Eat your way out of breast cancer

Published by Manila Bulletin, October 28, 2014

Each and every woman in this planet would probably have something that they would all agree on—the fear of losing their breasts! For the past 12 years of being a dietitian consultant, I have felt the fear, anguish, and pain of women after a mastectomy which is a type of surgery to remove one or both breasts.

Breast cancer may be caused by many factors such as genetics and lifestyle. However, researches show that diet plays a very important role in preventing it. Being overweight, obese and high intake of fat can increase the risk of having this dreaded disease.

Here are some tips on how to improve your diet to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer. 1161

Watch the fat. All fat sources have the same amount of calories. Fat is a concentrated form of energy which when eaten in excess will definitely lead to weight gain. Fats, however, were not created equal. High intake of saturated fats found in butter, lard, fatty cuts of meats, processed meats, high fat dairy products, cream, and baked products may increase one’s risk. Consuming unsaturated fats from vegetable oils, nuts, avocado, and fatty fishes like salmon and tuna may lower risk. If saturated fat cannot be completely avoided, make sure that it is not a staple part of your diet and eat unsaturated fat sources more often.

Increase intake of vegetables and fruits. The antioxidants found in these whole foods fight free radicals which cause several types of cancers. Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants naturally found in fruits and vegetables. If eating fruits and vegetables is a challenge outside your home, make sure you have a weekly supply of fresh produce available in your fridge and a blender to make a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie before you leave the house or as soon as you get home. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Fill up on fiber. Fiber is abundant in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Consuming fiber increases satiety factor, decreases intake of fats and calories, and helps maintain a healthy weight range. Studies suggest that wheat bran fiber helps lower estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen is a hormone that increases the risk of breast cancer. To increase your fiber intake aside from just eating fruits and vegetables, replace white rice with starchy vegetables (sweet potato, potato), black, red or brown rice, whole wheat or multigrain breads and cereals.

Go easy on sugars. Although sugar is not directly linked to breast cancer, excessive intake of simple sugars found in candies, chocolate products, baked products, and sugary beverages lead to being overweight and obesity which are both strongly related to breast cancer. Read nutrition labels and list of ingredients. Simple sugars come in different names: glucose, fructose, high fructose, corn syrup, and dextrose.

Increase calcium intake. Recent studies among women have shown that increased calcium intake from dairy products lowers the risk of breast cancer. Milk, cheese, yogurt, frozen yogurt, low fat ice cream, probiotic drinks, and kefir are rich sources of calcium. Choose dairy products that are low fat, reduced fat or non fat. If you are lactose intolerant, lactose free milk or calcium fortified almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk are readily available in leading grocery stores.

Choose soy. Soy contains phyto-estrogens called isoflavones. These are plant chemicals that decrease the risk of breast cancer by reducing the effects of human estrogen in the body. Recent studies among Japanese women who regularly consumed soy and soy products have resulted in lower incidence of breast cancer. However, caution should be taken against isoflavone supplements. Consult your physician before taking any form of supplement.

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