American Cancer Society Releases New Guidelines for Cancer Prevention

On June 9th, the American Cancer Society published new dietary and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention. The new guidelines consist of three primary components – exercise, a plant-strong diet, and limiting alcohol. They also call out red and processed meats and refined and highly processed foods for their cancer risk, as well as sugar and saturated fats.

Physical activity has dropped over the decades as we’ve adopted lifestyles of convenience, aided by technology. It is now important to be conscious of physical activity and work it into our schedules, especially for those of us working desk jobs. It is a good idea to get up and move around as much as possible throughout the day, and to plan in some time for exercise after work.

As the article says, less time sitting in front of a TV or screen and more time moving is key. In order to combine TV time with exercise, hopping on a treadmill or elliptical while watching is a great idea. Playing sports with friends or the kids, or even mowing the lawn count as physical activity as well. The goal is for the weekly total to reach 150-300 minutes of moderate activity. To break that down – 150 minutes is roughly half an hour per day, five days per week.

The part to get most excited about, are the dietary guidelines. Plant-based nutrition expert Dr. Neal Barnard has been talking about diet for disease prevention for years. As president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), he was quick to review the guidelines on PCRM program The Exam Room Live, hosted by Chuck Carroll.

“It sounds a whole lot like the new four food groups that we brought forward first in 1991, and have been promoting ever since,” Barnard says. Indeed, the new guidelines do encourage those exact four food groups – fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. It also discourages red meats which were named in 2015 by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 2 carcinogens, as well as processed meats, which IARC named as Group 1 carcinogens.

The new guidelines point out that focus has shifted in recent years, from individual nutrients, to dietary patterns as a whole. At long last, the key to the cancer prevention lock has been found. While American Cancer Society still allows for fish and chicken – a stance that PCRM does not promote – it is now recommending legumes as a healthy protein source. It even goes on to mention soy products, which have spent a fair amount of time under attack over the years, as protective against cancer.

Also a major player in the new guidelines are leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage, which have shown to be particularly protective against cancer. That may come as no surprise to many, but what may come as a surprise in the days of “low-carb”, are the protective properties of whole grains.

Whole grains, which have not been stripped of their outer shell or refined from their original, whole state, have actually been shown to not only protect against cancer due to their nutrients and fiber content, but also actually help with weight loss! Tell that to the Keto movement, which has us believing that carbohydrates are the root of all evil in the American diet and are responsible for the obesity crisis. Simply put – that is misinformation. When carbs are not refined or processed, they shrink our waist lines.

Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, author of the new book Fiber Fueled, should be thrilled to see fiber get a special mention among these guidelines. Dr. B, as he calls himself, is a gastroenterologist who has studied the bacteria in our gut microbiome, and the effect fiber has on gut health, as well as the health of the whole body. Indeed, American Cancer Society affirms the link between fiber and gut bacteria, and the role it plays in some cancers. As for the best source of that fiber – whole foods; supplements have shown little benefit. More whole grains and less fiber? That means skip the sugar and processed foods.

While American Cancer Society is not yet stating conclusively that dairy products are problematic for cancer, it has finally admitted that studies are finding an increase in prostate cancer and possibly breast cancer risk, and it is now abstaining from dairy guidelines of any kind. Not quite to the point of “eliminate diary from the diet,” but a noticeable step in that direction.

Finally, the guidelines address alcohol. The article specfically states, “Alcohol use is the third most important preventable risk factor for cancer, after tobacco use and excess body weight. Alcohol use accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States. Despite this, public awareness about the cancer-causing effects of alcohol remains low.”

When it comes to alcohol, less is best. What amount is considered safe? One alcoholic drink, defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits, per day for a woman, or two alcoholic drinks per day for a man. It discourages drinking larger amounts on fewer days of the week. When it comes to some cancers, such as breast cancer, no amount of alcohol is considered safe.

In his book Eat to Live, Dr. Joel Fuhrman says “a cancer promoting diet is one high in animal proteins and fats. A cancer preventing diet is one rich in fruits and vegetables.” How incredible it is to be able to prevent cancer, along with a wealth of other diseases, every time we go to the grocery store. In the words of Dr. Neal Barnard, “we don’t want to invite [cancer] into our homes with our groceries.” And now, thanks to the new guidelines by American Cancer Society, more people will get to learn how to prevent cancer with diet.

What is a Plant-Based Diet? Questions Answered

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is celebrating National Nutrition Month throughout the month of March. This is a great opportunity to share information about a plant-based diet for those who are new to a plant-based life, those considering going plant-based, or those who are simply curious about what plant-based is.

What is a plant-based diet?

