Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: What does it mean when AICR says we should choose “minimally processed food” more often?
A: This advice aims to maximize your consumption of cancer-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals while minimizing unhealthy additions to your diet. “Minimally processed” vegetables, grains and beans are prepared – commercially or at home – without large amounts of added fat, salt or sugar. That means flavoring your brown rice or whole-wheat couscous with delicious herbs rather than using sodium-laden mixes, and using vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and spices to flavor vegetables instead of high-fat or high-sodium sauces. Although AICR most often refers to plant foods when encouraging you to eat more minimally processed foods, avoiding processed meats such as sausage and hot dogs is also good advice since consuming them on a regular basis increases risk of colon cancer. Processed food is not all bad: canning and cooking (which is technically a “process”) by steaming, microwaving or stir-frying can make certain nutrients more easily absorbed by the body. The bottom line is to choose plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans more often and to look for those foods with little or no added fat, sugar and sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.