October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s never to late to make changes to your diet to reduce your risk of cancer. We know that what you eat can impact not only your risk of cancer, but help you through your treatment and recovery from this disease. No single food can prevent cancer, nor can taking a handful of supplements. Foods contain multiple benefits – from antioxidants to omega 3s to fiber – that work together to help fight cancer on numerous fronts. Get started right away!
FOODS THAT LOWER YOUR RISK OF BREAST CANCER
We know that a mostly plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Plants – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds – are brimming with all sorts of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants.
- Fruits and Vegetables – Make sure to choose fruits and veggies that are brightly colored, as their color is an indication of their nutritional value. Some of our favorites are strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, mangoes, peaches, apricots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale, chard, broccoli, onions, garlic, mushrooms (especially shiitake and maitake), blueberries, blackberries.
- Whole grains – When choosing whole grains, try to keep them in their most natural state, rather than choosing products made with whole grains (i.e., bread, cereal, crackers). Our favorites include: quinoa, amaranth, millet, bulgur, buckwheat, brown rice, black rice, oats (steel-cut or rolled).
- Nuts and seeds – Both nuts and seeds are important as they are sources for carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Because they are high in calories, make sure to measure them out. Also, try to choose raw unsalted nuts whenever possible. Our favorites are: almonds (and almond butter), walnuts, soybeans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), chia seeds, flax seeds (ground), and hemp seeds.
- Healthy fats – Omega 3s and monounsaturated fast have gotten plenty of press over the past decade and for good reason. They are helpful with fighting inflammation in the body, which has a role in cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other harmful conditions. Again, they are high in calories, so measure them out and use sparingly. Our go-to healthy fats are: olive oil, grapeseed oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, wild Alaskan salmon, wild Pacific halibut, sablefish (a.k.a., black cod), farm-raised trout, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
- Green tea – Both green and black tea have powerful antioxidants that help fight cancer. Replace your sugary beverage with hot or iced tea.
- Soy- Many people are confused about the role of soy and breast cancer. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are a plant form of estrogen. Phytoestrogens compete with estrogen circulating in the bloodstream for receptor sites. Studies of Asian populations, whose diets are rich in soy, have found significantly lower rates of breast cancer compared to westernized countries. We like soy in its most natural form: soy beans, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh.
LIFESTYLE FACTORS TO LOWER YOUR RISK OF BREAST CANCER
- Achieve your ideal weight- There is overwhelming evidence that being overweight increases your risk of many forms of cancer, including breast cancer in post-menopausal women. If you are overweight, which commonly happens during and after menopause, then you should try to lose weight. Seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian, who can help you formulate a plan that meets your individual needs and goals.
- Be physically active – Physical activity in any form – walking, running, biking, swimming, weight lifting – reduces your cancer risk. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity every day. Exercise is not an option – get it done everyday, just like brushing your teeth.
- Stop smoking- The carcinogens in cigarette smoke alter the DNA and create mutations that lead to cancerous cells. Quit today!
- Limit your alcohol intake – There is plenty of evidence linking alcohol to breast cancer. For cancer prevention, do not drink at all. If you drink, restrict your intake to no more than one drink a day.
- Reduce intake of red meat and avoid processed meats – Red meats include beef, pork, lamb, and game. Set a limit for no more than 8 oz. a week. The more red meat you consume, the less plant-based foods get eaten. Processed meats include salami, bologna, ham, pastrami, bacon, sausages, and hot dogs.
- Cut back sugar and sugary drinks – Many studies have shown that sugar feeds cancer cells. Cut back or eliminate sugary drinks, candy, pastries, and other sugar-rich, nutrient-poor foods.
- Breast feed, if possible – Evidence shows that women who breast feed for at least 6 months have a lower risk of breast cancer.