There are many variations floating around on what it means to be plant-based, but the general idea is that 90% or more of your calories are coming from whole, plant foods, and 10% or less are coming from animal-based sources such as meat, eggs, and dairy. This would be, depending on daily caloric needs, around 6-8 servings per week or less.

Other bullet points of a plant-based diet are:

  • Eat only whole, unprocessed, unrefined grains
  • Eat plenty of starchy vegetables like potatoes and rice
  • Eliminate processed foods
  • Cut out added sugars and oils
  • Focus on plant-based sources of protein as your primary source
    • This means beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, etc.
  • Have plenty of greens and veggies at every meal
  • Eat lots of berries and fruit
  • Supplement with Vitamin B12

How will I get sufficient protein?

This is always the most common concern for those new to this way of life. For decades, the meat and dairy industry has lobbied the government to “scratch their backs” with dietary guidelines that look out for their financial best interest [5]. They have also spent countless dollars on advertising to lure us into believing that we must have animal proteins in order to be healthy.

The dairy industry has gone so far as to work with the food industry to figure out how to get people eating more cheese. They’ve worked with restaurants like Pizza Hut to fit an entire pound of cheese onto one serving of Pizza. All of those extra cheesy fast food burgers? That is another product of this collaboration [5]. We have all been duped by industry to not only believe that animal protein is necessary, but get us consuming it in quantities far beyond what we were a century ago. The concern is not for our health, but their bottom line.

The thing that is most important to know about animal proteins is this: all livestock are herbivores, meaning that they all get their protein – the very protein we are eating them for – from plants. Even that 600 pound cow gets all of the protein it needs from the plants that it eats. And we can too.

The first order of business is a shift in programming. We must undo the conditioning we’ve been subjected to for so many years, to make way for new information.

Another concern regarding plants is amino acids. Amino acids are what proteins are broken down into before being absorbed by our bodies [2]. It has long been circulated that we cannot get the essential amino acids from plants, but that is inaccurate information.

Referring back to the herbivore livestock – if their meat contains all of the essential amino acids, and they’re getting those amino acids from plants, then logic would tell us that we can get them from plants as well. And we can. When we eat a variety of plant foods on a well-balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet we are getting all of the essential amino acids that we need [3].

This diagram gives an idea of the protein content of various plant foods:


This truly is just a start. Two of my favorites that aren’t mentioned are chia seeds and hemp seeds. Also consider nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini (choosing only options without added oil, salt or sugar). But the bulk of proteins should come from beans, lentils and legumes, which are less calorie dense and don’t contain the high fat content of nuts and seeds. This is especially important if weight loss is a goal.

What about calcium?

Just like protein – if we get calcium from cow’s milk, and the cow got it’s calcium from the plants that it eats, then….yes, we can too! Also just like protein – we’ve been conditioned by industry to believe that we must have dairy for calcium, and that is misinformation delivered for the sake of profit. Time for another mind shift, this time about what we think we know about getting enough calcium.

An excellent source of calcium for a plant-based diet is in plant-based milks, such as soy and almond milk. These are fortified with calcium, as are many orange juices.

There are also numerous sources of calcium in the plants that we eat, many of which are shown in this diagram:


But won’t soy give me too much estrogen?

No! Soy contains estrogens called phytoestrogens; phyto meaning plant. In studies done on soy and breast cancer, regardless of which type of breast cancer, it has consistently been shown there is greater survival and lower cancer recurrence rate with higher consumption of soy. There are two different types of estrogen receptor cells, both alpha receptors and beta receptors. Estrogen produced within our bodies attaches to alpha receptors. Soy attaches to the beta receptors, which cut down cell growth – like the growth of cancer cells. The phytoestrogens in soy actually have positive estrogenic effects on the body that are protective against cancer [4].

Fiber and gut health…

Humans are designed to consume primarily plants, and one of the indicators is our need for fiber…which is found only in plants. For optimal gut function, it is suggested we have a minimum of 35 grams of fiber in our diets daily. However, the average American eating the Standard American Diet, or SAD, is only getting around 10-12 grams [3].

When eating a plant-strong diet, fiber will never be an issue because there is more than enough in every meal. One thing to note for those who are just starting a plant-based diet, or considering a plant-based diet – be prepared to notice big changes in your digestion. For the first few weeks, you will be gassy, and you will be on the toilet – a lot! This is due to your body’s gut restoring itself to normal, healthy function. It will taper off once you adjust.

