Breast cancers are attributed to being overweight and obesity
- Canola oil
- Citrus fruit
- Fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Flaxseed oil
- Low-fat yogurt
- Whole grains/beans
Foods to avoid
- Cheeses made with whole milk
- Fatty meats
- Fried foods
- Palm and/or coconut oil
- Processed foods
- Whole milk
A healthy, nutritious diet is the best defense against breast cancer
While being diagnosed with breast cancer can be devastating news, today’s medical advances and the amount of information available about the disease can make living with—and surviving it—possible.
For breast cancer patients, the food you put in your body is just as important as the medicine you take. But first, you must make sure your body is in prime condition to fight the disease, especially since studies have shown a direct link between body fat and cancer.
“There is compelling evidence that high body fat can cause cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, colon, breast (post-menopause), endometrium, kidney and gall bladder,” says Margaret Brown, registered dietician at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing. “In the United States, about 20 percent of these cancers are attributed to being overweight and obesity.”
Excess body fat can influence cancer risk in a variety of ways, such as high levels of insulin, high levels of bioavailable estrogen (associated with post-menopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancer), altered immune responses and low-grade chronic inflammation that can promote cancer development.
For post-treatment breast cancer patients, the most important thing they can do is to maintain a healthy weight by eating the right foods and staying active, says Brown. Women who maintain a healthy weight have a lower rate of recurrence and higher survival rates.
“Consuming too much fat or the wrong kinds of fat may lead to suppression of your immune system or promote cancer cell growth,” she says.
There are a number of foods that can help fight cancer, including fish (high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or tune), walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil, whole grains, and colorful fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower are especially good because they’re full of fiber and have cancer-fighting phytochemicals,” Brown says. “Strive to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at meal time.”
In addition, eating low-fat yogurt on a regular basis can help increase the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. This can aid in digestion and help support your immune system.
“Some studies suggest fermented milk products such as yogurt or butter-milk may protect against breast cancer,” says Brown.
Conversely, cancer patients should avoid processed foods; fried foods; fatty meats; palm and/or coconut oil; whole milk (due to its high-fat content) and cheeses made with whole milk; and butter, lard and shortening.
“Patients should also avoid trans fats, and limit sweets and refined carbohydrates,” Brown says. “High-sugar diets may suppress your immune system.”
It may not be possible to avoid cancer, but the right nutrition can greatly affect and reduce the risk of getting the disease.
“To reduce the risk, individuals should maintain a healthy weight through calorie and activity balance, and choose the right foods every day,” Brown says.
For more information contact the Center at 623-832-WELL (9355) or visit sunhealthwellbeing.org.