The Anti-Breast Cancer Diet

Kristine Burke, MD
April 4, 2016

I'm sure you never miss your mammography appointments, right?

Okay, I get it. You're busy. But even if you're late getting to the appointments, you're still taking charge of your health.

And what about monthly self-breast exams? They're important too, since 40 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are detected by women who feel lumps. The controversy is whether they cause too many biopsies to be done.

But what if I told you that in addition to mammography and self-breast exams, you could actually control a large part of your risk for breast cancer just with the foods you eat? You could put some of the fear aside and actually feel empowered to optimize your health.

Here, find out which foods can help you prevent breast cancer, which ones to avoid, and how to shop for and cook your meals. Bon appétit!

  1. Whole foods. The Mediterranean-style diet, which includes plenty of low-glycemic index foods, is one of the best ways to prevent breast cancer. The nutrients found in many whole fruits and veggies can repair cells so they never turn into cancer. High-fiber foods also help to remove estrogen from the body. Aim for 6 to 10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, but eat more veggies than fruit. Good choices include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
  2. Go organic. To reduce your exposure to cancer-causing pesticides and chemicals, purchase organic foods and thoroughly wash and peel produce when it makes sense. If cost is a factor, at least try to avoid the "dirty dozen."
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for your diet because they're anti-inflammatory. Certain types of fish like salmon, anchovies, and tuna are high in omega-3s, as are eggs and nori. Flaxseeds are good choices too, but grind them at home and use within 7 days. Ask your physician about taking an EPA/DHA fish oil supplement as well. Mercury contamination and oxidation are problems in low quality products.
  4. Avoid processed foods. Since processed, packaged foods tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, they increase insulin production and cause blood sugar to spike which further increases inflammation. Avoid white flours, foods that are labeled "enriched," and safflower, corn, soy and sunflower oils. Even if the package states "trans-fat free," manufacturers are allowed to include a small amount just under 500 mg per serving and still use the claim.
  5. Choose - and cook - meat wisely. Since fat is where our toxins are stored, try to reduce or avoid animal fats which are high in saturated fat. If you eat meat, choose grass fed varieties instead. Grilling is okay but avoid overcooked or charred meat. I know it tastes good, but is it worth breast cancer?
  6. Get some healthy fats. Add a small amount of more healthy fats to your diet like those in olive oil, olives, salmon, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
  7. Add some spice. Herbs like parsley, turmeric, and cilantro, as well as onions, garlic, ginger and leeks have anti-cancer properties.
  8. Be selective about soy. It's not clear if soy causes or prevents cancer but if you eat it, choose whole organic and fermented soy foods. Avoid processed soy products because most soy in the U.S. is genetically modified.
  9. Drink in moderation. Alcohol can prevent the liver from effectively removing excess estrogen from your body and just a few drinks can have an effect. In fact, a recent study out of the University of Victoria finds that up to 2 drinks a day increases the risk for breast cancer by 8.5 percent.
  10. Sip tea. Green and black teas are filled with antioxidants, which detoxify cancer-causing chemicals in the body so drink these as much as you like.

Enjoy your food! Great food is one of the pleasures in life.  Just do it wisely and know what you are putting into your body.  Food is not just calories, it is information that tells our cells to perform optimally or perform poorly. Think about what you want to be telling your cells to do!

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