Many people are unaware of the important role nutrition plays in fighting off breast cancer and all chronic diseases. A growing body of research highlights diet’s role in not only lowering the risk of developing breast cancer, but warding off re-occurrence, too.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’m sharing my top picks for cancer-fighting foods. Take a look at the following list and aim to regularly consume a wide variety of these nutrient-dense foods.
Whole Grains – Whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and natural plant compounds that help fight cancer.1 Have three a day. Good sources of whole grains include:
- Brown and wild rice
- Whole-wheat pasta and bread
- Whole- wheat cereal flakes
- Whole grain snacks including whole grain crackers, tortillas and bagels and popcorn. Yes, popcorn!
Fiber – Research has found that fiber helps reduce the risk of breast cancer by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body. In fact, a study reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who consumed the most fiber had an 11 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who ate the least. Aim to consume 30 grams of fiber a day. Good sources for fiber include:
- Vegetables like romaine lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes
- Pinto beans, black beans, lentils and kidney beans
- Brown rice, oatmeal, kashi cereals, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread and tortillas
Vitamin D – Studies have revealed a strong link between vitamin D and breast cancer.3 Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D and those with higher vitamin D levels have been found less likely to develop breast cancer. Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish including salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and canned tuna
- Vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice and cereals
- Egg yolk
- Fish oils
- Omega-3 supplements fortified with extra vitamin D
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Research suggests omega-3s reduce inflammation which can encourage breast cancer cells to grow.4 Good sources include:
- Chia seeds and ground flaxseed
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Canola oil and soy oil
Folate – Those with higher folate (a vitamin B) levels have been found to have more than a 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest folate levels.5 To reach a healthy level of folate, try to consume 400 micrograms of folate each day. Good sources include:
- Kidney beans, black beans
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula
- Fortified cereals , breads, rice, pasta
Don’t forget that it is your total lifestyle that counts the most – your entire eating pattern of lean meats, healthy oils, whole-grains, colorful beans, fruit, and vegetables, and low-fat dairy – combined with a healthy weight and regular exercise ( 150 minutes a week), a healthy attitude about life, and relaxation or happy events you plan daily. A handful of healthy food choices help but nothing compares to a healthy re-vamped TOTAL style of eating and living everyday! What is good for your whole body helps prevent cancer and energizes your life.
- Health Benefits with Whole Grains. Journal of Nutrition, May 2011;141(5):1011S-22S. Epub March 30, 2011
- Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. bit.ly/qKtsU2
- Intake of fish and marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer. BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3706. 27 June 2013.
- Folate, vitamin B12 and postmenopausal breast cancer in a prospective study of French women. Cancer Causes Control. Nov 2006; 17(9): 1209–1213.