October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – a time to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. There are pink ribbons, pink M&M’s, designer pink accessories, pink beauty products, and even NFL players making touchdowns in pink. Remaining one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers among American women, rather than talk pink, let’s talk prevention.
You already know the basics: don’t smoke, get plenty of exercise, and keep alcohol consumption in check. And if you’re reading this, you probably know I’m going to mention something about food. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to fight and reduce your risk of cancer. The truth is, we are miles away from any guaranteed protection against breast cancer. But, at this point, we can look at improving our odds by including (and avoiding) certain foods and nutrients in our diet. We’re talking a healthy eating lifestyle that is as much your everyday routine as brushing your teeth and flossing (you do floss everyday, right?).
- Eat your vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, watercress, and brussel sprouts have been shown to contain substances that induce the death of human breast cancer cells.
- Work a Carotenoid-rich food (often those with an orange, yellow or red color) into your diet everyday: Cantaloupe, mango, beet greens, peaches, apricots, butternut squash, carrots, chili peppers, red peppers, dandelion greens, tomatoes, kale, mustard greens, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, turnip greens, winter squash, and yams.
- Eat more fiber, especially from whole grains: Phytochemicals found in whole grains have been found to reduce the risk of both breast and colon cancer.
- Eat a variety of fruits. The phytochemicals and antioxidants found in many fruits may prevent cancerous cells from occurring and growing.
- Get plenty of Omega-3’s: Eat plenty of ground flaxseeds, use a fish oil supplement or increase your intake of fatty fishes such as sardines, salmon and mackerel.
- Limit intake of saturated fat and animal fat and switch to monounsaturated fats: Studies show that monounsaturated oils, such as olive and canola oil, do not have many cancer-promoting effects.
- Avoid foods that may have stored hormones or pesticides.
- Limit intake of sugar: Cancer cells have a higher concentration of insulin receptors. The more sugar we eat, the more insulin is released, the more the cancer cells are fed their food of choice – sugar.
- Avoid soy protein isolate and other ‘manufactured’ soy like those in veggie burgers and stick with healthy soy products such as edamame, tofu, and miso.
- Try to keep extra weight off as you age: Studies show that women who gain an excessive amount of weight after the age of 18 had a greater risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who had gained only a few pounds.
- Try to exercise at least 4 hours a week – even if it is just walking. Studies have found a reduced risk of breast cancer among women who exercise regularly.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Drink plenty of water: 8 to 10 glasses per day will help keep your body fluid and help to flush out toxins.
- Try to avoid toxins: Day after day we encounter toxins. Through the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink, and the cosmetic goods we put on ourselves. Some common toxins include heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. These are found in certain types of fish (like tuna), power plant emissions, and even lipstick. Toxins have an affinity for fat cells, and since boobs are basically one big mass of fat cells (sorry, guys), unfortunately, they are ready to receive these toxins. Our fat cells hold onto the toxins, store them, and mess with our DNA to the point that cancer can have a field day.