Fight Breast Cancer with Good Nutrition
Can what you eat prevent breast cancer? October is breast cancer awareness month. The National Breast Cancer Foundation created the annual campaign to raise awareness of this devastating disease. All month it encourages individuals to host or engage in fundraising events, share educational content and focus on early detection, education and support. One of the ways women can reduce their risk is through eating healthy throughout their lifetimes.
Diet and breast cancer risk
Diet is partly responsible for between 30 and 40 percent of cancers, according to BreastCancer.org. The research isn’t more specific, because many women with breast cancer have more than one risk factor, so it can be hard to isolate one cause from the rest. However, there is a clear link between a diet that is low fat and high in vegetables and fiber and reduced breast cancer risk.
Healthy foods help maintain a healthy weight. Overweight women have an increased risk of breast cancer. Fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods promote weight loss because they contain high amounts of fiber and nutrition and relatively low calorie counts. Women who gained weight after a diagnosis of breast cancer also had a higher risk of recurrence.
A low-fat diet reduces risk. One study found that when women only got 25 percent of their daily calories from fat, they were less likely to get breast cancer. A low-fat diet often means high consumption of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, grains and veggies.
Research supports eating a variety of healthy foods. Supplements help, but it is best to get your nutrients from a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains.
Researchers continue to study the link between breast cancer and healthy eating, but here is what dieticians say helps reduce your risk:
- Keep your body mass index (BMI) in a healthy range.
- Eat more than five cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Limit saturated fat to under 10 percent of your calories and total fat to under 30 grams each day.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, beans and nuts.
- Avoid packaged foods and trans fats.
Foods that fight cancer
The MD Anderson Cancer Center recommends making vegetables, beans and whole grains a major part of every meal. Build your grocery list around foods that reduce your risk and make healthy eating a regular part of your lifestyle. Try some of these cancer-fighting superfoods:
Broccoli – This green veggie contains sulforaphane, a powerful compound that flushes cancer-causing chemicals from your body and raises its level of protective enzymes. Kale, cabbage and cauliflower also contain sulforaphane, but broccoli has the most.
Berries – All berries contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins. They keep premalignant cancer cells from growing to fight off cancer. The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology compared dried and frozen berries with fresh ones and found there was no significant difference in their cancer-fighting nutrients. When you are on the go, eat dried fruit for a nutritional power punch.
Tomatoes – Lycopene makes tomatoes red. It also stops the growth of cancer cells. Cooked tomatoes offer the biggest benefit, since turning tomatoes into sauce concentrates the amount of lycopene per ounce. Sip tomato juice for a tasty way to reduce your cancer risk.
Walnuts – Two handfuls of walnuts a day might lower your risk of breast cancer. If you have breast cancer, walnuts can slow the growth of tumors. Phytosterols in nuts block estrogen receptors in cancer cells. Almonds and peanuts contain the same cancer fighting compounds.
Garlic – Several studies show a link between increased garlic consumption and reduced cancer risk. The phytochemical allicin that gives garlic its strong odor also strengthens the immune system and helps the body kill abnormal cancer cells. One study indicated women taking tamoxifen to fight breast cancer reduced their risk of liver injury by consuming more allicin.
Beans – Black beans and navy beans cause your body to produce the fatty acid butyrate. In high concentrations, butyrate fights cancer growth. Fight breast and colon cancer by eating beans at least three times a week.
Quick cancer-fighting snacks
Munch on cancer-fighting foods throughout the day with these quick strategies:
- Once a week, stuff snack-sized zipper bags with raw broccoli, berries, and cherry tomatoes. Put them where it is easy to grab and go.
- Stock up on 100 percent vegetable juice and keep it chilled for a delicious treat.
- Keep reduced-fat cheese sticks on hand.
- All natural granola bars help you get in an extra serving of whole grains, nuts and dried fruit.
- Bean chips are high in fiber and protein and low in sodium. Fight cancer with chips.
- Packaged nuts don’t have to be refrigerated, and they won’t get squashed sitting in your purse or car. Keep them on hand for emergency snacking.
Article by Kristien Matelski