When you think breast health, you probably think avoiding breast cancer. But there’s more to healthy breasts than simply protecting yourself from cancer. Check out these foods that not only cut your cancer risk, but also build muscle, and help keep your weight down - both key goals for healthy, younger-looking breasts.
Filled with fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants, a bowl of oatmeal in the morning provides carbs for energy during your workout; and its fiber and low glycemic index mean you’ll feel full longer, meaning you’re less likely to grab an unhealthy snack.
Your body needs healthy fats to function at its optimal level, and olive oil is one of the healthiest. It’s a good source of phytochemicals, which prevent the formation of carcinogens; keep carcinogens from attacking your cells; and help cells rid themselves of cancer-like changes. (Hamel, 2007). It’s also rich in antioxidants - particularly vitamin E, which serious athletes know helps cells recover after the stress of a workout.
Like olive oil, the fat in nuts is classified as a "good fat." Fat raises your metabolic activity level, which means you burn calories faster; and it helps with hormone production as well, which is a key component in muscle growth. In addition, olive oil’s antioxidants help prevent your body’s cells from being damaged. Damaged cells often grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. Your best nut choices? Walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds. (Hamel, 2007)
Some studies show that drinking coffee may reduce a woman’s risk of being diagnosed with hormone-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive type. Coffee is also a good source of caffeine - which as many of us know, provides the energy we need for a trip to the gym after work!
Tea (especially green tea) is high in polyphenols, an antioxidant; as well as phytochemicals, which fight carcinogens in a variety of ways. Tea is good for hydration, before or after your workout - though do pay attention to what sweetener (if any) you use, as sugary tea drinks are high in calories. Choose higher-caffeine black tea if you need a pick-me-up.
Salmon is a health-benefits powerhouse! Its omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, a condition that can lead to cancer. These same fatty acids keep your metabolism functioning smoothly, key for weight maintenance or loss. In addition, salmon is a high-quality protein, perfect for building muscle - and for preventing muscle-protein breakdown after your workout.
Vegetables should be a key component of anyone’s diet. Low in calories and often fiber-rich, they help control hunger while delivering a good hit of the vitamins and nutrients you need for your overall well-being. Cruciferous vegetables are high in phytochemicals; while artichokes, spinach, red cabbage, potatoes (all kinds), and broccoli are a good source of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Plums, peaches, and blueberries
The level of antioxidants in these three fruits qualify them as "superfoods." Recent studies show that two polyphenols also present in these fruits may help kill breast cancer cells without harming healthy cells. (Wright, 2011) In addition, they’re naturally low in calories - so when the sugar urge hits, grab a handful of blueberries instead of a brownie. Soy
Regular consumption of soy products - tofu, soy nuts, soy milk - is key for anyone following a vegetarian diet. One of the few plant-based complete proteins, soy helps build muscle in conjunction with exercise. It’s also a source of phytoestrogens, which block cancer cells from bonding with the body’s own estrogen - thus starving them before they can grow.
Like soy, beans are a complete plant protein, with all of protein’s muscle-building benefits. Beans are also fiber-rich, which means you’ll feel full longer after eating them, and not be tempted by the empty calories in sugary or high-fat snacks. Their high antioxidant level keeps cells in good shape, and less prone to damage - damage that can lead to cancer.
Hamel, PJ (2007, October 5). Eat to Live: 10 Things to Know about Breast Cancer and Nutrition. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/78/13620/108-eat-10
Wright, B. (2011, September 26). Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/health_blog/9_foods_to_eat_for_better_breast_health
Zinczenko, D. (2014, February 21). 5 Foods for Healthy Breasts. ABC News. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/foods-healthy-breasts/story?id=22588145
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.