How Do Fruits and Vegetables Help Prevent Breast Cancer? The Answer May Surprise You

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • "Eat your veggies" is the healthy diet mantra we're probably tired of hearing. But a plant-based diet DOES help prevent breast cancer – though not for the reason you probably assume.


    You lead a busy life, right? Between work and motherhood and house chores and volunteering and even perhaps a bit of leisure-time activity, you’re on the go from morning to night.


    Computers, and the endless entertainment/communication opportunities they offer, are partially to blame for this endless treadmill we’re on. With instant access to of all kinds of information 24/7, is it any wonder we find ourselves online checking the news, connecting with friends, and paying bills at all hours of the day and night?

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    It’s no surprise we jump from one thing to the next, both online and off, like a grasshopper on a hot summer day. The average attention span of Americans back in the early 1970s was around 12 minutes. Today: just 6 seconds.


    Which is one reason we probably feel less patient with the endless diet and nutrition advice we see in magazines, hear about in TV sound bites, and even receive from our doctors. 


    Phytochemicals, antioxidants, carotenoids… who has time to understand all of that? Sure, it’s important, but can’t I just take a supplement and forget about it?


    The answer to that is NO. Fresh fruits and vegetables, consumed as part of your regular diet, are more effective than a daily vitamin/supplement pill. 


    However, you also don’t have to know and understand what dietary benefits each and every fruit and vegetable offers, how they work, and how much you need to consume daily to stay healthy – and to reduce your risk of breast cancer.


    That’s right – eating fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer: either first-time cancer, or a recurrence. And this is especially true for older women, those who’ve been through menopause.


    Why do older women benefit more from a plant-based diet? A 2012 report published by the American Institute for Cancer Research notes that nearly 40% of breast cancer diagnoses can be attributed to weight control, and the two factors most responsible for it: diet and exercise. ("New estimates: Americans," 2012) 


    Post-menopausal women are more likely to be overweight than younger women. And, combined with the risk factor of aging itself, older women are at greater risk of being diagnosed with beast cancer – a risk that can be greatly mitigated by losing weight.


    How does weight gain contribute to breast cancer risk? About 80% of breast cancers are estrogen-dependent: they rely on estrogen to grow. Estrogen is stored in fat, so the more fat your body carries around, the greater the amount of circulating estrogen in your system, the higher your risk of breast cancer.


    And how do you work towards maintaining a healthy weight? By exercising; and by eating a nutritious, plant-focused diet.


    Yes, your body will appreciate the cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, and carotenoids in fruits and vegetables. But just as important is these foods’ low calorie count: you can enjoy an apple, an orange, AND a banana, and still not consume the amount of calories in a single Snickers bar.  


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    Bottom line: all you really need to know about fruits and vegetables, you learned in kindergarten: eat them – they’re good for you. 




    New estimates: Americans can prevent almost 400,000 cancers annually. (2012, August 22). Retrieved from 


    Goodyear, P. (2014, March 23). An anti-breast cancer diet? watch this space. Retrieved from 


    Hamel, P. (2007, October 05). Eat to live: 10 things to know about breast cancer and nutrition - see more at. Retrieved from

Published On: April 08, 2014