Cancer is a disease that kills millions of people around the world every year – and the figures are growing.
In the UK alone, it’s now estimated that one in every two people under the age of 55 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime.
But more than four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle, according to Cancer Research UK.
Cancer is an extremely complex topic and one about which we are certainly not experts.
We aren’t doctors, but we are confident that our methodologies positively impact our clients’ health in ways that can be somewhat preventative to many of today’s diseases.
The current research seems to suggest that our risk of cancer is dependent on a combination of our genes, our environment and our lifestyle.
Lifestyle is something we have control over, and experts believe making the following lifestyle changes can be significant preventative measures against cancer:
The interesting thing about these behaviours is that their impact is not limited to only helping with cancer. If you can adopt these healthy habits, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of developing all forms of disease.
In this article, we’ll share our top tips for living a healthier lifestyle that will not only make your body look good, but also bring a smile to your doctor’s face!
Let’s start with food choices…
Given that obesity is the second largest preventable cause of cancer, it’s important your body fat is kept in check (World Health Organisation, 2002).
When it comes to getting leaner, it all starts with getting your diet in order.
It’s important to remember that one specific food isn’t going to be the magic key to unlocking great health. It’s just not possible in as complex a system as the human body.
Rather, it’s a combination of habits and overall choices that will make the real difference.
Throughout this list, we’re going to focus on providing advice on what we know best – helping people make the right choices to transform their bodies into fitter, leaner and healthier machines.
1.‘If man made it, don’t eat it’.
This simple tip will go a long way in improving all aspects of your health. Eat from the land and cut processed food and man-made junk out of your diet wherever possible.
2. Consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
The specific vegetables you choose don’t really matter; the important point is you eat them often. Fruit and vegetables contain a wide variety of different nutrients that may be cancer-protective. These include carotenoids, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, flavonoids and various other phytochemicals. (World Cancer Research Fund, 2007)
3. Eliminate sugar-laden fizzy drinks, juices and sports drinks.
Stick to water, and controlled amounts of tea and coffee. You’ll eliminate useless extra sugar calories, and be able to maintain more stable blood sugar levels.
4. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration will negatively affect every cellular process in the body, including muscle gain and fat loss. A target of approximately 1 litre per 25kg bodyweight is a good number.
5. Eat foods high in fibre.
Highly fibrous foods like fruit and vegetables can help keep your digestive tract clean and running smoothly, preventing the build up of possibly harmful chemicals and waste products that may be attributable to bowel cancer.
6. Avoid processed meats – focus on quality meats
Despite what some poorly conducted studies in the last few years have suggested, it’s processed meat that’s the problem, not red meat as a whole. When choosing red meats, make sure they’re grass-fed, free-range and of high quality. This will avoid buying meat from animals blighted by hormones, antibiotics and poor living conditions. Grass-fed meat will also have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and E than its grain-fed counterpart.
7. Eat the right breakfast.
Starting the day with a high-protein and fat breakfast will mean fewer cravings, more stable blood sugar, and better body composition in the long haul.
8. Make sure each meal contains a source of protein.
It’s a component of every cell in your body, and your body needs it to build and repair tissue. It’s also the number one macronutrient for body composition, and helps with: building muscle, recovery, increased metabolism through a high thermic effect of food, and it’s satiating properties.
9. Lower your carbohydrate intake.
This tip isn’t to necessarily demonise carbs, but the majority of the population will do well to go through periods of lower carb eating. By default, you’ll eat more low glycaemic fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, which will only positively impact your health.
10. Focus your carbohydrate around your training.
The leaner you are, the more carbohydrates your body can handle.
11. Choose low glycaemic carbohydrates over sugar-based products.
Sweet potatoes, oats and parsnips are all great options. Cutting down on simple sugars will help manage appetite and cravings, as well as help keep blood sugar levels stable through the day.
12. Look after your gut.
Around 60-70% of your immune system is located in your gut, so if your digestion isn’t up to scratch, your health will be compromised. Stay in tune with your body and avoid foods that you don’t sit well with you. Learning your body’s response to foods can pay dividends down the line for your health.
13. Cut down on wheat- and gluten-containing foods.
This isn’t to demonise bread and pasta as ‘evil’ foods. Instead, it’s to highlight that from our experience, most of the population will always feel better by limiting/ reducing their intake of these things.
14. Eat a mix of healthy fats daily.
Foods like avocados, salmon, walnuts and oils are all essential for hormonal production, brain function, anti-inflammatory properties, cell membrane health and many more physiological functions.
