt, and peanut butter.
What's wrong with a little sweetness you say. Live a little you say. You are in fact right. There is nothing wrong with a little sweetness. The average American however, consumes between 150-170 pounds of refined sugar per year, according to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Up from 4 pounds a year less than a century ago. And this level of sugar consumption wreaks havoc on our bodies by depressing our immune system, feeding inflammation, cancer growth, and a host of other things.
Teaching people about healthy and unhealthy foods also requires rather extensive instruction in Marketing 101.
Lesson 1: Decoys- Placing pictures of popular cartoon characters on boxes of highly processed foods with scientific-sounding, degenerated ingredients.
Lesson 2: Funny Math- Using 3 different types of sugars as ingredients so the manufacturer doesn't have to list any of them first.
Lesson 3: Diversionary tactics- Placing a healthy sounding ingredient up front in your list to divert attention from suspected ingredients that come later. Or placing health slogans all over the box.
Which brings me to the most important lesson of all: You can only do the best you can do.
You can teach your family, inform them and hope they will become savvy consumers who eat consciously and healthfully. You can do all that, and I guarantee there will be many days of unhealthy, chemical and\or sugar-fueled overindulgence. And when that happens, you shrug your shoulders and move on. Because....there is no such thing as perfection, (unless your a nutritionist, chef and Oprah are working in concert with each other during your annual 21 day cleanse)!
Take one step at a time- and most will be baby steps. Start with filling your plate with: more fresh veggies; beans, sprouted grains and brown rice pastas; organic fruits and veggies when possible; healthy oils like olive and flaxseed; plenty of spices like turmeric, black pepper, garlic powder and Mediterranean herbs; and sugar mostly in context of whole fruits and veggies (and not juice, but whole). And read labels!!
Listen, I have no way of knowing whether diet will prevent me from getting cancer. Am I willing, however, to change my eating habits to- if nothing else- live a healthier life and make myself feel better? You bet!!! People close their ears to what is healthy most the time because they're unwilling to make changes and take responsibility for their obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc.... People don't want to deprive their family, but instead clog their arteries and depress their immune systems, their brain, and body function and set them up for a lifetime of problems. We have football players dying on the field from heart failure. We must stop eating processed and "dead" food and eat foods that are "alive" which feed our bodies. While a healthy diet certainly helps prevent illness and proper nutrition for the ill, it does not cure\prevent cancer. However our attitudes and decisions we make may certainly help!