Grilled meats
It is recommended to stay away from grilled meats as part of the 'anti-cancer diet.' (iStock photo)

Anti-cancer dietary fads are as common as the "Big C" is deadly. But how many trendy nutritional approaches that promise to lower your cancer risk are actually backed by solid scientific research?

To answer that question, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine evaluated dozens of major studies involving diet and cancer to come up with six key science-based tips for eating healthy to reduce your risk for developing the disease.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group's "Anti-Cancer Diet," published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, is a combination of which foods to avoid and which to eat, based on studies reviewed by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

"Overall, evidence suggests that diets emphasizing foods from plant sources—vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes—are associated with lower cancer risk, as well as reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension," the PCRM report concludes.

"Plant-based diets tend to promote a healthy body weight, which, in turn, is associated with reduced risk of certain common forms of cancer. These suggested dietary recommendations are not a comprehensive dietary plan. Rather, they relate to specific areas where evidence is sufficiently compelling to merit dietary changes."

Here are the organization's six specific recommendations:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Scores of studies involving tens of thousands of people have found that plant-based foods help lower the risk for many varieties of cancer (including throat, colorectal, stomach and breast cancers) as well as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with protective compounds, such as phytochemicals and antioxidants, and are also terrific sources of natural fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. Some, such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, even contain beneficial nutrients that can combat the toxic effects of pollutants and industrial chemicals, such as benzene, according to research by Johns Hopkins University.

PCRM's conclusion: "Emphasizing fruits and vegetables in your diet will likely reduce the risk of several common forms of cancer [and] there are no disadvantages for healthy people eating more fruits and vegetables."

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