Another important part of gut health is the microbiome. This is the environment of gut bacteria and other organisms that lives in your large intestine, and there are many times more of them than there are cells in the entire human body [3]. Sounds gross, but they serve a very important purpose. They are there to aid in digestion, protect against disease, resolve inflammation, help with weight loss, psychological health and even help our immune function [4]. It is important to treat our gut well, and that is an important part of the plant-based diet.

The worst foods for gut health are meat, dairy, refined and processed foods, and sugar. They deplete the good bacteria and allow bad bacteria to flourish, leading to inflammation, an autoimmune response to foreign invaders in the body [2]. Prolonged inflammation can lead to all sorts of complications, ranging from low defenses against viruses like the cold and the flu, to chronic conditions such as asthma and arthritis, heart disease, bone disorders, and even cancers [2].

What about B-12?

Vitamin B-12 comes from microbes in the soil. Since we’ve become largely anti-microbial in modern times, B-12 is in short supply. Thanks to water treatment, Vitamin B-12 is no longer in our local water supply [1]. And thanks to agriculture, it’s also been largely depleted from the soil. Modern livestock farming offers no access to natural B-12 sources due to confinement to feed lots and the feeding of an unnatural diet. These livestock become a source of B-12 for meat-eaters only because it is supplemented in their feed [6]. And we can supplement it in our “feed” just as well.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a plant-based diet are vast and wide. The greatest benefit is reduction in the risk of the chronic diseases plaguing humanity today, such as heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only can a plant-based diet prevent disease, but it can even reverse disease, such as heart disease [7], cancer [8], and type II diabetes [9]. Then of course there is the added benefit of weight loss, which tends to occur naturally when people get away from the standard American diet, as does improvement in acne and the overall appearance of skin, hair and nails.

Other benefits to a plant-based diet are ethical (not contributing to the harm of animals), environmental (not contributing to the leading cause of global warming – land clearing and raising livestock), and of more concern at the present time – the prevention of disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently living through (these viruses begin with confinement of animals and spread to humans, the current virus coming from a wet market in China) [10].

I hope this article has been helpful in providing information if you are new to the plant-based diet, or are just curious and considering the switch. If you have any questions that I did not answer, please feel free to leave a comment below and I would be happy to answer them.

1 How How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger
2 Deeply Holistic: A Guide to Intuitive Self-Care, by Pip Waller
3 Dr. Garth Davis interview, by Gianna Simone
4 Dr. Michael Greger interview, by Gianna Simone
5 Dr. Neal Barnard talk, published by VegSource
6. B12: A Magic Pill, or Veganism’s Achilles Heel?, by Ashley Capps at Free from Harm
7. Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, published by VegSource
8. The China Study, by Dr. Colin T. Campbell
9. Dr. John McDougall interview, by Dr. Gustavo Tolosa
10. “The New Coronavirus was Preventable”, by Wendy Orent in The LA Times


Dispelling the Dairy Myth–Why It’s Bad for You, and How to Get Calcium without It

This is something I wanted to talk about a little more in depth. A myth has been perpetuated for decades that we not only need dairy due to its high levels of calcium, but that children and the elderly need large quantities of it to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. Science is a funny thing, because it is never absolute. Studies are done constantly to test theories, but at no point does science claim something to be “proven”. There is no such thing as scientific proof, which has become a common misnomer. Science actually says that the evidence either strongly supports a theory, or shows it to be highly unlikely, not that it is proven or disproven.

It is because of this that science continually changes. Something that is recommended based on scientific research at one period in time, is subject to change based on continued research down the road. So why, then, have we continued to operate on the suggestion that we consume large quantities of milk and dairy products since the 1950’s, when it was first suggested that we drink milk upon discovery of its high calcium content, despite the fact that countless studies since then have shown dairy to be detrimental to health? The short answer–dairy industry ties to the USDA. But that’s a talk for another day. For today…let’s discuss dairy.

Dairy causes cancer

Men, I will start with you. Do you know what is the first thing a doctor will tell you to do when you are diagnosed with prostate cancer? Stop eating red meat, and stop drinking milk. Why? Because both are known carcinogens that are directly linked to prostate cancer. It would sure be nice if someone would tell you this before you get cancer, right? Well here I am, telling you this now. How do I know? Unfortunately I have a family member who is battling prostate cancer and that is what his doctor told him to do. But don’t take my word for it…I like to provide sources to back up my claims, so I’ve done the research for you and will provide links and name sources throughout this post.

This study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discusses the possibility that a high calcium intake from dairy products may increase the risk of prostate cancer. At the bottom, under conclusion, you’ll read “These results support the hypothesis that dairy products and calcium are associated with a greater risk of prostate cancer.”

