The inability to pinpoint the exact cause of breast cancer, regardless of the enormous amounts of research and progress made in the areas of detection, diagnosis, and treatments, is frustrating and scary. Moreover, according to The National Breast Cancer Foundation, it’s most likely not just one thing that causes cancer but rather a perfect storm coming together in the vulnerable environment of the body. Thankfully, more research is also pointing to the fact that what we eat can significantly prevent cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence. This is an excellent reason to look critically at the food choices you make. This week, I’m going to be sharing 7 foods that can help you keep breast cancer at bay.
Cruciferous vegetables, known for being a healthy source of minerals, beta-carotene, vitamins K, C, E, and folate, also help prevent and reverse cancer. Broccoli, cabbage of all kinds, cauliflower and turnips, among others, are getting more and more attention for having an incredible attribute called glucosinolate – a sulfur-containing compound unique to cruciferous vegetables. Incidentally, it’s also the same compound that makes them smell. These compounds have the ability to prevent estrogen-dominant cancers, like breast cancer, by increasing the liver’s ability to detoxify. Inability to filter toxins leaves them behind to cycle back through the body until a point when the liver can either attend to their elimination or the toxins get reabsorbed into the fat and other tissues. Although the liver starts to slow down naturally as we age, consuming cruciferous vegetables supports detoxification and is known to prevent cancer recurrence.
Soybeans and breast cancer has been a confusing topic over the last few decades. The latest research shows that soybeans consumed daily starting in childhood has the most promise (up to 50%) in protecting developing breast tissue from future cancer. Isoflavones, the plant-based estrogen in soybeans, do not cause breast cancer and should not be confused with harmful chemical estrogens. Soy’s numerous other benefits also include being a high source of fiber and raising levels of detoxification liver enzymes, making it a vital antioxidant. It’s also known for mitigating symptoms of menopause, difficulties associated with chemotherapy and preventing heart disease. But bear in mind that these benefits are seen with whole soy-based foods, not processed ones.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential attribute in fighting breast cancer. Omega 3 fatty acids are not naturally produced in the human body and are called essential fatty acids. Two of the most widely known omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is what comprises vital body parts such as the skin, the brain and the retina while EPA helps lower the risk of heart attacks, reduces the symptoms of certain types of arthritis, and reduces the intensity of menopausal hot flashes, among other benefits. EPA and DHA are both found in mackerel, as well as in other coldwater fish such as wild salmon, sardines, tuna. DHA on its own can be found in egg yolks. Omega 3 can be found as well in plant-based foods like chia and flax seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds and edamame in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
Research is decriminalizing the fats in nuts and suggesting that two servings a week can help lower breast cancer risk by 36%. In fact, the Journal of Breast Cancer Research conducted a study that followed over 9,000 girls for 17 years and found that girls that consumed peanuts and peanut butter on a weekly basis were less likely to have cancer by the age of 35. Besides healthy fats, peanuts also contain potassium and magnesium, as well as polyphenols making them an esteemed antioxidant and cancer-fighting food for your list. Other nuts, especially walnuts, pecans and almonds, are also potent cancer-fighting agents.
If you find yourself saying, “Wait, can I have fruit? What about the sugar? I thought cancer thrives on sugar?” Well, the answer is yes and no. Eating processed sugar or much of anything that is handled by the body as sugar such as white flour products, for example, is going to feed cancer. However, fruit, even though packed with fructose, is mostly exempt from that rule. In fact, the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study with its 44,000 participants, reported that women who consistently consumed at least three servings of fruit every day had the benefit of a 25% reduction in breast cancer. What makes fruit’s sugar passable is the fruit’s fiber content that slows down digestion and helps keep insulin levels in check. In addition to the fiber, fruit is also heavily loaded with flavonoid antioxidant. One cup of blueberries, for example, contains over 13,000 antioxidants!
There is a 15% reduction in breast cancer occurrence for every 20 grams of fiber consumed. This is why certain studies showed that vegans, who consume high amounts of fiber, have the lowest incidences of breast cancer. Fiber is critical for proper elimination of toxins from the body, allowing them the least amount of time possible to cement themselves to your body. This is a big step in the proper direction to remain cancer-free. Your fiber choices fall into two categories: soluble fiber, which you may have seen advertised on the side of your oatmeal box, and insoluble fiber, which is basically roughage, and keeps your intestines busy eliminating wastes. The European Journal of Nutrition made a direct link between the increased consumption of soluble fiber and a 17% reduction in the number of breast cancer cases among premenopausal women.
Flaxseeds offer exceptional levels of omega 3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They also are a high source of fiber and gamma-tocopherol, a version of vitamin E. These attributes make it useful in reducing the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Flaxseeds help with lignan production, which are part of a group of micro nutrients called polyphenols. Many other plant-based foods produce lignans but flaxseed, in particular, produces 2 types that bind to estrogen receptors. In doing so, it prevents more harmful chemical estrogens from attaching. These lignans also assist in magnifying the effects of Tamoxifen, a drug prescribed to treat breast cancer tumors. Also, flaxseed is a major source of fiber. Fiber’s critical role is to assist the body in evacuating wastes, such as excess chemical estrogens, efficiently out of the body.