BREAST CANCER AND DIET



Can Food Habits Cause Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a complicated disease, which has multiple risk factors associated with it. To know more about the well-defined risk factors of breast cancer, read Risk Factors That Cause Breast Cancer.

Some of these risk factors cannot be controlled, such as age, family history, genetics, ethnicity, and nature of the breast tissue. However, certain risk factors, especially the ones related to your lifestyle such as alcohol consumption, smoking, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and being overweight can be controlled and the risk of breast cancer can considerably lowered.

It is a well-known fact that more calories in diet, greater are the chances of being obese. More the fat cells, more is the estrogen release that increases extra breast cell growth. Though diet is a risk factor that could lead to breast cancer, controlling diet or food cannot prevent breast cancer completely.

Researches indicate that countries where plant based diet with low polyunsaturated fat, and low saturated fat is followed, breast cancer is a less common disease. Another research shows that nutrients received from a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains make you feel at your best and supply your body the needed energy.

Where To Start?

In order to reduce the breast cancer risk, you shall try making few changes in your diet, such as:

  • Ensuring that 2/3rd of your plate is filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and 1/3rd with dairy and meat.
  • Avoiding sugar.
  • Drinking green tea, an immune booster.
  • Including turmeric in your food, for it is an anti-inflammatory spice.
  • Consuming organic or naturally grown (those grown without using chemicals such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers) plant based food.
  • Choosing unprocessed food over processed food.

Such changes make your body healthier, boost immune system, and protect you against unhealthy cell changes.

Include Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
Eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. Dieticians suggest that a fiber rich plant diet should be preferred over animal produce as the former has a lower fat content. They also suggest choosing unprocessed food and avoiding processed produce.

You may tryout some easy ways listed below to increase the plant based fiber food in your daily menu:

  • Buy a new a fruit or a vegetable each time you grocery shop.
  • Replace your fruit juices with fresh whole fruits, as the later is less in calories and more in fiber content. If the transition is difficult for you, you may start with 100% fresh juices with no added sugar and slowly shift to whole fruits.
  • Add lots of chopped vegetables to your omelets and scrambled eggs. Do not hesitate to add broccoli or zucchini.
  • Choose a high fiber whole grain cereal for breakfast. Add fresh or frozen fruits (banana, berries, etc.) to the cereal. Add a tablespoon full of unprocessed wheat bran to the breakfast bowl.
  • Replace white flour with whole grain flour while baking.
  • Replace dried fruits with whole fruits, as the former is more in calories and may cause flatulence.
  • Add spinach/kidney bean/black bean in soup.
  • Add a new leafy vegetable to your regular salad, keep alternating among the various leafy vegetables and do not hesitate to try out various combinations. Try adding kidney beans and/or black beans to your salad.
  • Add freshly cut organic vegetables to your pasta sauce or any other sauce that would regularly use.
  • While tomatoes taste great when eaten raw, try cooking them, as cooked tomatoes are high in nutrition.
  • Avoid pickled vegetables/fruits.
  • Replace your regular snacks with baby carrots, strips of bell peppers, oranges, fat-free/organic yoghurt, almonds, and the likes.
  • Replace your regular deserts with frozen grapes and berries.

Cut Down Fat Intake
Do not consume more than 2-3 teaspoons of fat in a day. Replace regular fat with plant-based fat. Totally avoid shortenings and margarine as they contain trans fats. Try out the ways listed below to reduce the fat intake:

  • Avoid store bought baked and fried foods, as they may contain trans fat.
  • Replace high fat salad dressing with low fat ones.
  • Broth (with chicken or vegetable stock) or bake instead of deep-frying in shortenings or margarine.
  • Avoid processed meat. Choose lean cuts of meat/fish/poultry over cold cut.
  • Remove skin and fat from meat/fish/poultry.
  • Replace beef/pork with fish/lamb.
  • For breakfast, replace regular pork bacon with non-nitrate turkey bacon.
  • For lunch, try vegetarian recipes using beans, lentils or legumes. Try vegetarian dishes such as steamed or sautéed vegetables, vegetarian chili, and spinach lasagna to increase vegetables in your diet.
  • do not eat more than 6 ounces of cooked meat in a day and eat them in smaller portions.
  • For dinner, opt for chicken once a week and you may also try omelet with lots of vegetables another day of the same week.

Some More Food Practices
In addition to changes suggested above, try out the ways listed below to make your diet healthier:

  • Replace whole milk with low fat organic milk. Replace regular dairy produce with organic dairy products.
    While growing food for commercial purpose, various pesticides and antibiotics, and chemicals such as fertilizers are used to increase the quantity, reduce loss, and ensure safety during transit. Scientific studies have not shown any direct link between such chemicals and breast cancer. However, it is known that such produce carries chemical residue and some of these chemicals stimulate enzymes in our body that could boost the estrogen release. And thus they could increase the breast cancer risk. Hence, it is safer to choose organic produce over the regular ones.
    Buying organic produce may be expensive. So, here are some thoughts which could be useful:
    • Buy only the seasonal produce, as they will be cheaper.
    • Buy those organic produce, which are on sale.
    • You may switch to organic only for the most frequently used fruits and vegetables.
    • Try the local farmer’s markets and food co-operative stores.
    • Buy small quantities of organic produce, as they tend to spoil sooner.
    • If you are using the regular (not the organic) produce, use them after washing and peeling. A simple vinegar and water wash would also suffice, if the store bought washes were costlier. Washing and peeling will help you get rid of pesticide on the skin and rind only; the residue inside cannot be removed.
    • Avoid canned legumes, fruits, and vegetables. As the can lining may contain bisphenol A (BPA) that will affect the estrogen level in your body. Buy dried legumes and rehydrate them. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables over canned ones. They may work out cheaper and healthier alternatives.
    • Avoid barbequing and smoking at a higher temperature. When meat is barbequed at higher temperatures till they are well done, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a group of chemicals are formed and are found at the charred portions of the meat. When fat from meat come in contact with the burning coal, the resulting smoke contains another group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both HCAs and PAHs are directly linked to breast cancer. To cut down these risks, you may try:
      • Choose lean cut meat.
      • Trim the fat.
      • Avoid recipes with charring/blackening the meet.
      • Precook (roast or bake) or marinate (with herbs) the meat before barbequing.
      • Cook at low temperatures.
      • Use a meat thermometer to avoid over cooking or undercooking.
      • Remove the blackened/charred portions of the meat.
      • Avoid pickles and salt-cured food.
      • Include Soy in your diet. Unless you are advised otherwise by your doctor. Being a rich source of protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals, soy is proved to reduce the breast cancer risk.
      • Include food rich in Vitamin D. Research indicates low Vitamin D levels in serum increases the breast cancer risk. Vitamin D can be obtained from direct sunlight, vitamin D3 supplements, and in foods like eggs and cold-water fishes. Do not take any kind of supplement without consulting your doctor.

 

 

The above article serves only as reference. Kindly refer to your primary care provider for complete consultation and treatment.

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