Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women worldwide and many studies have shown correlation between lifestyle and diet directly linked to incidences of breast cancer.
Eating a nutrient dense diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and daily movement with physical activity are all preventative measures in reducing our risk of developing breast cancer.
What to Include
More plants. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, legumes and whole grains contain powerful nutrients and antioxidants – beta carotene, Vitamin A, C, E and Zinc – which help protect our cells from damage and oxidative stress.
Some of the best cancer fighting plant foods include:
- Leafy greens – kale, spinach, arugula
- Citrus fruit – lemon, lime, grapefruit
- Berries – blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
- Cruciferous vegetables – cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli
- Beans and legumes
- Herbs and spices
Plant foods are also sources of fibre which helps bind and eliminate toxins including excess estrogen – a factor in breast cancer. They are also source of natural anti inflammatories such as turmeric, ginger and garlic.
Aim to fill half your plate with plant foods at each meal.
How to incorporate more plant foods in your diet?
- Snack on raw nuts – almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts
- Snack on low sugar fruit – berries, apples, under ripe bananas, pears
- Make smoothies for breakfast or a snack with fruits and veggies that incorporate easily – berries, banana, spinach, cauliflower, avocado
- Sprinkle seeds on salads – pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed
- Substitute black beans, mushrooms or eggplant in tacos instead of meat
- Make plant based burgers or meatballs using beans, chickpeas and mushroom, nuts and seeds
- Use hummus or other plant based dips as a sandwich spread
- Season foods with garlic, ginger and turmeric
Lean proteins. Animal proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish, plant proteins such as quinoa, oats, nuts, beans, legumes, tofu and tempeh. Protein is a necessary macronutrient for proper metabolic function, cellular energy and muscle and tissue maintenance.
Healthy fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and fatty fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel. Healthy fats include omega 3 which has been shown to decrease inflammation which may also be a contributing factor in development of breast cancer.
Supplements. Always choose food as your main source of vitamins, minerals and other cancer fighting nutrients. If specific supplements are needed to meet nutrient needs speak with your doctor and a qualified nutritionist to choose the right ones.
Also important to note:
Physical Activity. Exercise can help prevent cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, strong muscles and a healthy cardiovascular system. Movement also encourages peristalsis and proper digestive function, eliminating toxins from the body
- Start with at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday. Work your way up to 60 minutes of moderate activity (walking, cycling, swimming) or 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity (e.g., running, tennis, HIIT) every day.
- Limit sedentary activities such as watching television and sitting at the computer as much as possible – Create breaks for yourself such as getting up at each commercial break and pacing around and setting a timer every 20 minutes when working at the computer to get up and move around.
What to Avoid
Refined sugars. A diet high in added sugars can lead to weight gain and obesity which increases the risk of breast cancer.
Trans fats. As with too much refined sugar, a diet high in trans fatty acids can lead to weight gain, clogged arteries and increased risk of breast cancer.
Processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, hot dogs) studies have shown preservatives and nitrates in processed meat products to be carcinogens – cancer causing agents.
Foods high in added fat or sugar include:
- Convenience foods like frozen meals, instant noodle soups – also extremely high in sodium
- Fried food items such as fries, fried chicken, and fast food burgers – also typically poor quality meat with plenty of additives
- Packaged baked goods such as cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts, and other pastries
- Sweet and salty snacks like chips, milk shakes, candy, chocolate bars, and crackers
- Soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks
Limit these foods as much as possible – nobody is perfect – if you are consuming these foods, keep your portions small and be conscious of how often you consume them.
It is also encouraged to limit alcohol. Alcohol can increase the risk of many cancers, including breast cancer. If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to one drink per day.
Need guidance on a healthy, nutrient dense diet? Feel free to reach out with any questions or schedule a discovery session to learn more!
Kat Krivanek, R.H.N.