15. Eliminate trans-fats from your diet.
They serve zero benefit and have been linked to many health issues, including poor blood lipid profiles, increased inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Cook in butter or coconut oil, not vegetable oil.
16. Vary and rotate your protein sources.
This will help avoid any build up of intolerances. There’s more to life than chicken, turkey and eggs. Try something new such as seafood, buffalo and lamb.
17. Slow down and eat mindfully.
You will eat fewer calories in total, have less digestive issues and feel more satiated if you chew your food properly and in a timely manner. If possible, don’t eat in front of a screen. This way your brain will be able to register the food you’re eating, and stop you from overeating. A screen can distract you and leave you eating more than you planned!
18. Master portion control.
For an easy way to judge portion sizes, try this: a palm-sized portion of protein, a thumb-sized portion of fat, a cupped hand of carbs, a fist-size of vegetables. Set a baseline, then see how you react and adjust accordingly.
19. If you are vegetarian or vegan, be wary of nutrient deficiencies.
A low level of amino acids, omega 3s, B vitamins, zinc and creatine are common for these people, which can lead to poor muscular health, increased inflammation, higher fatigue and hormonal issues, respectively.
18. Learn how to cook for yourself and your family.
Cutting down on restaurants and takeaways will automatically improve the quality of your nutrition if you know how to cook healthy meals. Check out all these delicious and healthy recipes at our EatUP blog.
What about exercise?
Being physically active isn’t only good for the heart. There’s lots of evidence that it can reduce the risk of developing breast, bowel or womb cancer.
It seems that the ability to control hormones like oestrogen (in women) and insulin through physical activity is where the benefits are particularly noticeable.
Here’s how you can use exercise to maintain a healthy body weight and lower body fat percentage.
21. Do something every day.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to kill yourself in the gym every day. It means making a conscious effort to be active in some form every day. It could be going for a walk, cycling to work, or even taking the stairs instead of the lift.
22. Strength train three to four times a week.
At UP we’re strong advocates of using resistance exercise as the primary tool to carve out a leaner physique, due to its ability to build muscle, gain strength and increase your metabolic rate. Here’s an in-depth look about how often you should be strength training.
23. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.
This should be the absolute minimum you aim to achieve on a daily basis. If you have a desk job, this will encourage you to find more ways to move around. Take the stairs, walk to work, get out and about on your lunch break, take up hiking or anything else that gets you moving more.
24. Build more strength and muscle mass.
Increased strength and muscle mass have both been shown to lower risk of all-cause mortality, and is a proven predictor of longevity in older populations. (Rantanen, et al., 2000) (Srikanthan, 2016)
25. Incorporate a mix of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio from one to three times a week.
Cardio can be a useful tool in increasing the calorie deficit through higher energy expenditure, as well as improving the overall conditioning of the body. Here’s everything you need to know about how to train cardio effectively.
26. Build up to it.
Don’t be disheartened if you haven’t exercised for a long time. Everyone has to start somewhere, the key is to build up your tolerance and work capacity slowly over time.
27. Stretch more and stay mobile.
A 10-15 minute mobility circuit every day will help keep your joints and muscles healthy. If you’re desk-bound, focusing on the hip flexors, quads, chest and shoulders will reap most dividends.
28. Play a sport you love.
The more you enjoy an activity, the more likely you’ll be able to stick to it and keep it going.
What about lifestyle choices for optimal health?
29. Spend time in the sun carefully.
If you’re in the UK, this may not apply! But for those lucky enough to have strong sun throughout the day, make sure you stay protected to reduce the risk of skin cancer of damage.
30. Manage your stress.
Whilst the direct link between stress and cancer is weakly proven, stress can trigger activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and junk food consumption that are strong causes in themselves.
31. Laugh more.
It’s the best medicine for your physical and mental health, with positive effects on stress, anxiety and immune system.
32. Learn to meditate
The benefits are vast and include improved cognitive function, productivity and a greater ability to deal with stress.
33. Keep a grateful journal.
When you’re grateful, negative emotions like fear, anger and stress, disappear. This can do wonders for your mindset and your ability to cope with otherwise stressful situations. To keep a grateful journal, buy a small notebook and each day (either morning or before bed), write down five things you’re grateful for. It can be as basic as ‘I’m grateful for having a comfortable mattress’.
34. Stop smoking.
If you smoke, giving up completely is the best thing you can for your health. It’s also the most preventable cause of cancer in the world.
35. Reduce alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol regularly can increase the risk of seven different cancers (Cancer Research UK).
The government guidelines suggest that you are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.
