While there is no single food that can prevent or cause breast cancer, diet is an area in which individual choices can make a significant difference.
Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors, such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, which cannot be controlled.
However, there are factors that can be controlled; such as smoking, exercising, being overweight, and diet. Some groups of researchers maintain that diet could be responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancers.
The New American research, as of July 2018, has found that women who eat at least five-and-a-half portions of fruit and vegetables every day may have a lower risk of breast cancer, than those who have a lower daily intake.
The researchers analyzed diet questionnaires submitted by the women every four years, as well as information on other breast cancer risk factors, like age, weight, smoking status, family cancer history etc…
The results showed that women who consume more than 5.5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day had an 11% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate fewer servings.
In this context, a serving was defined as one cup of raw leafy vegetables, half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or half a cup of chopped or cooked fruits.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and yellow and orange vegetables, were found to have a positive significant correlation with lower breast cancer risk.
The team also found that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables appeared to be particularly beneficial for lowering the risk of more aggressive tumors, including ER-negative, HER2-enriched, and basal-like tumors.
When it comes to reducing breast cancer risk, you can’t change your family history, but you can change your nutritional habits and that could go a long way in decreasing your risk.
Because the majority of breast cancer cases don’t have a genetic link, you have to conclude that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a large role.
Nutrition for Breast Cancer: Breast Cancer Diet Plan
After a diagnosis of breast cancer, women tend to re-evaluate their nutrition and health practices, and most women believe they must make significant dietary changes to ensure good outcomes following breast cancer treatment.
However, a healthy diet is only one of several factors that can affect the immune system, since exercise and stress management are just as important in improving your overall health and wellbeing.
The following food materials are part of a healthful diet in general, and may help to prevent the development or progression of breast cancer:
- a wide variety of multi-colored fruits and vegetables
- foods rich in fiber, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes
- low-fat milk and dairy products
- soybean-based products
- foods rich in vitamin D
- foods with anti-inflammatory properties
Fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, which are linked to a host of medical benefits, and studies have found the following fruits and vegetables to be good for preventing breast cancer:
- dark, green, leafy vegetables
- citrus fruit
Research into the dietary fiber and its effect on breast cancer is currently inconclusive, but several studies suggest that it can help protect against the disease, because fiber supports the digestive system in the elimination of waste, and helps the body to get rid of toxins, limiting the damage they can do.
Eating more fiber-rich legumes, such as lentils, has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, and the recommendation is 30 to 45 grams of fiber per day.
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that not only gives tomatoes their redness but also stop cancer cell growth, helping to protect against breast cancer.
Your body absorbs lycopene best when tomatoes are cooked, concentrated or processed.
Fat might seem a doubtful inclusion for a list of good foods for breast cancer prevention, but polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are considered the “good fats” and they are found in olive oil, avocados, seeds, and nuts.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon and herring, are also believed to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Soy is a healthful food source that may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as research over the past 25 years has identified it as an extremely healthful food source, rich in protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals, but low in carbohydrates.
Soy is also reported to reduce low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol,” and lower the risk of heart disease, in addition to reducing the risk of breast cancer.
Soy is found in foods such as tofu, Tempe, Edamame, soy milk, and nuts.
Cancer-Fighting Phytochemicals by Food Source
- Sulforaphane: Broccoli sprouts
- Isothiocyanates: Mustard, horseradish, cruciferous vegetables
- Phenolic compounds: Garlic, green tea, umbelliferous, soybeans, cereal grains, cruciferous, solanaceous, cucurbitaceous vegetables, licorice root, flax seed
- Flavonoids: cruciferous, garlic, cucurbitaceous vegetables, citrus fruits, caraway seeds, umbelliferous, solanaceous, sage, camphor, dill, basil, mint.
- Organo-sulfides: Garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, cruciferous vegetables
- Isoflavones: legumes, Soybeans, flax seed
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables
- Carotenoids: Dark yellow or orange vegetables and fruits, green vegetables and fruits.
Foods to Avoid or Limit
Red meat contains amino acids that stimulate the production of insulin and increase oxidation in the body, both of which boost cancer risk, and grilling red meat creates compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA), which drive cancers.
Researchers suspect that compounds used as preservatives in processed meat like deli meats, bacon, ham etc, convert into cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Grapefruit may elevate levels of estrogen, which is associated with increased breast cancer risk, as a study from the British Journal of Cancer, found that women who ate a quarter grapefruit or more a day had a 30% increased risk of breast cancer.
Women who consumed the most sweets, including desserts, sweetened beverages, and added sugars, had a 27% increased risk of breast cancer than women who consumed less, according to a study by the journal Cancer Causes and Control.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates like those found in sweets is associated with higher levels of blood glucose, forcing the body to release insulin, which in turn, encourages cancer cells to grow and could result in higher levels of estrogen, which may promote the development of breast cancer.
Alcohol’s role in the development of breast cancer remains unclear, but several studies have shown an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Dietary guidelines suggest that a woman consume no more than one drink per day, and women already diagnosed with breast cancer may want to consider avoiding alcohol.
The following may also help the body to protect itself against breast cancer:
- Vitamin D from regular exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found in foods such as eggs, cold-water fish, and fortified products, and it may help in the prevention of cancer.
- Green tea is associated with a lot of beneficial health effects, including strengthening the immune system and reduced risk of breast cancer.
- Turmeric is a spice that has been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties and may limit the growth of breast cancer cells.
- Obesity is a known risk factor for breast cancer, and maintaining a healthy body weight is important for well-being in general, and particularly for those engaged in the fight against breast cancer.
- The National Cancer Institute reports that women who work out for 4 hours per week or longer, have a lower risk of breast cancer. This means that being physically active is as important as eating healthful food for breast cancer prevention.