Eat to Live: 10 Things to Know About Breast Cancer and Nutrition
HealthCentral Editorial Team Oct 24, 2011 (updated Dec 2, 2013)
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Without taking a deep dive into molecular biology, antioxidants help prevent your body's cells from being damaged. Damaged cells often grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. Therefore, consuming antioxidants can help prevent cancer. Some of the best sources for antioxidants are: berries (blueberries), fruits (apples), vegetables (spinach), beans, nuts and herbs.
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Research seems to go back and forth on the supposed benefits of soy. Some research studies find that soy promotes tumor growth while others find the opposite. The most recent research says that the plant estrogen (phytoestrogens) in soy may play a modest role in breast cancer prevention, especially if a woman has naturally high levels of estrogen. Foods with soy: tofu, soybeans, soy milk.
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Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals found in vegetables and are thought to play a role in breast cancer prevention. They prevent the formation of carcinogens; keep carcinogens from attacking your cells and help cells rid themselves of cancer-like changes. Foods with phytochemicals: broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, kale, Brussels sprouts.
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We all need some fat in our diet; what we don't need are saturated animal fats. These fats are found primarily in meat and butter. Monounsaturated vegetables fats, on the other hand, are good. Replace the animal fats with the healthy fats derived from vegetables. Foods with "good fat": avocado, olive oil, canola oil.
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Cut "bad fats"
"Bad fats", such as saturated fats and trans-fats, should be avoided as much as possible. In a seven-year study involving 2,500 breast cancer survivors, the Women's Intervention Nutrition Study (WINS) - showed that women on a lower fat diet (33 g of fat per day) reduced their risk of a cancer recurrence by 24 percent. Try substituting olive oil in place of butter, or a veggie burger instead of a cheeseburger.
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Avoid Alcohol, or at least in moderation. The evidence is pretty strong that consuming more than 3 or 4 drinks per week will increase your breast cancer risk. Specifically, studies show that women who consume 2 to 5 drinks per day have a 41 percent higher risk of getting breast cancer than women who don't drink at all. Alcohol Serving Sizes: 1 serving = 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of hard liquor.
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A recent study showed that the linoleic acid found in mushrooms seems to inhibit aromatase, an enzyme that helps your body make estrogen, which can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. Button mushrooms are the most effective, followed by their larger cousins, stuffing mushrooms; then portobello, crimini, shiitake and baby button mushrooms.
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Fiber binds itself to estrogen, preventing it from feeding tumor cells and making it very effective in preventing cancer. And fiber can be tasty, seriously. Sources of fiber: whole wheat pita or wraps, oatmeal, whole grain breads, fiber cereals or bars (try them, you'll like them).
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Eat real food
As opposed to trying to get all your phytochemicals, antioxidants, soy isoflavones, etc. in pill or supplement form, try adding heaping servings of fruits and vegetables to your diet. Many cancer fighting nutrients are found in abundance and naturally in healthy foods that you can eat every day. A good multivitamin and a well-balanced, natural diet is just what the doctor ordered.
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Don't eat too much
Calories in (eating), calories out (physical activity)...remember, the two have to be in balance, or weight a bit towards "more out than in". Fat produces estrogen and breast cancer is linked to high levels of estrogen in your body. The more fat you carry, the greater your lifetime risk of breast cancer. Keep your weight down, stay active and eat a well-balanced diet. You'll thank yourself.