However, if body composition is the goal, though, we advise limiting it as much as possible. Alcohol slows down fat loss!
36. Change your alcohol strategy.
When you do drink, decide on a pre-planned limit. For every alcoholic drink you have, have one glass of water. Avoid mixers, beers or ciders. The ‘best’ drinks are gin and tonics or vodka sodas, as they’re lowest in calories.
37. Check your blood work
At least once a year, complete a full health check and assess key cardiovascular and hormonal markers. This is especially applicable for those over 40. For example, a man in his 40s will want to pay attention to his testosterone and cholesterol count.
The power of sleep
Improving the quality of your sleep can have such a great impact on all aspects of your health that we’ve given it its own section here. You should always aim to get seven to nine hours of deep, quality sleep every night.
UP Founder Nick Mitchell wrote this great article on how to get more quality sleep, but here are some more tips…
38. Turn your bedroom into a bat cave.
Cut all lights and electronics out, and make the room as dark and quiet as possible.
39. Eat your carbs at dinner
Carbs at night don’t make you fat, extra calories do. Having carbs at night will help promote deeper sleep and better relaxation.
40. Keep your mobile phone far away from you and either off, or on aeroplane mode.
This is especially applicable for those who check their phones if they wake up at night, or worse, reply to emails at this time.
41. Practice deep belly breathing before bed.
As you lay in bed at night, slowly count to 10 as you exhale and then inhale through your belly.
42. Try sleep supplements
If you struggle to fall asleep, or feel too wired before bed, supplementing with magnesium can help calm the nervous system down and let you unwind after a long day.
Any good supplements?
Speaking of supplements, there a few that can help almost everyone live a healthier life…
43. Take a probiotic
Probiotics helps move food along the gut, restore good vs. bad bacteria balance, aid digestion and boost immune health. Aim for a wide variety of strains in your product, with a starting point of at least 10 billion organisms.
44. Add a fibre supplement.
Many studies show that foods high in fibre can reduce the risk of bowel cancer (Aune, et al., 2011). As people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, adding a fibre supplement can help. Fibre can help with regularity and maintain healthy gut bacteria in the bowel.
45. Supplement with Vitamin D3.
If you live in the UK, or any country deprived of sunlight, supplement with D3. It’s been linked with stronger bone health, protection against cancer, cardiac disease and type-2 diabetes, as well as improved muscle function. A general recommendation is 2,000 IU a day, but it’s a good idea to get your current status tested first.
46. Take fish oil.
Unless you eat an abundance of oily fish, wild meat and grass-fed meats, you will most likely be lacking in omega 3s. Benefits include lowered blood triglycerides, reduced inflammation, increased insulin sensitivity and even increased muscle protein synthesis.
47. Take curcumin and add turmeric to your cooking.
This ‘super-nutrient’ will help reduce inflammation, boost fat loss and improve brain and heart health. Whilst no concrete evidence has shown direct links to preventing or treating cancer, early trials with curcumin have begun to show promising results (Cancer Research UK). Here’s an in-depth look at three incredible spices that everyone should have in their diet.
Keeping your new healthy habits
When it comes to health and fitness goals, all the best intentions can be derailed by not having these important things in place…
48. Keep a food diary.
Pick someone you trust, and send them a food diary every day to increase accountability your goals.
49. Have a support group.
Whether it’s your family, friends or partner, tell them about your goals, use their support and get them involved.
50. Be consistent.
Improving long-term health requires consistency over a long period of time. It’s always better to go at 90% for 12 months, than it is to go 100% for 12 days!
Aune, D., Chan, D., Lau, R., Vieira, R., Greenwood, D., Kampman, E., et al. (2011). Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. British Medical Journal .
Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Alcohol and Cancer. Retrieved from Cancer Research UK: www.cancerresearchuk.org/
Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Can turmeric prevent or treat cancer? Retrieved from Cancer Research UK: www.cancerresearchuk.org
Cancer Research UK. (n.d.). Cancer Statistics for the UK. Retrieved from www.cancerresearchuk.org/.
Rantanen, T., Harris, T., Leveille, S., Visser, M., Foley, D., Masaki, K., et al. (2000). Muscle Strength and Body Mass Index as Long-Term Predictors of Mortality in Initially Healthy Men. The Journals of Gerontology .
Srikanthan, P. (2016). Relation of Muscle Mass and Fat Mass to Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. The American Journal of Cardiology .
World Cancer Research Fund. (2007). Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.
World Health Organisation. (2002, January). Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Retrieved from World Health Organisation: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42665/1/WHO_TRS_916.pdf?ua=1