Whether young or old, woman or man – cancer can affect anyone. Many different factors play a role in the development of cancer. Some of these are avoidable, others are not. We cannot influence age, family predisposition or certain environmental influences such as radioactivity or chemicals. But there are also avoidable factors: By adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can reduce the risk of developing cancer. In addition to not smoking and alcohol, regular physical exercise and a balanced diet play a central role.

How can diet help prevent cancer?

Experts estimate that every third cancer is due to unfavorable diet and too little exercise. Obesity is a decisive factor in the development of cancer, but also of many other serious diseases. There is no “miracle food” or “miracle diet” to prevent cancer. Rather, it depends on the right mix of nutrients, vitamins and minerals: A varied diet that contains as little fat and sugar as possible and lots of fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancer and stay healthy.

Avoid being overweight

Not only to prevent cancer do nutritionists recommend paying attention to your weight. A lifelong normal weight ( BMI 18.5 to < 25 kg/m 2 ) is recommended . Overweight (from a BMI of 25 kg/m²) and obesity (from a BMI of 30 kg/m²) can contribute to the development of cancer. The list of cancers that are favored by being overweight is long: including cancer of the esophagus , colon, pancreas , kidney , breast (in women after the transition) and cervix. However, being overweight not only plays an important role in relation to the development of cancer. For example, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are more common in overweight people.

In addition to the BMI , it also depends on where the fat pads are. Abdominal fat (visceral fat) in particular has a negative effect on health and can promote the development of cancer. For this reason, in addition to the BMI , the waist circumference (abdominal circumference at the level of the navel) should also be measured using a simple tape measure. Experts recommend that this should not be more than 94 centimeters for men and 80 centimeters for women.

The good news: Even if a few extra pounds have accumulated over the years, it is never too late to work on your lifestyle: Weight loss can already be between five and 20 percent of body weight (depending on the BMI ) of the Good for your health and , among other things , reduce the risk of dying from cancer.

For more information, see When are you overweight?

Avoid high-calorie foods and drinks

In order to keep the weight within the normal range, experts recommend regular exerciseand a varied diet. This should contain as little fat and sugar as possible, but lots of fruit and vegetables. Industrially manufactured products such as ready-made pizza, chocolate bars, ready-made cakes, cornflakes, instant noodles, packerl soups, but also soft drinks contain a particularly large number of calories and should be on the menu as little as possible. There is a lot of fat and sugar hidden in these products. In addition, they usually also contain a lot of salt, preservatives, flavorings and colorings. Valuable, health-promoting ingredients such as roughage, vitamins and minerals are usually only contained in small quantities. Scientists have discovered that people who regularly eat such convenience foods may be more likely to develop cancer.

Nutritionists recommend:

  • Eat high-calorie foods such as fried foods, sausages, greasy snacks, sweets, and ready meals only rarely
  • Fast food should only be eaten seldom, if at all
  • Water instead of sugary juices and sodas

Plenty of plant-based foods

It is better for your health and your figure to cook as often as possible with “natural” and “regional-seasonal” ingredients. According to experts, the risk of cancer can be reduced primarily through the consumption of plant-based foods. A colorful mix of fruit and vegetables should be on the menu five times a day. In addition, it should contain legumes, nuts, potatoes and whole grain products as often as possible. These should be served as unprocessed as possible: eg boiled potatoes are better than fries or chips; better natural yoghurt with fresh fruit instead of a ready-made fruit yoghurt from the shelf. This results in an excellent mixture of health-promoting ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, secondary plant substances (e.g. carotenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols) and roughage.

These ingredients can best develop their positive effect in the body when the whole fruit is consumed. A varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is usually sufficient to cover the daily need for vitamins and minerals. Be it in the form of capsules, tablets or drops: A healthy person does not need any additional vitamin or mineral supplements from the pharmacy or drugstore.

Animal foods in small quantities

Many foods of animal origin make an important contribution to the supply of nutrients. Meat contains many important ingredients that the body cannot produce itself. These include proteins , iron and vitamins . However, too much can be bad for your health. Studies have shown that people who regularly eat a lot of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, goat or game) in their diet are more likely to develop colon cancerget sick than those who eat little red meat. The same applies to processed meat products such as ham, salami, bacon or Frankfurter. To prevent cancer, nutritionists recommend eating no more than 500 grams of cooked red meat per week. It is best to avoid processed meat products altogether. It is better to include white meat ( e.g. chicken, turkey), fish, eggs or dairy products on the menu instead. As already mentioned, plant-based foods also provide valuable nutrients.

Moderate alcohol consumption


Whether beer, wine, schnapps – alcohol increases the risk of cancer. It has been scientifically proven that people who regularly drink alcohol are seriously detrimental to their health. Alcohol causes many different diseases and is involved in the development of many cancers. It is well established that alcohol promotes the development of cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, intestine, breast and liver. The risk of cancer increases with increasing alcohol consumption. For this reason, experts recommend avoiding alcohol altogether. If you do not want this, you should observe the following limits:

Other nutritional measures

Add fiber to your diet.

In addition to essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, our food sometimes also contains substances that can be harmful to health. This contamination can be caused, for example, by incorrect storage, preparation or environmental pollution. Some of these substances can increase the risk of cancer. To prevent cancer and other diseases, experts recommend:

  • Don’t eat moldy food! Mold, which can be found on leftover bread, jam, nuts, yoghurt or cheese, contains toxins such as aflatoxins. Aflatoxins can cause liver cancer. These disappear neither by scratching or cutting out affected areas nor by cooking or baking. For this reason, food should never be eaten, even if it appears only slightly moldy.
  • Be careful with grilled food! Grilled meat and sausage products can contain carcinogenic substances ( heterocyclic aromatic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ). These substances are formed when meat and sausages are grilled or roasted too hot and for a long time. They are mainly released when fat or marinade drips into the fire. Tips from AGES experts on grilling as healthily as possible can be found online at
  • Do not eat burnt, charred food! These contain another substance that is probably carcinogenic: acrylamide . This substance is produced when deep-frying, baking, roasting and roasting potato and grain products. A lot of acrylamide is found in chips, french fries, cookies, waffles, granola and cereals, for example. Experts advise eating such products as little as possible. When preparing French fries, fried potatoes, cakes, biscuits or baked goods, you should follow the rule: “gild instead of charred”: everything should only be lightly browned, because the darker the products are baked, roasted, toasted or deep-fried, the more acrylamide contain these.
  • Favor seasonal vegetables! The reason for this recommendation is that vegetables from the greenhouse sometimes contain a lot of nitrate . Nitrates occur naturally in the soil and are also found in fertilizers. Plants absorb nitrate through their roots. Later, after the harvest, this is converted into so-called nitrite in the food itself, but also in our body. So-called nitrosamines are formed from this. These are said to be highly carcinogenic. Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach or cabbage can contain a particularly large amount of nitrate, as can cured meat products. Cucumbers and tomatoes, for example, are naturally low in nitrates.
  • Use salt sparingly! A diet high in salt can increase the risk of stomach cancer . In order not to damage your health, experts recommend not consuming more than a teaspoon of salt per day. This amount is reached relatively quickly if you often reach for ready meals, snacks and fast food. There is also a lot of salt in most processed foods such as bread, sausage or cheese. Because of this, most of us eat far more salt than is healthy.

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