Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers found in American women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated there would be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in the US in 2019. Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, which are not within a person’s control. However, experts say that making certain lifestyle changes can lower your risk. One such change is healthy food choices.
Eating a healthy diet can decrease your risk of medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Research suggests that dietary factors could be responsible for 30–40%of all cancers. So your dietary choices can make a difference to your risk of developing breast cancer or your overall well-being while living with the condition. Although no specific food can cause or prevent breast cancer, including certain items in your diet may help reduce your overall breast cancer risk.
Mayo Clinic notes that “women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. This is mainly because the Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. So, people who follow the Mediterranean diet automatically choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and eat fish instead of red meat”.
Here are certain foods that play a role in a healthful diet in general and may also help prevent the development or progression of breast cancer:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables: According to a Medical News Today article, a study of 91,779 women found that following a diet comprising mainly plants could cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 15%. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and veggies a day, limiting processed and red meats, and choosing whole grains to help reduce risks of all types of cancer. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends consuming between five and nine servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.Fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, which have various medical benefits. Your diet should include cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens and all items that are high in Vitamin A and C) and fruits, especially berries and peaches.
A new study has found that eating certain foods could help decrease the side effects caused by breast cancer treatment. The research suggests that diet can serve as a modifiable target for possibly reducing symptoms among breast cancer survivors.
- Fiber-rich foods: Several studies have suggested that fiber rich foods such as whole grains, beans, and legumes can help protect against the disease. Eating a high fiber diet can keep estrogen from interacting with breast cancer cells, which could be a factor in the development and spread of some types of breast cancer and accelerate the elimination of estrogen.Fiber-rich foods also support the digestive system and the regular elimination of waste, including excess estrogen. This helps the body eliminate toxins and limits the damage that they can do. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend an intake of up to 33.6 grams of fiber a day, depending on a person’s age and sex.
- Antioxidants foods that are mainly plant based: Medical News Today reported ona 2013 meta-analysis which found that people who eat more whole grains may have a lower risk of breast cancer. Whole grains can help prevent many diseases by reducing the numbers of free radicals, which are waste substances that the body naturally produces. Foods such as lentils and legumes, are rich in protein, fiber, folic, iron and an array of antioxidants.
- Soybean-based products: A plant based product that is rich in protein, soybean is a food that is rich in healthful fat, vitamins, and minerals but low in carbohydrates, that may reduce the risk of breast cancer. It also contains antioxidants known as isoflavones, which can possibly help bind estrogen and decrease the risk of hormone related cancers such as breast and prostate. Soy is present in foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk and soy nuts.
Other foods that experts recommend to reduce breast cancer risk are: low fat milk and dairy products, foods rich in vitamin D and other vitamins, and spiceswith anti-inflammatory properties such as capsaicin, turmeric, and garlic.
Apart from healthy diet, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity levels and weight management, could lower the risks of getting breast cancer.