Breast Cancer Prevention Diet 2

The breast cancer prevention diet: page 2 of Breast Cancer Prevention

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First, about vegetables and fruits:

The most important factor in a breast cancer prevention diet is the overall pattern, mix, and variety of your foods. A large amount of good science links a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables with decreased cancer risk across the board. Most of what is on your plate at every meal should be from plants, and very colorful ones at that. And the brassica family of vegetables, well represented by broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, and brussel sprouts, are especially important in breast cancer prevention. It’s best to enjoy them fresh and not overcooked. I also encourage people to buy organically grown produce whenever possible for eating healthy, to minimize the body’s exposure to agricultural chemical residue.

Remember that it is the phytochemicals more so than vitamins and minerals in the plants which are the protective superstars. These agents were not recognized a generation ago, but now we know that chemical compounds which the plants produce to protect themselves from oxidative damage to DNA also protect the humans who eat them. Such groups of chemicals such as flavonoids and polyphenols are examples of phytochemicals with cancer protective mechanisms, which are widely found in nature. The presence of this enormous array health promoting chemical compounds in plants brings to mind a couple of important thoughts. One is that our best protection is whole foods and not supplements, extracts or pills. Never believe that a pill, or a single set of nutrient extracts from foods, will be able to convey the same protective benefit to you as the whole foods (vegetables and fruits) themselves. Additionally, as I reflect on the superabundance of compounds in edible plants on this planet which protect human health, I cannot help but to find myself in awe and wonder at the wisdom of the created order of things, that nature’s pharmacy is so generous in making disease prevention available to all of us.


So there are already some accountants who are reading this and thinking, “how many servings per day are enough, and how big is a serving anyway?” I recommend 9 servings of vegetables and fruits (combined) per day. Serving sizes are typically ½ cup of cooked, raw or frozen vegetables and fruit and 1 cup of leafy vegetables. 

Choosing healthy oils and fats:

A critical piece of a breast cancer prevention diet is clearly related to your choice of oils and fats. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1995 showed an increased risk in breast cancer for women who ate margarine, and a reduced risk of breast cancer with intake of olive oil. After reviewing this and many more studies, my conclusion is that you can reduce your risk of cancer by avoiding all trans-fats (margarine, vegetable shortening, and any packaged baked goods with the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the label), by increasing the use of extra-virgin olive oil in cooking, salad dressings, etc, and by increasing your omega-3 fat intake through oily fish such as salmon or sardines, or taking a fish oil capsule. And because most Americans already get more than enough omega 6 oils (which are inflammatory), I also suggest you eat less food containing omega-6’s (liquid vegetable oils used in cooking, salad dressings and baked products, such as corn oil, peanut oil, soy oil, safflower and sunflower oils). 

Enjoying a low glycemic index diet:

So what is the glycemic index, and why is it an important consideration for a breast cancer prevention diet? The glycemic index refers to the ability of a specific food to raise the blood sugar, how high and for how long. The practical implication for a breast cancer prevention diet is that you focus on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables and whole grains instead of starches and refined grains. The largest part of your daily carbohydrate intake should be from non-starchy vegetables and fruits.

Why? Spikes in blood sugar are a signal to the body that the sugar levels need to come down by being transformed and stored (as triglycerides, fats which eventually are stored around your middle). The hormone which your body calls on to down-regulate those blood sugar spikes is insulin.

Insulin is a very powerful hormone, and over time, prolonged elevations in insulin levels (necessary to keep your blood sugar in check) are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and cancers. Insulin is a tumor growth promoter when its levels stay on the high side. This is probably one reason why people with type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) have higher rates of cancer than the general population, and a very important reason why you want to avoid frequent spikes in blood sugar from high glycemic index foods (think sweets and flour and starch).



Now, let’s move on from a breast cancer prevention diet to the breast cancer exercise prevention strategy. 

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Preventing Breast Cancer.