Moffitt Cancer Center’s Dr. Amber Orman couldn’t be a better ambassador for the way of eating she espouses. Glowing with health and energy, the radiation oncologist recently spoke at a luncheon at Selby Gardens about the disease-fighting effects of a plant-based diet.
Orman, whose clinical focus is breast cancer, has a special interest in nutrition. The traditional American diet has led to an epidemic of obesity and health risks, she says. Cancers associated with being overweight make up 40 percent of cancers diagnosed in the United states, and eating processed meats—bacon, hot dogs, deli meats—has been directly linked to colon cancer, with your risk rising with your consumption.
“A healthy plant-based diet reduces weight and is also an anti-inflammatory diet,” she says. And that reduces the risk of all the major chronic diseases, from hypertension and diabetes to heart disease, which, she notes, “kill more people than all cancers do.”
Orman advises her patients to avoid meat, especially red meat, and dairy products (new research indicates that even eggs should be avoided). Instead, they should eat grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Data shows that a plant-based diet reduces patients’ risk of cancer recurrence, she says. It also makes them feel and look better. As they lose weight, they get off blood pressure and other medications, which can cause a host of side effects. Many notice improvements in their hair, nails and overall health—even a reduction in depression.
Orman, who has been practicing what she preaches for years, says she gets plenty of protein from beans, grains—“quinoa is fabulous”—chia and other seeds, and smoothies made with hemp protein. Even vegetables provide some protein, she notes. Because you’re changing your habits, “there can be a learning curve,” she says. Among her tips: “Variety is key; also, eat like the rainbow—choose foods in lots of different colors.” You can learn more about a good plant-based diet at the American Cancer Society and the American Institute of Cancer Research.