Ladies, don’t think that you’re in the clear. Prostate cancer is not the only cancer linked to dairy intake. In fact any cancer can be influenced by consuming dairy because of the animal protein found in milk and all dairy products, called casein. Casein is a known carcinogen, and has actually been used to promote cancer cell growth in lab rats. Not only is casein in cow’s milk, it is actually the primary protein of cow’s milk.

If you’ve never heard of Dr. Colin Campbell, I would like to introduce you to him now. Dr. Campbell is a PhD of nutrition and biochemistry, who was raised…on a dairy farm. He first went to Cornell University to do research on protein, to find out how we can make sure we’re getting enough. What he discovered in his research caused him to completely change his personal biases from being raised in the meat and dairy industry. He learned that animal protein in general (not only casein from cow’s milk) was bad for our arteries and our hearts, and contributed to cancer.

It was during a study in the 1970’s that he discovered the powerful effects of casein on cancer cell growth. He used casein at varying levels to study its effects on liver tumor growth. He had one group of rats at 5% casein intake, and the other group at 20% casein intake. The group of rats consuming only 5% showed no sign of tumor growth, but the rats consuming 20% saw their tumor growth explode.

He then took the study one step farther, by starting out a group of rats at 5%, then raising it to 20%, then dropping it back to 5% to see how tumor growth would respond. When the rats were fed 20%, tumor growth increased dramatically. But intriguingly, when they were reduced back to 5%, the tumors that had formed actually stopped and began to shrink! This would indicate that we can stop cancer cell growth, and possibly even reverse it, simply by eliminating dairy from our diets. So if you’ve been pigging out on dairy for years…it’s not too late to stop!

Where did I get this information? Any quick Google search of Dr. Campbell’s name will bring up a wealth of results, but I first learned of this by watching the documentary Forks Over Knives, which is available on Netflix. To learn more about his extensive research into the effects of animal proteins on the human body, check out his book The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health. I’m also linking you to this video of a talk that he gave where he speaks about his study, casein, and the effects of animal proteins on the body.

Let’s move from cancer, to bone health

We all know that calcium and strong bones are synonymous. This is seldom disputed, although there is evidence that Vitamin D is just as important because it allows the body to absorb calcium. What is up for debate is what way is the healthiest for us to get that calcium. Because of the fact that dairy is so high in calcium, we latched onto this decades ago, and the USDA has long since been including milk and dairy as an integral part of its dietary guidelines.

Since then, upon continued research and studies, it has been shown that increased milk consumption in kids and young adults doesn’t make a difference in bone mineralization, and that it may actually be detrimental to bone health due to increased levels of inflammation and acidity in the body. Just like a swimming pool, our bodies need to maintain a balanced pH level, and milk increases acidity. How does the body correct this and restore a healthy balance? By drawing calcium from our bones! Calcium is an alkaline nutrient, so in order to help balance out the pH levels of our body to compensate for the acidity of the milk we are consuming, it takes the calcium out of our bones. I will state, however, that fermented milk products such as cheese and yogurt are not shown to raise acidity in the body…although they do contain casein as mentioned above.

Another interesting detail I came across when learning about dairy, is that the countries that are highest in milk consumption, are also the highest in hip fracture rates. Hip fracture is significant because this is the standard measure of osteoporosis rates. We all know that we are supposed to get lots of calcium to prevent osteoporosis. So why, then, are the countries drinking the most milk, also seeing the highest rates of hip fracture and osteoporosis? Well…based on the evidence I provided above–you tell me!

Here are a couple of charts to provide a visual. Take a moment to compare and contrast the level of milk intake and the level of hip fracture among these different countries. As an added bonus, I’m including a graph of prostate cancer rates to compare with the milk consumption graph, as well.




Moving right along…

Dairy contributes to obesity and diabetes

How so? Well for starters, cheese is one of the most fattening foods available in the supermarket, coming in on average at 70% fat…and not the good kind of fat that is found in plants. What this means for your body is two things. One, that due to its high fat content, your body is very easily able to convert this to additional fat cells within your body for future use. Two, that it slows your metabolism because, once the fat is sufficiently stored, your body doesn’t want to risk losing it by burning it up too quickly. Therefore your metabolism slows to prevent that from happening, also preventing you from losing weight.

What about diabetes? Well the common knowledge about diabetes is that it’s a disease caused by too much sugar. That is actually wildly inaccurate. The reason for this association is that high blood sugar is touted as the root of the disease. What we need to be asking is why that blood sugar is high. Well in a word–fat! When your diet is high in saturated fat, eventually your cells become so clogged with fat that insulin can no longer get through the fat to penetrate the cells. If insulin can’t get through the cells, the glucose in your blood stream is unable to be absorbed by the cell, because it relies on insulin for absorption, thus causing it to remain in your bloodstream and elevate your blood glucose levels.

