Breast Cancer: What to Eat & What to Avoid

Breast Cancer:  What to Eat & What to Avoid

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we wanted to share some insightful tips for you.  It’s highly likely that all of us know of someone who has battled breast cancer.  It's true that food is medicine and what we ingest and put on our bodies can directly effect our vulnerability to cancer. 

Diet and nutrition can play a significant role in the chances of developing breast cancer, especially if you have a family history of the disease. Keep the following in mind when it comes to diet and breast cancer.

THINGS TO AVOID:

Excess sugar and processed foods. It’s a top recommendation for protection. Do not move to the non-caloric diet sweeteners, either. Focus on whole foods and moderate sweetness to gradually cut down.

Eating too much fat. Keep your dietary fat content moderate – below 25 percent of your daily calories is ideal.

Consuming polyunsaturated omega-6 fats (including many vegetable oils), and hydrogenated oils (margarines and vegetable shortenings) can all increase cancer risks as they are inflammatory. Minimize consumption of all sources, most of which come from processed and packaged foods.

Drinking alcohol. Even in modest amounts, alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.  Instead choose sparkling water “mocktails” with a splash of real squeezed or steeped fruit.

Pass Up the Deli Counter.  An occasional Reuben sandwich or hot dog at the ballpark isn't going to hurt you. But cutting back on processed meats like bologna, ham, and hot dogs will help lower your risk of colorectal and stomach cancers. Also, eating meats that have been preserved by smoking or with salt raises your exposure to chemicals that can potentially cause cancer.

A daily intake of conventionally raised meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. These may contain hormone residues that influence estrogen metabolism. Replace with organic, hormone-free versions that come (ideally) from local farms that can share their farming practices.

Cooking Methods Matter.  How you cook meat can make a difference in how big a cancer risk it poses. Frying, grilling, and broiling meats at very high temperatures causes chemicals to form that may increase cancer risk. Other cooking methods such as stewing, braising, or steaming appear to produce fewer of those chemicals. And when you do stew the meat, remember to add plenty of healthy vegetables.

WHAT TO EAT:

Apples

Apples contain anticancer properties that may also help prevent inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and infections.  The phrase "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" actually rings fairly true. Apples contain polyphenols that have promising anticancer properties.

Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that may prevent inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and infections.  Some research suggests that polyphenols possess anticancer and tumor-fighting properties.  For example, the polyphenol phloretin inhibits a protein called glucose transporter 2 (GLUT2) plays a role in advanced-stage cell growth in certain types of cancer.

One study from 2018 in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis suggests that apple phloretin significantly inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells, while not affecting normal cells.

Berries

Berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers. Scientists have shown a lot of interest in berries due to their antioxidant properties and potential health benefits.  One study shows that anthocyanin, which is a compound in blackberries, lowers biomarkers for colon cancer.

Another study demonstrates that the anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries can prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, contain beneficial nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.  Cruciferous vegetables also contain sulforaphane, a plant compound with anticancer properties.

One study shows that sulforaphane significantly inhibits cancer cell growth and stimulates cell death in colon cancer cells.  Another study shows that sulforaphane in combination with genistein, a compound in soybeans, can significantly inhibit breast cancer tumor development and size. Sulforaphane also inhibits histone deacetylase, an enzyme with links to cancer development.

One review recommends 3 to 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables per week for the best cancer-preventive effects.

Carrots

Carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which may prevent certain types of cancer, and contain several essential nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin A, and antioxidants.

Carrots also contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which is responsible for the distinct orange color.  Recent studies reveal that beta-carotene plays a vital role in supporting the immune system and may prevent certain types of cancer.

A review of eight studies shows that beta-carotene has links to a reduction in the risk of breast and prostate cancer.  Another analysis shows that higher consumption of carrots results in a 26 percent lower risk of developing stomach cancer.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and anchovies, is rich in essential nutrients, such as vitamin B, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  One study found that people whose diets were high in freshwater fish had a 53 percent lower risk for colorectal cancer than those low in freshwater fish.

Another study found that consumption of fish oil later in life has links to significantly lower risk for prostate cancer.

Finally, a study following 68,109 people found that people who consumed fish oil supplements at least four times a week were 63 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those who did not.

Walnuts

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, all nuts exhibit cancer-preventing properties, but scientists have studied walnuts more than other types of nut.

Walnuts contain a substance called pedunculagin, which the body metabolizes into urolithins. Urolithins are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and may play a role in preventing breast cancer.  In one animal study, mice receiving whole walnuts and walnut oil had higher levels of tumor-suppressing genes than the mice receiving vegetable oil.

Legumes

Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils, are high in fiber, which may help lower a person's risk of developing cancer.  One meta-analysis of 14 studies shows an association between higher legume consumption and lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Another study examines the relationship between the intake of bean fiber and risk of breast cancer. 

The study results indicate that people who ate diets high in bean fiber were 20 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not meet their daily fiber intake.

Tomatoes

Whether it's the lycopene -- the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color -- or something else isn't clear. But some studies have linked eating tomatoes to reduced risk of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Studies also suggest that processed tomato products such as juice, sauce, or paste increase the cancer-fighting potential.

Green Tea

Green tea is considered a strong cancer fighter. In laboratory studies, green tea has slowed or prevented the development of cancer in colon, liver, breast, and prostate cells. It also had a similar effect in lung tissue and skin. And in some longer term studies, tea was associated with lower risks for bladder, stomach, and pancreatic cancers. 

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