Ever heard of insulin resistance, the leading “cause” of type 2 diabetes? This is what that actually means. Not that your body is resistant to insulin, but that your cells are resistant to insulin penetration because there is too much fat in them for it to get through. And of course rather than pushing patients to lose weight and consume less saturated fat so the problem can cure itself, they’re given drugs and told to avoid sugar to keep blood glucose levels low.

My source for you to examine this information? This YouTube video of a talk by Neal Barnard, MD. It actually covers every single topic I’ve touched on in this article, as well as industry manipulation and USDA interference with good health. Of all of the sources I’ve linked, this one may be the most informative and beneficial to check out.

My personal dairy conclusion and dietary habits

As grateful as I am for all of the research conducted by Dr. Campbell, and as much value as I have found in the documentary Forks Over Knives, I have not gone, and likely will not go, fully vegan and/or plant-based. Instead I consider myself to be plant-centered. One thing I’ve taken away from the rat/casein study is that rats fed 5% dairy showed no cancer cell growth. This is important to me because that number was not 0%, but 5%. Meaning that consuming small amounts of fermented dairy products, specifically no more than 5% of the protein in my overall diet (as an aside…maximum protein intake needed is 10-12%, or 0.36 grams per pound, which is less than half of what the average American is actually consuming) is not dangerous. It is the American habit of overconsumption, especially when you look at the USDA recommendation that we drink three glasses of milk per day, that causes problems.

So for me, personally, I do consume dairy primarily in the form of cheese, but also on the rare occasion an ice cream or yogurt treat with my boys, in moderation. I will have an ounce or less of cheese with a snack, on a salad, or in a meal a few times per week. So I’m not eating it daily, and when I do I keep it to one ounce or less on that day. As for milk, I don’t drink it, and won’t ever drink it. From the research I’ve done I see zero health benefit from milk and in fact find it to be rather harmful.

When it comes to bone health, remember that fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt were not shown to raise inflammation or acidity levels within the body. It is milk that does those things. Without even touching on the growth hormone and antibiotic issues, milk has already become persona non grata with me even in its purest, organic form. As a woman, and with a history of osteoporosis in my family, bone health is a high priority for me and milk is the last on my list of places to get calcium.

So where do I get my calcium from?

Almond milk, first and foremost. Unsweetened, unflavored almond milk can be used in all of the exact same ways as cow’s milk, with far less calories and just as much calcium (45% daily value, to be exact). Another option is soy milk, but I personally prefer the taste and consistency of almond milk better. Chia seeds also have quite a bit of calcium for such a tiny source, at 8% daily value per tablespoon. This is why chia pudding is one of my favorite sugar free desserts–1/2 cup of almond milk, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, a packet of stevia and a splash of vanilla, chilled for at least 20 minutes (better for a couple of hours) for the chia seeds to gel. I also always make my oatmeal with almond milk instead of water, and add a tablespoon of chia seeds to that as well.

Salmon comes in next on the list. While I try to stay away from too much animal protein in my diet (basically I look at meat the same way as I do dairy–no red meat, rarely pork, poultry and fish in moderation), salmon can’t be ignored as a beneficial source of not only Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, but also calcium, coming in around 20% daily value. It’s a good thing that I love salmon so much, because it is one of the healthiest animal based food sources out there.

Beans are sort of the holy grail for a plant-based, or plant-centered, diet. They are high in three major nutrients that you need for optimal health–calcium, fiber and protein. This makes them a good dairy substitute, and a good meat substitute as well. I have a lot of meatless meals, and in most of those meals I use beans as my protein source. The other good news about beans is that they help reduce LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, while also increasing HDL, the “good” cholesterol that helps keep bad cholesterols low.

Lastly, by eating my greens. The greener the vegetable, the higher the calcium content, as well as essential vitamins and folates. So all of those salads I posted in last week’s Mediterranean Monday post pack a major calcium, protein, fiber, vitamin and mineral punch. As an added bonus–calcium from these plant-based sources is much easier for the body to absorb than calcium from dairy sources, so Vitamin D is not as much of an issue on a plant-centered diet.

Here is the result of my calcium levels from my 2018 blood panel, with the majority of my calcium intake being plant-based. You can see that I’m right in the center of the healthy range:


So I ask this question of the USDA–why are you still telling us 60-70 years later that we need to drink three glasses of milk per day in order to get enough calcium in our diets? To the rest of you–I hope I have provided some valuable insight on the mythical link between dairy and calcium.